Speaking to CBS News’ 48 Hours, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators say that Natalie Wood’s then-husband, actor Robert Wagner, is a person of interest as they look into the circumstances around her mysterious death in 1981.
“As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think he’s more of a person of interest now,” Lt. John Corina says of Wagner in an interview with 48 Hours correspondent Erin Moriarty. “I mean, we know now that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared.”
Wood drowned off the coast of Catalina in November 1981 after she went missing from her family’s yacht, Splendour. Wood, Wagner, Christopher Walken and yacht captain Dennis Davern were all on board the night before Wood was found floating in the water wearing a red down jacket and flannel nightgown. The death was originally ruled an accident, following a two-week investigation, but in 2011, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department reopened the death investigation, and a year later the L.A. coroner’s office amended Wood’s death certificate to change the manner of death from accidental drowning to “drowning and other undetermined factors.”
There have long been rumors of foul play surrounding Wood’s death. Wagner’s and Davern’s shifting accounts of what happened the night Wood, famously terrified of dark water, went missing, have raised red flags for investigators.
Investigators, speaking to 48 Hours about new witnesses, evidence and theories about occurred, want to speak with Wagner about the circumstances surrounding her death.
But Wagner has refused to talk to investigators, and Corina tells 48 Hours that he doesn’t think the actor has told the whole story.
“I haven’t seen him tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case,” Corina says of Wagner. “I think he’s constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don’t add up.” Walken has spoken with police.
Additionally, Corina says he thinks Wagner knows more about what happened to Wood than he’s said, “because he’s the last one to see her.”
With an autopsy report that shows what looked like fresh bruises on Wood’s body, Det. Ralph Hernandez tells 48 Hours, “She looked like the victim of an assault.”
When asked whether he believes Wood was murdered, Corina says, “I think it’s suspicious enough to make us think that something happened.”
Hernandez adds, “We have not been able to prove this was a homicide. And we haven’t been able to prove that this was an accident either. The ultimate problem is we don’t know how she ended up in the water.”
Neither Wagner nor Walken responded to 48 Hours‘ requests for comment.
The full 48 Hours episode, “Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water,” is set to air Saturday night at 10 p.m. on CBS.
Watch a preview that aired on CBS This Morning.