Robert Wagner Blamed Self For Natalie Wood's Death in Memoir

Natalie Wood Robert Wagner - P 2011
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Natalie Wood Robert Wagner - P 2011

He wrote the last he saw of his wife was when she was fixing her hair as he argued with Christopher Walken.

Robert Wagner has only released a statement since the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department has reopened the case surrounding the death of his late wife, actress Natalie Wood, but he did recall her mysterious drowning in his 2008 memoir.

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In the best-selling Pieces of my Heart, Wagner offered his account of the fateful night that Wood went missing, confessing his own feelings of guilt involving her untimely death. "Nobody knows," he said regarding the events of that late November night.

"The last time I saw my wife she was fixing her hair at a little vanity in the bathroom while I was arguing with Chris Walken," he wrote. "I saw her shut the door. She was going to bed." By his account, Wagner and Walken engaged in a heated debate after Walken suggested that Wood pursue her career more heavily. Wagner became angry, smashing a bottle of wine so hard that it shattered. He claims that no one in the party was "anywhere near drunk," but they were tipsy.

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"I went below, and Natalie wasn¹t there," he continued. "Strange. I went back up on the deck and looked around for her and noticed the dinghy was gone. Stranger. I remember wondering if she¹d taken the dinghy because of the argument, and then I thought, No way, because she was terrified of dark water, and besides that, the dinghy fired up so loudly, and we would have heard it, whether we were in the salon or on deck."

Hours later, Wood¹s lifeless body was found in the water, covered in bruises.

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"My knees went out; everything went away from me," Wagner remembered. "Soon afterward, a helicopter came and took us to the mainland."

"Yes, I blamed myself. Natalie would have felt the same way had it happened to me. Why wasn't I there? Why wasn't I watching? I would have done anything in the world to make her life better or protect her. Anything," he wrote. "I would have given my life for hers, because that's the way we were."

Also on hand that evening was yacht captain Dennis Davern, who recently appeared on NBC's Today show and CNN to express his guilt over previously lying to police. In the 2009 book, Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, by author Marti Rulli he implies that Wagner was somehow involved in the mysterious death.

Since reopening the investigation on Friday, Nov. 18, police have insisted that neither Wagner nor Walken are suspects in the case. Still, as The Hollywood Reporter exclusively learned, Walken has hired litigation specialist Mathew Rosengart to represent him in the investigation.