Natalie Wood Death: Owner of Boat Knew for Weeks Police Would Reopen Case

Natalie Wood Magazine - H 2011
William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images

Natalie Wood Magazine - H 2011

Ron Nelson, who purchased Splendour in 1986, says authorities contacted him several weeks ago about an investigation.

It will be 30 years next weekend since Natalie Wood died while boating off Catalina Island on Thanksgiving weekend off the Southern California coast, but one person wasn't surprised by police reopening the investigation into the actress' death.

The owner of the Splendour, the boat Wood was on with husband Robert Wagner and Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken, revealed that he was aware for weeks that police were looking into the case, the Los Angeles Times reports.

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"I have known for a few weeks that there was going to be a police investigation," says Ron Nelson in an interview with Honolulu's KHON-TV. "But I didn't know it was going to explode like it did overnight."

Nelson purchased the Splendour -- a 60-foot yacht now used for charter cruises -- back in 1986, five years after Wood died at the age of 43. He said that police had contacted him several weeks ago, but did not reveal any details of their conversation.

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Police announced on Friday morning at a press conference that investigators would be traveling to Hawaii in order to examine the boat as part of their investigation, reaffirming news from the night before that the case would be reopened.

On Thursday evening, Wagner said through his rep that he supported the police's decision. "Although no one in the Wagner family has heard from the LA County Sheriff’s department about this matter, they fully support the efforts of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and trust they will evaluate whether any new information relating to the death of Natalie Wood Wagner is valid and that it comes from a credible source or sources other than those simply trying to profit from the 30-year anniversary of her tragic death," his rep said.

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The Hollywood Reporter broke the news Friday that Walken, who is not considered a suspect, has hired a lawyer to handle the Wood investigation. Officials also noted that Wagner is not a person of interest.

At the time, Wood's death was ruled an accident, though there has been speculation that there were more details to the story. Author Marti Rulli teamed up with Dennis Davern, who at the time was the captain of the Splendour, more than two decades ago to investigate and research that fateful November evening, publishing the book Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour two years ago.

Davern made the media rounds on Friday, making the bold claim that Wagner had something to do with Wood's death. In his 2008 memoir Pieces of My Heart, Wagner blamed himself for Wood's passing. "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."

CBS News' Wood special, originally set to air next weekend for the 30th anniversary of her death, moved up the investigative report to this weekend. Wood's sister Lana also made an appearance on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight.