It was late November of 1981 when the historic Hollywood story struck the headlines. “Natalie Wood Dead: Body found floating off Catalina” dominated the front page of the Daily News on November 30, less than 48 hours after the notorious incident. While on a sea excursion off Catalina’s coast on a boat owned by superstar Robert Wagner and co-star Christopher Walken, an argument broke out between Wagner and his wife, the late Natalie Wood. After the stars were reported to have gone to sleep, a loud thud was heard from the deck and when the passengers investigated they found Wood was missing. The following morning, Wood’s body was discovered beached a mile down shore.
The death has always been controversial, and suspicions have lingered. Wood was known to struggle with alcoholism and painkiller addiction, and autopsies discovered she was intoxicated when she died. However, suspicions were further fueled by the discovery of abrasions along Wood’s body, including on her arms and face. These wounds, typical of domestic violence, led some to speculate that Wagner had attacked her during a fight and either Wood fell off the boat, hit her head and disappeared into the black water, or was intentionally thrown overboard.
30 years after the incident in 2011, the boat’s captain, Dennis Davern, who was piloting the ship that night, stated he was certain that Wagner was responsible for the death of the famous actress. However, despite the controversy, Wagner got by unscathed. Wood’s cause of death was changed from “accidental drowning” to “drowning due to undetermined factors” and the case was officially reopened. A recent statement by LA County Sheriff John Corina during a 48 Hours interview has sparked new life in the story in the last 24 hours. “As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think he’s (Wagner) more of a person of interest now,” Sheriff Corina stated during the interview. [source].
Wood was most famous for her classic role as Maria in Robbins & Wise’s musical retelling of Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, as well as Splendor in the Grass that same year and her childhood role as Susie in Miracle on 34th Street from 1941. She was nominated for three Oscars and won three Golden Globes, including one for “Most Promising Newcomer” in 1957 for Rebel Without a Cause. Natalie Wood was not a “Newcomer” when Rebel was released having appeared in a number of roles as a child on film and television. [source].
I can only speculate what truths will be revealed in the coming months surrounding this legendary case. Could one of Hollywoods most infamous cold cases finally be solved? Wagner, who is nearly 90 now, could finally face charges for Wood’s death after almost four decades of mystery and conjecture…