Natalie Wood Death Revealed

For 30 years, Natalie Wood’s mysterious death was considered a tragic accident. Now detectives are reopening the case, suggesting for the first time that puzzle pieces are missing.


On November 29, 1981, Wood was on the yacht Splendour with her husband, actor Robert Wagner, and her friend Christopher Walken. Then she disappeared into dark waters off Santa Catalina Island. Continue reading the article below to learn more about Natalie Wood Death.

Actress Natalie Wood died in 1981 in what was originally ruled as an accidental drowning off the coast of California’s Catalina Island. Her husband at the time, actor Robert Wagner, who starred in Hart to Hart with her sister Lana, blamed himself for her death and later wrote an autobiography in which he detailed how his wife was afraid of water.

But there have long been suspicions that the original story doesn’t add up, and it hasn’t been helped by the varying accounts from those on board her yacht that fateful night. The three men on the boat, captain Dennis Davern, actor Christopher Walken, and Walken’s co-star in the movie Brainstorm, gave investigators conflicting stories about what happened before Wood disappeared from their yacht the Splendour.

One of the biggest discrepancies centers around the bruises found on her body during her initial autopsy. Some of the marks resembled marks from punches, which could suggest she was assaulted before she died. The medical examiner was so suspicious that he changed the cause of death to “drowning and other undetermined factors.”

In 1992, Davern appeared on a Geraldo Rivera special and in a Vanity Fair article where he stated that Wagner broke down the couple’s cabin door and that he heard the two fight on the night she died. He also said he saw Wagner throw a rock at Walken’s head. He’s continued to give his version of events in subsequent interviews and in the book Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour.

The other men on the boat also have different versions of what happened. Walken, for example, has claimed that he and Wagner were drinking and got into a fight over his close relationship with Wood and her apparent infatuation with fellow actor Warren Beatty. But his version of events doesn’t line up with the evidence on the scene, and he hasn’t been able to provide any details about how the fight started or when it took place.

But there’s still no official word on why the case has been reopened, other than that Sheriff’s investigators have new information they want to explore. Some have even speculated that the renewed investigation is in response to a newly released book by Wood’s sister, which claims that Wagner is to blame for her death.

The Coroner’s Report

When a celebrity dies, the details surrounding the death are often shrouded in mystery. This is especially true when the deceased is a star from a golden age of Hollywood films like Rebel Without a Cause and Splendor in the Grass. Natalie Wood died in a mysterious drowning on November 28, 1981, and while she was only 43 years old at the time, many questions remain about what really happened that night.

What is known about the night of Wood’s death is that she was partying aboard her husband Robert Wagner’s yacht, the Splendour. She was reportedly drinking heavily and taking pills at the time of her death. It is also known that she had a deep fear of water and was worried about going out on the water that night. The coroner determined that she was found dead of hypothermia, and while it is not clear exactly how she ended up in the water, it is believed that she slipped trying to retie her dinghy and fell into the ocean.

It is unclear how long she was out in the water before she was found, but it is estimated that she was underwater for up to four hours before being rescued. At the time, her body was located about a mile from the Splendour and a small dinghy was found nearby. It is thought that she fell from the dinghy or was pushed off of it by Wagner.

While it is not clear how she came to be in the water, it is known that she suffered from a number of injuries. These include abrasions, bruises and cuts to her arms, legs and chest. She was also missing a large chunk of her skull and had a concussion, which could have contributed to her death.

After her death, many people contacted the police, but the case was never solved and it remains one of Hollywood’s most infamous unsolved mysteries. Detectives have reopened the investigation and are seeking tips from the public. The investigators are hoping to learn more about what happened that night and to find out why it took so long to get a body back from the ocean.

The Reopening of the Case

In 2009, Natalie Wood’s sister, Lana, and the captain of the yacht she was sailing on at the time of her death, Dennis Davern, both called for police to reopen the case. Davern had written a book about the incident, Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, and he said he believed that Wood and Wagner fought before she went overboard. He has not been contacted by the sheriff’s department, which did not say whether his comments warranted another look at the case.

The incident awakened the armchair Agatha Christies in many newspaper and magazine writers who wondered what really happened to the former child star, who was 43 when she drowned during a boozy weekend on her husband’s yacht off the coast of California’s Catalina Island. The new information gleaned at the time, such as fresh bruises and scrapes found on her body, seemed to support a story of some sort of assault, but nothing ever added up enough to hold anyone responsible.

Various theories emerged, including that she slipped overboard while trying to tie down a dinghy, or that she was simply a terrible swimmer who died of an accidental drowning. In 2011, on the 30th anniversary of her death, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials reopened the investigation, but there was never any new evidence to suggest foul play.

More than 100 people came forward to share their knowledge of the night of the actress’s death, but it still wasn’t enough to lead to any charges. Those who knew her well often spoke of her deep fear of water, which would have made it very difficult for her to stay afloat in the dark seawater in which she was found floating.

Despite her fears, Natalie Wood was a talented actress who had been in the industry since she was 4 and had earned three Academy Award nominations by the age of 25. She was working on the film Brainstorm at the time of her death. She was survived by her husband, Robert Wagner. They had been married a few years and were living together when she died.

People of Interest

The mystery of Natalie Wood’s death remained a Hollywood legend for decades, spawning books, television shows and even a film. Accusations of foul play were aimed squarely at husband Robert Wagner, who starred in her 1955 breakout film, Rebel Without a Cause, which depicted the life of an angry young rebel. The movie led to a string of other roles, but the pressure to make movies she didn’t want to do took its toll on her and her health.

In the months leading up to her death, she had begun dating actor Warren Beatty and her marriage to Wagner was on the rocks. She was not happy in the marriage, arguing with her husband on a regular basis. She had also felt under pressure to make films that she didn’t feel passionate about, such as the western The Searchers.

At the time of her death, investigators believed she had left the yacht on her own in the middle of the night after a argument with her husband and that she slipped off the boat while trying to tie down an inflatable dinghy. The autopsy revealed superficial bruises on her arms and upper body, which raised speculation that she had not left voluntarily.

In 2011, 30 years after her death, LA sheriff’s department reopened the investigation and changed the official cause of death to drowning and other undetermined factors. The sheriff’s office has said it did so in light of new information, but no specific details have been released. The new information, sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore told CBS News Thursday, includes information from former captain of the couple’s yacht, Dennis Davern.

In multiple interviews and a book, published last year, Davern alleges that Wagner, who was at the wheel of the yacht when Wood disappeared, is responsible for her death. He has been interviewed for the CBS special, and his book was reviewed by a sheriff’s department investigator.

Whitmore declined to comment Friday when asked if detectives had spoken with Davern, but the sheriff’s office spokesman said that detectives believe the new information is “worth exploring.” He did not give further details.