Natalie Wood’s Death: No Longer an Accidental Drowning

natalie wood deathMore than 30 years ago, Hollywood starlet and three-time Academy Award nominee Natalie Wood met a tragic end when she drowned near her yacht off of Catalina Island in Southern California. At the time, her death was ruled an accidental drowning — but, nine months ago, detectives reopened the case. Now, the Coroner’s Office has amended Wood’s cause of death to read, “drowning and other undetermined factors,” the Associated Press reports.

The document has also been changed to reflect that the circumstances of how Wood ended up in the water on Nov. 29, 1981 are “not clearly established.”

Detectives working on the reopened case have been instructed not to speak about it at the time, but Chief of Detectives William McSweeney did say, “I would just say ‘undetermined’ is descriptive.”

The case was originally reopened when the boat’s captain Dennis Davern said (on 48 Hours Mystery and Today) that Wood had a fight with her husband, Robert Wagner, who was also on the boat, during the night of her disappearance. Davern said that he believed Wagner was to blame.

But in a memoir, Wagner wrote that he had actually been fighting with friend Christopher Walken, who had been on the boat as well. And at this time, Wagner is not a suspect in the investigation

“We don’t close these cases,” Detective McSweeney said. “These cases have active periods and more passive periods. We’re moving toward the end of an active period.”

Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.


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