A coroner's review into Natalie Wood's death investigation has shed further doubt on her husband Robert Wagner's account of her Thanksgiving weekend drowning more than three decades ago. On Monday, the Los Angeles County coroner's office released details of its review of the initial autopsy report, which had ruled that Wood died of an accidental drowning after falling off the Splendour, a yacht the couple had taken for a weekend sojourn in Southern California.
In late 2011, the Los Angeles County sheriff's office reopened the investigation after the yacht's captain, Dennis Davern, came forward to admit that he lied to police in the initial investigation. At that time, the official cause of death was changed from “accident” to “undetermined,” and was updated again in June 2012 to “drowning and other undetermined factors,” based on the review of superficial injuries to Wood's body. The changes to the report were first made public on Monday.
"This remains an ongoing investigation,' said Steve Whitmore, the Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesperson. "Yes this is a revelation to the public but this report was written in June 2012."
Wood drowned off the coast of California's Catalina Island on Nov. 28, 1981, after a night of drinking with Wagner and her “Brainstorm” co-star, Christopher Walken. The trio, along with the captain, had been celebrating at a nearby restaurant the evening before she drowned, and continued to drink after returning to the yacht, which was docked. Wagner told police that Wood had retired to bed ahead of him, and was not in their room when he later arrived there. He has said he believes Wood was kept awake by the sound of a dinghy banging against the boat and slipped and fell while attempting to retie it.
Wood's sister Lana has long challenged Wagner's version of events, insisting Wood would not have voluntarily gone outside the boat to retie the dinghy. Wood was mortally afraid of water after being told as a child by her mother that she would meet her death in “dark water,” and never learned to swim. Still, Ms. Wood has maintained that she does not necessarily suspect foul play, just that she believes there is more to the story.
The supplemented coroner's report concludes that bruising and scratches on Wood's body may have occurred prior to her entry into the water, and cites “conflicting statements as to when [Wood] went missing from the boat and whether there were verbal arguments between [her] and her husband.” Though the report places Woods' time of death at approximately midnight, Wagner first placed a radio call from the boat at 1:30 a.m. Wagner has admitted that he and Walken had argued that night about whether Wood should invest herself fully into her career as an actress or focus more on her family and personal life.
There is no indication that the new evidence will result in any charges. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department sources told the Los Angeles Times that detectives are “far from ready” to rule Wood's death as a homicide.