Authorities in Los Angeles have reopened their investigation into the 1981 death of “West Side Story” star NATALIE WOOD.
Natalie was boating off the coast of Santa Catalina Island with her then-husband ROBERT WAGNER and CHRISTOPHER WALKEN when she drowned. She was 43 years old.
The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department released a statement saying, quote, “Recently, sheriff’s homicide investigators were contacted by persons who stated they had additional information about the Natalie Wood Wagner drowning.
“Due to the additional information, sheriff’s homicide bureau has decided to take another look at the case.”
The department has scheduled a press conference for 11:00 A.M. this morning.
Wood, Wagner and Walken were drinking at a bar on the night of November 29th, 1981. They continued drinking on board the boat, where an argument between Wagner and Walken erupted.
During the argument, Natalie went to bed. When Wagner went to say goodnight to her, she was gone.
Speculation is that a lifeboat tied to the yacht was banging against it, and Natalie fell into the ocean and drowned while trying to secure it.
She wasn’t a strong swimmer, and when her body was found, she was wearing a down jacket, nightgown, and socks. Her death was ruled an accident.
However . . . there’s also been suspicion that her death had something to do with that argument between her husband and Christopher Walken. Perhaps there was even a little LOVE TRIANGLE action going on.
And that’s where things potentially get interesting.
TMZ says that the case was reopened thanks to a book called “Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour” by a woman named MARTI RULLI, and DENNIS DAVERN.
Davern was the captain of the yacht . . . which was called the Splendour . . . and he revealed some things in this book that he’s never said before.
He says Natalie, Robert and Christopher Walken were drinking AND taking Quaaludes . . . and at one point, Robert got jealous when he saw Christopher and Natalie talking.
He smashed a wine bottle and yelled, quote, “What do you want to do, [bleep] my wife? Is that what you want?”
Walken returned to his cabin, and Natalie and Robert went to theirs. Davern said he heard a loud argument between them, then thumping sounds and eventually silence.
A short time later, Davern went on deck where Robert told him, quote, “Natalie is missing.”
Davern says Robert wouldn’t let him call the Coast Guard, and he was basically told to keep quiet about the whole thing.
TMZ says Rulli has been providing the Sheriff’s Department with evidence to back up this version of the story . . . and that’s why they want to take another look at it. (–TMZ interviewed Rulli. You can check that out here.)
This doesn’t make Robert Wagner look too good, but at this point, cops say they’re not targeting anyone specifically.
The Wagner family issued a statement yesterday saying no one has been contacted by police yet, but that they, quote, “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.”
At the time of Natalie’s death, she and Walken were filming a sci-fi flick called “Brainstorm”. (–The movie came out in 1983.)
As a quick addendum to this story . . . Robert Wagner did an interview just two years ago in which he blamed himself for his wife’s death . . . quote, “If I’d been there, I could have done something. I wasn’t, but ultimately, a man is responsible for his loved one. Yes, I blamed myself.
“I would have done anything in the world to protect her. Anything. I lost a woman I loved with all my heart, and I will never completely come to terms with that.”
And in an interview in March of 2010, Natalie’s sister LANA WOOD called for the investigation to be reopened. She said she believes her sister was arguing with Wagner before her death, but added that she does NOT suspect foul play.
She said, quote, “I just want the truth to come out, the real story.”
(–Natalie Wood was one of the most beautiful actresses of her day. In addition to “West Side Story”, she also starred opposite James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause”. And you’d definitely remember her as the little girl from the holiday classic “Miracle on 34th Street”.)