Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators say Robert Wagner is “more of a person of interest” in the death of actress Natalie Wood, who died nearly 40 years ago under mysterious circumstances.
“As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think he’s more of a person of interest now,” Lt. John Corina told “48 Hours” in an interview that’s set to air Saturday. “I mean, we now know that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared.”
Wood, who starred in “West Side Story” and “Rebel Without a Cause,” was found dead in the water in 1981, near Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California. She had gone on a yachting weekend with Wagner, as well as Christopher Walken, who at the time was starring with the actress in the movie “Brainstorm,” and Dennis Davern, the boat’s captain.
Wood’s death was originally ruled an accident, but the case was reopened in 2011. The coroner changed her cause of death to “drowning and other undetermined factors” the following year.
Detectives who spoke to “48 Hours” said an autopsy report indicated there were a number of bruises on Wood’s body that appeared to have been fresh at the time of death.
“She looked like a victim of an assault,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Detective Ralph Hernandez said, noting that the marks made “it suspicious enough to make us think that something happened.”
Investigators said Wagner — who was married to Wood twice, first from 1957 to 1962, and again from 1972 until her death — has been uncooperative since they reopened the case.
“I haven’t seen him tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case,” Corina said of Wagner. “I think he’s constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don’t add up.”
Walken, however, has spoken with investigators.
Wagner wrote in his 2008 memoir, Pieces of My Heart, that “nobody knows” how Wood died.
There was a lot of drinking that night, he wrote. He said he and Walken also got into a fight about Wood’s career path.
“I picked up a wine bottle, slammed it on the table and broke it into pieces,” he wrote.
As to how Wood ended up in the water, Wagner said: “There are only two possibilities: either she was trying to get away from the argument, or she was trying to tie the dinghy. But the bottom line is that nobody knows exactly what happened.”