Could Hollywood darling Natalie Wood's fatal drowning in 1981 have been darker than the simple accident it was once ruled to be?

Wood and her husband Robert Wagner (truly L.A.'s royal couple at the time), along with their actor friend Christopher Walken, were night-boating off Catalina Island when the 43-year-old actress went missing, and later turned up dead.

Just in time for the tragedy's 30th anniversary, Dennis Davern, the captain of said celebrity vessel, spilled his guts on the “Today” show yesterday. The captain claims Wagner blocked a search effort for his wife that night. He also expresses regret…

… both for initially lying to investigators, and for keeping the (alleged) truth hidden all these 30 years.

Wagner is a different person since his golden years with Wood:

These new allegations against him are lot to swallow, especially for a town obsessed with sex, murder, drugs and fame (even better, some dramatic combination of the lot), notorious for meddling in everyone else's business. And in this case, the victim was as beloved as leading ladies come.

Perhaps that's why Marty Rulli, author of the new book featuring Captain Davern's testimony, is so eager to point fingers. Her book says Wagner and Wood had been drinking heavily and popping Quaaludes the night she died, according to Hardly News:

According to the book, Wagner became enraged when he saw Wood and Walken speaking, and smashed a wine bottle, yelling at Walken, “What do you want to do, f**k my wife? Is that what you want?”

At that point, Walken returned to his cabin and Natalie and Robert went to their state room. According to the Captain, he heard a loud argument between the couple and thumping sounds, and eventually silence.

Implying, of course, that Wagner somehow rid himself of his beloved while no one was looking. Captain Davern has made it perfectly clear that he believes Wagner is “responsible” for Wood's death.

The L.A. County Sheriff's Department is being much more ambiguous about everything. The only clear answer officials gave at an 11 a.m. press conference this morning was that Wagner is not a suspect in the murder investigatiom.

However, the fact that they're reopening Wood's case based on Davern's new testimony lends credibility to his claims. Officials say they have deemed the new information “credible and reliable” enough to send two homicide detectives back down a tricky, long-covered trail.

(Now that the case is open again, sheriff's officials do note that a bunch more people are coming forward with additional tidbits. Still, they re-opened it because of Davern and the book, so there must be something they find very convincing in his testimony.)

If Wagner didn't actually cause her death — and merely called off the search to find her — it'd be tricky to pin him with anything near “manslaughter” in court. As far as we know, neither Walken nor the captain made any heroic effort to save her, either. So if Wagner were guilty, wouldn't they be, too? (On the other hand, we've recently seen how sensitive manslaughter sentences can be, both in the celebrity sphere and the local one.)

The Wagner family gave the following statement to TMZ:

“Although no one in the Wagner family has heard from the LA County Sheriff's department about this matter, they fully support the efforts of the LA County Sheriff's Dept.”

“[The Wagners] 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.”

Credible enough for the Sheriff's Department, apparently.


LA Weekly