Natalie Wood death case reopened, Robert Wagner not a suspect, detective says
Robert Wagner is not a suspect in former wife and actress Natalie Wood's death, says a detective from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which has reopened an investigation into what has become one of Hollywood's biggest mysteries.
Wood, who played Maria in the musical film "West Side Story," died at age 43 on Nov. 29, 1981 during a yacht trip near Catalina Island in California with Wagner, her then-husband, and Christopher Walken, who co-starred with her in the sci-fi thriller "Brainstorm." Her death was ruled an accidental drowning.
It was reported on Thursday that homicide detectives planned to re-examine the case after receiving new data about it.
"We have several sources who have come forward with additional information. This new information is substantial enough to make us take another look at the case," Lt. John Corina told KABC Television, parent company of OnTheRedCarpet.com, and other news outlets at a press conference on November 18.
When asked if Wagner, 81, was a suspect in Wood's death, Corina said: "No."
The actor's spokesperson said in a statement obtained by OnTheRedCarpet.com on Thursday that "No one in the Wagner family has heard from the LA County Sheriff's department about this matter" but that they "fully support" the investigation efforts. Corina said that authorities planned to contact the actor's family "sooner or later" regarding the matter.
Wagner and his family members "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," the actor's statement added.
Corina said he did not know whether the Sheriff's Department planned to exhume Wood's body, which is buried at Westwood Village memorial Park and Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Corina declined comment when asked if detectives would also interview Walken, a 68-year-old actor known for playing dark roles in films, adding: "I'm not going to talk about what witnesses we're going to talk to."
Walken has meanwhile hired a lawyer - a former federal prosecutor who now works as a litigation specialist, the Hollywood Reporter said. The actor has not commented publicly about the case.
Wagner, known to younger audiences as the villain "Number Two" in the "Austin Powers" films, married Wood in 1957. They divorced about four years later, then remarried in 1972 and had one child, Courtney. Wagner married for the fourth time in 1990.
"We're going to re-interview some people, interview some new people and re-evaluate some of the evidence," Corina said. "We plan to go to Hawaii and take a look at the boat. We'll end up probably talking to the captain sooner or later. We'll go where ever the investigation's going to take us."
The former captain of the yacht, Dennis Davern, told CNN that Wagner waited hours to call the Coast Guard after Wood went missing from the vessel and added that he searched the boat for her. Warner, Davern said, told him not to turn on the searchlight to see if she was in the water. The actor has not commented about his remarks.
Wood was born as Natalia Zakharenko in California. She started out as a successful child actress in films such as "Miracle on 34th Street." She later went to star in several films including the 1955 film "Rebel Without a Cause" opposite James Dean and the movie adaptation of "Gypsy." She earned two Oscar nominations for "Splendor in the Grass" in 1961, the same year "West Side Story" was released, and "Love with the Proper Stranger" in 1963.
Corina said any issues regarding the timing of the investigation announcement - made days before the 30th anniversary of Wood's death, were "inconsequential" to the Sheriff's Department," adding: "We're not concerned with the anniversary date."
Special editions of the DVD and Blu-ray of "West Side Story" hit stores earlier this week, on November 15, to mark the musical film's 50th anniversary. Woods' co-stars from "West Side Story" recently had their handprints immortalized at Grauman's Chinese Theatre to mark the occasion.
"I wish Natalie were here - that would really complete the quartet," Rita Moreno, who played Wood's character's sister, said at the ceremony.
Check out a video from the footprint ceremony below as well as video of the press conference about the reopening of the investigation into Natalie Wood's death.