Natalie Wood death certificate changed to 'drowning and other undetermined factors'
Natalie Wood's death certificate changed so that cause of death now reads "drowning and other undetermined factors," rather than "accident," nine months after the investigation was reopened.
The late actress' 1981 death remains one of Hollywood's biggest mysteries and while there is a security hold on the case, Sheriff's Chief of Detectives William McSweeney told the Associated Press, "We don't close these cases... These cases have active periods and more passive periods. We're moving toward the end of an active period."
The death certificate was changed earlier in the month, to reflect the fact that it is "not clearly established" how Wood ended up in the waters off the coast of Catalina Island, where she eventually drowned. The revised certificate was just recently made public.
The decision to amend the death certificate was that of the Los Angeles County coroner's office, which has been instructed to refrain from talking about the case, but told the wire service, "I would just say undetermined is descriptive."
In July, TMZ reported that the change was made partially because "some of the bruises on Wood's body were inconsistent with death by drowning."
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 Robert Wagner, her then-husband, and Christopher Walken, who co-starred with her in the sci-fi thriller "Brainstorm." At the time, her death was ruled an accidental drowning.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department detective told reporters on in November 2011 that new information had surfaced and that investigators would re-examine the case, adding that Wagner, 82, was not a suspect. (See video of the press conference.) The department said in January of this year that no new evidence was found and that Wood's death still appeared to be accidental.
The investigation was re-opened shortly after the boat's captain, Dennis Davern told "48 Hours Mystery" and the "Today" show that he heard Wagner and Wood arguing on the night of her disappearance. Wagner wrote in his 2008 memoir that he had argued with Walken that evening and after he and Walken had gone to bed, he noticed that Wood and a dinghy were missing.
In late 2011, several witnesses have spoken the press about Wood's death, including a woman who said she was on a nearby boat and heard a female voice telling for help and the lifeguard captain who found the actress' lifeless body in the water.
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."
Wood 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.
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. Wood also had another daughter, Natasha, from her marriage to British producer Richard Gregson. Wagner married for the fourth time in 1990.