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article image(Updated) 1981 Natalie Wood drowning investigation re-opened

By R. Francis Rubio     Nov 18, 2011 in Entertainment
Los Angeles - Nearly 30 years after the mysterious death of Hollywood star Natalie Wood, L.A. County Sheriff Department announced Thursday that it is reopening its investigation of the actress's drowning.
One of Hollywood's most enduring mysteries is about to get another look. In a statement by the Sheriff's Department, homicide investigators decided Thursday to re-open the case due to recent claims of "additional information" about the movie star's 1981 drowning off the coast of California.
No further detail were released in Thursday's statement but a press conference on the matter is scheduled to be held 11:00 Friday morning (2 p.m. ET.)
(Live stream broadcast of press conference.)
The original cause of death was ruled "accidental" by the county coroner's office, although throughout the years speculation about Wood's death and the circumstances surrounding her drowning still peak the interest of many in the entertainment world.
Lana Wood, sister of the actress, along with the captain of the yacht owned by Wood and her husband at the time, actor Robert Wagner, had asked authorities to re-open the case as recent as last year.
A spokesman for Wagner said they have not been contacted about renewed investigation but said he and the family trusts the authorities will take appropriate action.
Spokesman Alan Nierob wrote in a statement, "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. 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."
L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Benjamin Grubb told CNN that he couldn't say who prompted the department to re-open it's investigation.
Saying, "I don't know if that's related, but that's what the press conference is about tomorrow,"
Wood's body was found back in November of 1981 floating in the water off the coast of Catalina Island, about one mile from the couple's yacht. According to the police report, Wood was wearing a long nightgown, socks, and a down jacket.
The autopsy report determined that Wood had been drinking shortly before her death and in addition found a facial abrasion on her left cheek along with nearly two dozen bruises on her body.
The night before her body was found, Wood was reported to be partying with her husband Robert Wagner and fellow actor Christopher Walken aboard the couple's yacht.
After years of remaining silent on the matter the captain of the yacht Dennis Davern broke that silence in a 2009 book written by Davern and friend Marti Rulli, in the book "Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour," Davern writes that he believes Wood's death was a direct result of the fight with Wagner.
Davern told CNN in an interview last year that the night before Wood's body was found, Wagner and Walken argued on the ship leading to Wagner breaking a bottle on a table. He said that shortly after the incident Wood left for her stateroom in disgust, followed closely behind by Wagner.
A few minutes later Davern said he could hear the two fighting from his position in the pilot house for a time and later saw the couple on the aft deck of the yacht. The ship's captain said, "They'd moved their fight outside ... you could tell from their animated gestures they were still arguing."
According to Davern, shortly after that Wagner told him that he could not find his wife. Davern said he and Wagner searched the ship but were unable to find Wood, but noticed the rubber dinghy missing as well.
In the 2009 book by Wagner "Pieces of My Heart," the actor writes that he and Wood did in fact argue that night and admitted his jealousy of Walken but his account of the events differ slightly from that of Davern.
Wagner maintains that he and Davern did search the ship for Wood but wrote that he assumed that his wife took the dinghy and had gone ashore.
The dinghy was found in a cove the next day a mile away from the yacht and approximately a mile away from Wood's body.
Christopher Walken has yet to comment on the renewed investigation.
UPDATE: Lt. John Corina of the L.A. County Sheriff Department said at the press conference today that Robert Wagner is not a suspect but we will go where the investigation takes us.
Lt. Corina also said that the Wood death is still ruled as an accidental drowning although with several sources stepping forward the department has decided to re-open the case.
For a more in-depth take on this subject (and not the view of Digital Journal) visit given to me by my fellow Digital Journal contributor Steve K.
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