Natalie Wood’s death certificate has been amended to reflect some of the lingering questions surrounding the star’s death in 1981.
Actress Natalie Wood drowned during a boat trip with her husband, TV star Robert Wagner, and actor Christopher Walken. At the time it was ruled to have been an accident.
But police reopened their inquiry last year after receiving new evidence.
The death certificate now says she died as a result of “drowning and other undetermined factors”.
The amended document, obtained by the Associated Press news agency, also says the circumstances of how she ended up in the water are “not clearly established”. The certificate was altered earlier this month.
Natalie Wood's death certificate has been amended to reflect some of the lingering questions surrounding the star's death in 1981
Chief of detectives William McSweeney said the decision was made by the coroner’s office. He added that detectives still had work to do on the case, but that did not necessarily mean a major development was coming.
“We don’t close these cases,” he said.
“These cases have active periods and more passive periods. We’re moving toward the end of an active period.”
Conflicting versions of what happened on the yacht have contributed to the mystery of how the actress died in November 1981.
Natalie Wood had been partying the night before her death, and the coroner’s investigation ruled she had been drinking and may have slipped trying to board the dinghy.
Resuming the investigation last November, the sheriff’s office said: “Recently sheriff’s homicide investigators were contacted by persons who stated they had additional information about the Natalie Wood Wagner drowning.”
The move came hours after the captain of the boat, Dennis Davern, told NBC News that he lied to police during the initial investigation and that a fight between Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner had led to her death.
In his book Pieces of My Heart, Robert Wagner acknowledged that there had been a fight with Natalie Wood before she had disappeared, but authorities have said Wagner is not a suspect in his wife’s death.
Natalie Wood’s body was found floating in a Catalina Island cove off the coast of California. Police reports said she was found wearing a long nightgown, socks, and a jacket.
The post-mortem report said Natalie Wood had bruises on her body and arms as well as a facial abrasion on her left cheek.
Robert Wagner’s family said they supported the reopening of the inquiry and trusted the detectives would “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”.
As a child, Natalie Wood featured in films like Miracle on 34th Street and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.
Natalie Wood was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in Rebel Without a Cause, and for best actress for Splendor in the Grass and Love with the Proper Stranger.
The mysterious drowning of Natalie Wood on November 29, 1981, has been much speculated since her death.
Though it may never be clear what happened in the waters off Southern California’s Santa Catalina Island, TMZ reports that Natalie Wood’s death certificate has been changed from “Accident” to “Undetermined”.
TMZ reports that they were told by members of Natalie Wood’s family that L.A. County Sheriff’s Department detectives informed them of the change earlier today.
The family members were told that while Natalie Wood’s cause of death was irrefutably from drowning, they said that it is unclear how the actress got into the water.
The day the actress died, Natalie Wood was spending time with husband Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken both on Catalina Island and drinking on the yacht.
Robert Wagner said in the 1981 autopsy report that his wife “was not suicidal”.
He has dismissed suggestions that the actress’ death was anything other than an accident.
Natalie Wood’s death certificate has been changed from “Accident” to “Undetermined”
Natalie Wood and fellow actor Robert Wagner were married twice, first in 1957 before divorcing six years later. They remarried in 1972.
Her death during the Thanksgiving weekend in 1981 has long sparked tabloid speculation that foul play was involved. Rumors were reignited by author Marti Rulli, whose book, Goodbye Natalie, includes a fresh account of the incident by the yacht’s captain, Dennis Davern.
Dennis Davern has come forward to say he lied to investigators in the wake of the tragedy, and suggests Robert Wagner ensured the investigation was not as thorough as it could have been.
Asked on the Today show if he thought Robert Wagner was responsible for Natalie Wood’s death, Dennis Davern replied: “Yes, I would say so. Yes.”
“We didn’t take any steps to see if we could locate her. I think it was a matter of: <<We’re not going to look too hard. We’re not going to turn on the searchlight. We’re not going to notify anybody right now>>.”
“I made terrible decisions and mistakes. I made mistakes by not telling the honest truth in a police report.”
In a dossier on the case Dennis Davern and Marti Rulli have now sent to police, they claimed there was “a drastic delay” in calling for help after Natalie Wood went missing.
“There are many, many things that should be examined, but mainly the four-hour wait to call for the coastguard,” Marti Rulli said on CNN.
Dennis Davern maintains that, after the stand-off between Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken, husband and wife went to their state room, from which the skipper heard sounds of a heated argument and “thumping”.
Later, Dennis Davern went back on deck to be told by Robert Wagner that Natalie Wood was missing, along with the yacht’s dinghy.
Natalie Wood’s body was found hours later, floating in an upright position, her eyes fixed and open, her spectacular, long, dark hair trailing along the surface of the water. She was wearing a flannel nightgown, red down jacket and blue woolen socks.
Meanwhile, caught up in seaweed in a cove not far away was the missing dinghy, its oars in place and the key in the ignition in the “off” position, suggesting she had never made it into the boat or, if she had, had quickly fallen out.
Robert Wagner apparently thought she might have been heading for the shore, where there was a bar, or gone party-hopping to one of the other rich people’s boats moored nearby.
Later he suggested she had not been trying to leave the yacht at all, but that she had heard the dinghy slapping against the side of the boat and had gone to secure it more firmly, only to fall in.
Police concluded that the two dozen bruises on her body, including cuts on Natalie Wood’s face, were sustained when she fell overboard and struggled in the water.
Los Angeles authorities said yesterday that no new evidence has been uncovered in the death of Natalie Wood that would point to foul play.
After several weeks of interviews and other investigative work, detectives have not uncovered any evidence the death was a homicide.
It had been ruled as an accident.
Chief detective William McSweeney told the Los Angeles Times cold cases like Natalie Wood’s are never really closed and that detectives are still looking at some aspects of the case.
“At this point, it is an accidental death. Nothing has been discovered to suggest changing that at this time,” William McSweeney said.
Los Angeles police said in November “substantial new evidence” led them to re-open their investigation into Natalie Wood’s death 30 years ago.
Los Angeles authorities said yesterday that no new evidence has been uncovered in the death of Natalie Wood that would point to foul play
Natalie Wood died sometime after the evening of November 28, 1981, when the 43-year-old actress was boating off Catalina Island with her husband Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken.
The evening before the drowning, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken, who was her co-star in the film “Brainstorm”, had dinner at a restaurant on the island.
According to ship Captain Dennis Davern’s sworn statement to detectives, the trio returned to the yacht and had drinks and Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken got into an argument.
A furious Robert Wagner shouted: “Do you want to f*** my wife” at Christopher Walken as he smashed a bottle of wine in the moments before Natalie Wood fell overboard, Dennis Davern claimed.
The captain told the officers when he showed up on the open deck where Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner had been arguing, Dennis Davern said: “Wagner was present, and he stood near the far rear wall of the yacht.”
The day after Natalie Wood’s body was found off the coast of California, Dennis Davern said he was asked to go to Robert Wagner’s bedroom at his Beverly Hills home, where he met with a lawyer and was told to “Say nothing”.
The captain wrote: “Wagner informed me he would hire an attorney who would handle my statement about Natalie Wood’s disappearance and drowning, which he did before Natalie Wood’s funeral.
“I signed a statement the appointed attorney drafted, one completely void of the facts surrounding Natalie Wood’s disappearance.”
Dennis Davern continued: “Detective Duane Rasure accepted the statement that had been prepared for me – a statement claiming that I did not know details about Natalie Wood’s disappearance from the yacht.
“Although I did want to reveal what I knew, I obeyed what had been asked of me.”
Robert Wagner has always maintained Natalie Wood accidentally slipped and drowned as she drunkenly tried to tie up a dinghy against the boat. Police say he is not considered a suspect.
In his memoir, Pieces of My Heart, Robert Wagner explains how he had been on his boat, the Splendour, with Natalie Wood – who he had married twice – and Christopher Walken when an argument broke out.
Robert Wagner wrote: “Chris [Walken] began talking about his <<total pursuit of a career>>, which he admitted was more important to him than his personal life. He clearly thought Natalie should live like that, too.
“I got angry. <<Why don’t you stay out of her career?>> I said. <<She’s got enough people telling her what to do without you>>.”
As the argument escalated, Natalie Wood left for bed.
“The last time I saw my wife she was fixing her hair in the bathroom while I was arguing with Chris,” Robert Wagner said.
“I saw her shut the door. She was going to bed.”
Robert Wagner described how he and Christopher Walken moved up to the deck as “things were threatening to get physical” and they were calmed by the fresh sea air.
He said he waited up a little longer before going to bed – but his wife was not there.
When Robert Wagner was questioned by a rescue boat captain in 1981 about why he didn’t call for help to find his missing wife, he allegedly said: “We thought she was off on another boat screwing around because that’s the kind of woman she is.”
Describing his sense of guilt, Robert Wagner continued in his book: “Yes, I blamed myself. If I’d been there, I could have done something. I wasn’t, but ultimately, a man is responsible for his loved one.
“I would have done anything in the world to protect her. Anything. I lost a woman I loved with all my heart and I will never completely come to terms with that.”
Lifeguard captain Roger Smith told the Times in November that Natalie Wood could have been saved if officials had been called sooner to search for her.
Roger Smith said he was alerted that Natalie Wood was missing at 5:11a.m. the next day.
Based on the condition of her body when Natalie Wood was pulled from the water, Roger Smith said he believes she survived for some time in the water and was washed out to sea.