In 1981, actress Natalie Wood drowned off the coast of Catalina after going missing from her family’s yacht. Onboard with her was yacht captain Dennis Davern, actor Christopher Walken, and Wood’s then-husband, actor Robert Wagner. Wood’s death was originally ruled an accident, but in 2011 the case was reopened, with the cause of death changing from “accidental drowning” to “drowning and other undetermined factors.” In light of new information, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department named Wagner as a “person of interest” last week, and this morning they held a press conference to clarify where they’re at with the case.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the department’s Lieutenant John Corina explained how more than 100 people have come forward since 2011 with information that’s helped them establish a timeline of the night and determine that Wagner was the last person to see Wood alive.
“We would love to talk to Robert Wagner,” Corina told those in attendance. Unfortunately, the “two or three” attempts by investigators to contact him have been met with resistance. “He’s refused to talk to us,” Corina said, while also emphasizing that they’re “not pressing charges on anyone,” but rather “still trying to figure out what happened.”
“We can never force him to talk to us,” Corina continued. “He has rights and he can not talk to us if he doesn’t want to.”
It is quite a mystery, as there’s been no good explanation for why Wood, who was terrified of dark water, would attempt to climb onboard a dingy on her own at night while only wearing pajamas and socks. Wagner, too, has provided inconsistent accounts of the evening that Corina says don’t “add up to what we’ve found.” Additionally, multiple witnesses over the years claim to have heard Wagner and Wood in the midst of a massive argument around the time of her disappearance.
“We want to find out how she went into the water,” Corina said. “Was she unconscious and put in the water? Or did she accidentally fall in the water?”
Time is running out on the case, however, as key witnesses have passed away in the intervening years. “We’re doing our last shot here to see if anyone else will come forward,” Corina said.
Chances are, however, that Wood’s death will remain one of Hollywood’s more enduring mysteries.