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L.A. Police Detective Calls Natalie Wood Case "Very Suspicious" As New Investigation Begins

Bill Ray - Time / Scopefeatures

Cold cases and Hollywood tragedies have a way of capturing our imaginations.

Maybe that's why, 37 years after West Side Story star Natalie Wood's deadly boat trip, fans and true crime junkies are still obsessing over the mystery of her death.

It had all the makings of a heartbreaking end to a Hollywood romance, except Wood's husband, Robert Wagner, is now a person of interest in her death.

Fatal Voyage

Natalie Wood Robert Wagner
Wood and WagnerLisa's Room

It was November 29, 1981, when Wood, Wagner, and Wood's co-star Christopher Walken boarded Wagner's yacht, Splendour, off the coast of South Catalina Island.

At the yacht's helm was captain Dennis Davern - the only witness on board the ship who has shared his account what happened that night.

He remembered the trip as a "tension-filled weekend" in a 2011 interview with 48 hours.

Dennis Davern
Reuters

"I opened a bottle of wine and – Natalie and Christopher had continued to giggle," he said.

"And then Robert Wagner – picked up the bottle of wine and smashed it… Natalie, she said, ‘I cannot take this,’ and she went into her room."

The reason for Wagner's aggravation was his suspicion that Wood was cheating on him with Walken.

SplendourLisa's Room

But when Wood went missing from the ship later that night, Wagner was the very picture of a concerned husband.

The actress wasn't found until the next day, and her cause of death was listed as accidental drowning.

New Evidence

For decades, Wood's fans, family, and friends insisted that the facts of the case just didn't add up.

CBS News

For one thing, witnesses off the ship had heard a couple arguing near the back of the boat, where Davern says he found Wagner - alone - that night.

The other crucial piece of evidence was a series of bruises on Wood's body, which seemed to be from before she died.

Originally, investigators said Wood bruised herself trying to climb back on the yacht.

But when intense public interest forced police to re-open the case in 2011, a new coroner's report listed Wood's cause of death as "drowning and other undetermined factors."

People

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's department worked diligently for the next seven years, before stunning the world by announcing Robert Wagner was a person of interest in Wood's death.

Wood "looked like a victim of assault."

In an interview with 48 Hours, L.A. County Lieutenant John Corina explained that Wagner was "the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared."

But he says Wagner has refused to cooperate with the re-opened police investigation.

Lieutenant Corina and Detective HernandezCBS News

"I haven’t seen him tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case," Corina said.

"I think he’s constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don’t add up. I think it’s suspicious enough to make us think that something happened."

Meanwhile, Detective Ralph Hernandez is confident that Wood "looked like a victim of assault" based on her bruises."

Bill Ray - Time

And investigators revealed in a press conference that new witnesses have stepped forwards since the case of Wood's disappearance was reopened.

"Forbidden affairs. Twisted lies. And murder."

Now, another team of investigators is digging into the mystery, but this time they're amateur sleuths.

Scopefeatures

Journalists and investigators for US Weekly spent seven years combing through hundreds of case files, trying to finally determine what happened that fateful night.

They/re exploring their findings in a podcast series called Fatal Voyage: The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood, which launched today on what would have been Wood's 80th birthday.

Host Dyland Howard promises the series will explore, "Forbidden affairs. Twisted lies. And murder."

NBC News

But the show will also introduce never before heard interviews with Wood's close friends, unaired interviews with the star, and excerpts from her unpublished memoir.

"This is not a retelling of Natalie’s sad story,” Howard said. “It is an active investigation of the case."

One person who hopes the new series will finally put the mystery to rest is Wood's sister, and former Bond girl, Lana Wood.

Lana Wood
MPTV / Inside Edition

"It’s very overwhelming and I don’t know what to think right now,” Lana wrote in a written statement this year.

"I have made my feeling clear over the years as to what I think went on that night. What do I think happened? A lot of lives were ruined, that’s what I think happened. All that matters to me now is the truth."

What do you think happened that night?

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[H/T: US Magazine]

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com