Wagner Not Talking in Re-Opened Wood Probe

LOS ANGELES — Since reopening the death investigation of Natalie Wood more than 13 months ago, detectives have interviewed more than 100 witnesses and gathered piles of new evidence.

But they said the one person they are most interested in talking to has so far refused several requests for interviews: Wood’s husband, actor Robert Wagner.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Corina said Wagner is the only person on the boat at the time Wood drowned off Catalina Island in 1981 not to speak to detectives assigned to the new inquiry.

“We reached out through his attorney and got rebuffed. We went to his home and he refused to talk us, and we sent him a letter, so I say it is fair to say he has declined to be interviewed, repeatedly,” Corina said.

Wagner, 82, gave three interviews to detectives during the original investigation three decades ago. But Corina said the actor “changed his story over the years, as has the caretaker of the vessel.”

Wood’s death was originally listed as an accident. But earlier this week, the L.A. County coroner’s office announced it had changed the cause of death to “undetermined.”

A coroner’s report released Monday cited unexplained fresh bruising on the actress’ right forearm, left wrist and right knee, along with a scratch on her neck and a superficial scrape on her forehead.

Officials said the wounds open the possibility that she was assaulted before drowning.

The Sheriff’s Department has stressed that detectives have not determined whether a crime occurred on the boat.

Corina said Thursday that detectives simply want as clear a narrative about what happened on the boat as possible.

“There are four people on that boat that night and now one of them is dead. Something happened,” he said.

Wagner’s attorney, Blair Berk, released a statement Thursday evening saying that Wagner and his family have fully cooperated with authorities.

“After 30 years, neither Mr. Wagner nor his daughters have any new information to add to this latest investigation, which was unfortunately prompted by those seeking to exploit and sensationalize the 30th anniversary of the death of his wife and their mother,” Berk said in the statement.

The coroner’s report noted “conflicting statements” about when Wood disappeared, and whether she had argued with Wagner, who — along Christopher Walken, her costar in the film “Brainstorm” — were aboard the 60-foot yacht where she was last seen alive Nov. 28, 1981.

Hours before her death, authorities said, the three actors had had dinner at Doug’s Harbor Reef restaurant and then returned to the yacht, called the Splendour, where they drank and an argument ensued between Walken and Wagner.

According to the new autopsy report, Wood went missing about midnight, and an analysis of her stomach contents placed her death around that time. The report said Wagner placed a radio call to report her missing at 1:30 a.m.

The original investigators believed Wood sustained her bruises after falling off the yacht and struggling to pull herself from the water into a rubber dinghy, whose starboard side bore scratch marks that seemed consistent with that theory.

But in his report, the coroner noted that investigators did not take nail clippings from Wood’s body to determine whether she had made the scratch marks, and the dinghy was no longer available to be examined.

The coroner believes Wood died soon after entering the water.

Corina declined to detail the new evidence detectives have gathered. “People have come forward from surrounding vessels,” he said. “We have developed new information.”

He said he still hopes Wagner can help with the probe.

“He was the person last seen with her alive … we are talking moments before,” Corina said.

-Los Angeles Times

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15 comments

  • erinlansing2012

    Where is the "intervew" with Chris Walken? May we read the details of his account of how Natalie ended up in freezing cold water in her nightgown in the middle of the night when she was petrified of drowning? What are these two men Robert Wagner and Chris Walken hiding?

  • erinlansing2012

    "The “banging-dinghy theory” (what has become the unofficial explanation for Wood’s death) is easily proven unfounded. The dinghy was tied securely behind the stern, not on the port side, as Wagner claimed, withtwolines, making it virtually impossible for it to floataway when its lines were being adjusted. Someone untiedbothlines, an unlikely procedure for “securing a dinghy.” Wagner, in promoting this scenario, convenientlyomitted the fact that the dinghy’s ropes are reached from the transom—it is completelyunnecessary to step down to the swim step to adjust them. Instead, he wants people to believe that his wife, a woman deathly afraid of water, stepped from the safety of the transom onto the swim step to wrestle the dinghy’s ropes."

  • erinlansing2012

    "There was no official effort to determine how, when, and by whom Splendour’s dinghy was released. Instead, the scene on board Splendour was compromised. The dinghy was handled after being found, and detectives left Splendour under the watch of the island restaurant owner who allowed himself and an employee to enter and useSplendour while it should have been a sealed-off crime scene until determined otherwise.5. Key witnesses were ignored by case detectives. Marilyn Wayne, moored next to Splendour ,offered information crucial to establishing a timeline that was never officially composed.Wayne was never interviewed by authorities even after phoning to offer her account."

  • erinlansing2012

    At age 82, I reckon Wagner has lived with this dark and sad situation for a terribly long time. Perhaps telling the truth and asking God for forgiveness might set him free from his pain.

  • erinlansing2012

    "Key witnesses were ignored by case detectives. Marilyn Wayne, moored next toSplendour ,offered information crucial to establishing a timeline that was never officially composed.Wayne was never interviewed by authorities even after phoning to offer her account.Roger Smith, the Coast Guard lieutenant who retrieved Wood’s body, was NEVER interviewed. He became a threat to exposing facts, so he was quickly transferred and demoted"
    FROM: http://www.heavy.com/regions/2013/01/bombshell-ev….

  • erinlansing2012

    Marti Rulli, a New Jersey freelance writer, finally convinced authorities to reopen the case after sending them pages of convincing evidence:

    I, Margaret Rulli, hereby state as follows
    1. I make this declaration for the purpose of inducing the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department tore-investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of Natalie Wood on November 29 1981 and to re-open the case for appropriate action as warranted

  • erinlansing2012

    2. Relevant facts include:Natalie Wood’s scarcely investigated death will continue to inflame controversy until a full-scaleprofessional evaluation is completed.Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour (GNGS), the book I authoredwith the formerSplendour Captain, Dennis Davern, has answered the persistent curiosity of manyreaders, but information continues to surface, emphasizing the dire need for a full scale, officialinvestigation.Marilyn Wayne, the only witness to hear Natalie’s cries for help—a vital witness ignored by authorities—has offered to publicly submit to a polygraph test to validate her account. Leaddetective Rasure has always belittled Wayne for her adamant claim that Wood was in the water just minutes after 11P.M. Wayne’s account is consistent with Davern’s account, yet these twocrucial witnesses, both willing to undergo professional polygraph testing, continue to bediscounted and their motives questioned.Robert Wagner’s book, Pieces of My Heart only briefly addressed the weekend of hiswife’s death—his account differed from the various versions he has told over the years.

  • erinlansing2012

    And howcredible is he? Authorities should inquire, as justice for Natalie Wood remains unserved.Here are the top five reasons to reopen the Natalie Wood case which are published in anepilogue in GNGS:1. The three survivors aboardSplendour —Robert Wagner, Christopher Walken, and DennisDavern—lied to authorities whenbrieflyquestioned on the morning of November 29,1981. Davern, however, witnessed the circumstances leading to Wood’s disappearingfrom the yacht and has since passed a certified polygraph test indicating thatRobertWagner was with Natalie Wood, arguing on the back deck of the yacht with her
    when she went missing. Wagner, decades later, admitted there was an argument duringwhich he angrily smashed a wine bottle less than an hour before Natalie “went missing.”The now unrefuted arguing and violence that took place conflicts with Wagner’s andWalken’s initial accounts of “a pleasant weekend” aboardSplendour . Wagner, Walken,and Davern were not further interrogated.

  • erinlansing2012

    Nor were they physically checked for bruisingor other signs of struggle to rule out their culpability for the more than two dozen bruiseson Wood’s body.2. No effort was made to determine how Wood received dozens of wounds, scratches, and bruises or to determine how and why she left the yacht in her nightgown. Chief Coroner Thomas Noguchi was fired for wanting to dig deeper into the case. The case was closedquickly and prematurely to avoid media attention. Although Wood’s bruises areconsistent with classic domestic physical abuse, only theories and speculation wereoffered to explain them.

  • erinlansing2012

    3. There was a drastic delay in calling for help from aboardSplendour.Wagner and/or Davernwere fully aware of Natalie’s absence from approximately 11:05P.M., yet a ship-to-shorecall was not placed until 1:30A.M., and the Coast Guard was not called until 3:30A.M., aflagrant violation of maritime protocol. This unacceptable delay in reporting a personmissing from a yacht was never officially examined.4. The “banging-dinghy theory” (what has become the unofficial explanation for Wood’s death)is easily proven unfounded. The dinghy was tied securely behind the stern, not on the port side, as Wagner claimed, withtwolines, making it virtually impossible for it to floataway when its lines were being adjusted. Someone untiedbothlines, an unlikely procedure for “securing a dinghy.” Wagner, in promoting this scenario, convenientlyomitted the fact that the dinghy’s ropes are reached from the transom—it is completelyunnecessary to step down to the swim step to adjust them. Instead, he wants people to believe that his wife, a woman deathly afraid of water, stepped from the safety of thetransom onto the swim step to wrestle the dinghy’s ropes.

  • erinlansing2012

    Some people who heard Natalie Wood screaming for help saying, "help, I'm drowning!" – these folks were never interviewed by police. They were moored right near Natalie's boat! Cover-up. Shameful….