Today's Evil Beet Gossip

Hey! Why IS the Natalie Wood Murder Case Being Reopened, Anyway?

Photo: Lt. John Corina holds a news conference regarding "new information" about Natalie Wood's death

Some quick backstory: in 1981, screen legend Natalie Wood was on a yacht with her husband, Robert Wagner, and her young costar, Christopher Walken. There was a fourth person aboard, too: Dennis Davern, captain of the Splendour. Everyone was tipsy—Wood and Wagner were reportedly mixing alcohol and Quaaludes—and Wood apparently slipped overboard and drowned (according to most reports, Wood had been trying to “tie down a dinghy”). The Los Angeles Coroner Department ruled her death an accident. She was 43.

But Dennis Davern has stepped forward with “new information,” and in turn, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has decided to reopen the 30-year-old investigation, the department announced yesterday.

According to the press conference I just watched, “new information” is “substantial enough” that the Sheriff’s Department wants to “take another look at the case,” “re-interview some people” from the original case, “interview some new people,” and “reevaluate the evidence.”

The homicide detective leading the investigation, Lieutenant John Corina, was visibly reluctant to detail what this “new information” is, but it’s a sure bet that Dennis Davern’s 2009 allegations—that Robert Wagner told him to not look for Wood in the water, and to not give a full account to investigators—has something to do with the investigation’s revival.

Do detectives plan to “re-interview” Captain Dennis Davern?

“We’ll end up talking to the captain sooner or later,” Corina said.

Does this case have anything to do with Davern’s 2009 tell-all, Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, in which he confessed that he had not been forthcoming with police some 30 years ago?

“I’m not concerned with the book,” Corina snapped. “That’s not our concern.”

Is 81-year-old Robert Wagner a suspect in Natalie Wood’s murder?

No. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department emphasizes that Robert Wagner is not a suspect. The department also officially maintains the coroner’s original finding: Natalie Wood’s death was “accidental.” No murder, no suspects, get it?

Dennis Davern lied to police 30 years ago. Could he now face criminal charges?

Sure, according to Corina. Sure!

The press conference ended abruptly, and you could hear news reporters complaining among themselves about how dumb the conference really was. The TMZ livestream of the press conference was sort of fascinating, though—the cameraman followed John Corina into the parking lot, all the way to his car, and watched Corina drive away.

There are a lot of theories about what happened the night Natalie Wood drowned. We know that Wagner and Wood were engaged in a fairly violent, jealous tiff. Some theories suggest that Natalie Wood and Christopher Walken really were having an affair. Then there’s the especially salacious notion that Christopher Walken was having the affair with Robert Wagner (hee!), and Natalie Wood found out.

The truth is probably a lot more benign, though. The couple was drunk. Wood probably made it all the way into the dinghy (it was found beached ashore the next morning), believing her husband would prove his love by coming after her. Wagner was probably sick of playing that game and, by ignoring her, let her drown. (According to Captain Davern, Wagner wanted to leave her there and “teach her a lesson.”) Wracked with guilt (or whatever), Davern comes forward 30 years later, indicating that Wagner’s inaction is “responsible” for Wood’s drowning.

Sad stuff.

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  • i don’t get this at all the police Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken are not suspects who does that leave the captain ?

    • I don’t think it’s as pat as all that—it’s no Agatha Christie novel. Seems like detectives want to investigate the possibility of manslaughter without actually saying so, don’t you think? Dennis Davern’s recent revelations imply he is complicit in a crime, too; I expect they plan to go after him. (ETA: Supposedly, Christopher Walken has lawyered up. Hmm.)

      It’s interesting to note that Davern was the one who actually identified Wood’s body the next day. Wagner was physically unable, he was so overwhelmed.

      • Overwhelmed of guiltyness after throwing her int he water, he is a liar and a murder. I hope he gets what he deserves jail time. Dennis Darven was a witness and did not say anything cause Wagner told him not to and now he is talikng. Christopher Walken is another who has not say much, but he knows as well what happened that night. Two actors with bog roles in a murder movie. Natalies body was found the next day with more than 25 bruisers in her body. How come police did not look into this. They just went for the obvious answer drowning. A women with two man in a boat, one the husband, the other possibly the lover who knows. Arguments between husband and wife. Next day women death..HELLLOOOO people.

  • The Police now say they have no information that would change the accidental death decision of 30 years ago. So what the hell are they investigating ? Why waste Police resources ?

    • I’m no lawyer, Liz! But, uh. Just google “criminally negligent manslaughter.” Wood’s death is still “accidental.”

  • Police are only taking what Wagner says. Is not right that because a case was 30 years ago of MURDER now it wont make a differences. Natalie body was found in the next morning with more than 25 bruisers in her body, her cause of death was drowning. How did she got the bruisers in her body, would it be because a fight between her and her jeleous husband?? Not only that her husband said she took a little boat to go shores and probably fell. A women was afraid of the water, specially at night. Natalie Wood is not ACCIDENTAL is a MURDER.
    This is a cover up becasue of Hollywood stars such as Wagner think can get away with murder. And noone is taking this under consideration, misleading answers have been giving to police for years. What about the facts of the bruisers, they do not happen in one night of being in the water.

    • I do agree, Robert Wagner was jellous and was big argument -. Why Wagner invite Walker on the boat anyway,when he was not friend of him? to spend Thanks Giving h holiday with jellousy husband?And his mistress Jill St. Jones was right away living with Wagner.Just please remember , why Wagner said” let her teach the lesson, why he didn’t want to search for Natalie?

  • I’ts possible that Mr. Wagner being a bully followed her to
    her to the bedroom(stateroom) fought with her and shoved her
    into her coat, escorted her to the deck and pushed her off
    toward the dingy. She probably hit the water. He probably untied the dingy and let it go. Christopher Walken should
    have herd everything that went on. Pathetic he did nothing
    by keeping his mouth shut. Two stellar men, no three men.
    Did I say men? I ment cowards. The other boat didn’t shine
    any search light when they herd her screaming? Wow.
    Sounds like not much of an investigation. Probably because
    Wagner and Walken were taken at their word because of who
    they were.
    This is just speculation.

  • Read Marti Rulli’s book, Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, there is only one conclusion to come to. The witness on the nearby boat corroborates the statements made by the Captain. The Captain didn’t turn on the search light or use the sonar equipment on the boat to look for Natalie immediately because he was afraid of Wagner. He was in a drunken rage and there was nothing to stop him from pushing the Capt. overboard as well. Natalie spent the night in a hotel on the island the previous evending with the Captain because of arguing with Wagner. Walken would never talk out of concern for his career. Both Wagner and Walken have changed their stories over the years. The bruises on Natalie’s body were consistent with domestic violence, possibly being thrown overboard by her wrists and her legs hitting the side of the boat on the way overboard. The Captain had blasted the music on the bridge to drown out their arguing. She would have never gotten in the dinghy alone voluntarily…it had a broken headlight and she didn’t know how to operate it. She was also terrified of water. The dinghy was secured by 2 lines tied 12 feet apart, Natalie didn’t untie it. Many, many details are in the book that I don’t have room to include here. The common sense conclusion is that Wagner either pushed or threw her overboard in a drunken rage and then knew if he saved her, not only would she divorce him, he would go to jail for attempted murder. Throwing someone overboard, preventing the Captain to turn on searchlight and use sonar equipment and not calling local authorities for 2 and half hours, then only reluctantly calling the Coast Guard after 4 hours is letting someone die, premeditated homicide. Wagner told the rescue official from the Coast Guard that he hadn’t called earlier because “his wife was out screwing around because that’s the kind of woman she is” The LA County Sheriff’s office didn’t not take the highly unusal and politically risky step of reopening a 30 year old case unless there was strong evidence to back it would be a waste of taxpayer money unless there was something very serious there. Get informed, read the book, apply common sense logic and you can see who’s story has more of a ring of truth to it. Natalie deserves to have this case presented as factually as possible.

  • I agree with everything that Kathie says (above), and I believed also believed that Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken were both responsible for Natalie Wood’s death back in 1981 when the story first broke! There was never a question in my mind and as time went on in 1981 everything that was released about the so called ‘accidental’ drowning of Natalie Wood, convinced me even more so that she was left in the water to die. In Natalie’s very last public interview in 1980, she was asked what her greatest fear was and she replied ‘dark deep, black water’. Any person, woman or man that has that fear would NEVER attempt to take a dinghy and flee a yacht! That is insane!!! Wagner’s whole attitude gives him away as a participator in his wife’s death – he distances himself and his family, including Natalie’s children, away from Natalie’s family – he starts seeing Jill St. John right away, he refused to view Natalie’s body after she was found – in all my years and I am 67 years old, I’ve never known of one person that didn’t want to view their husband or wife after they died – why didn’t Wagner want to view Natalie’s body? Because of guilt? I’ve heard that Wagner played around with men when Natalie was married to him the first time and I’ve heard rumors that that is part of the reason that she left him. I wonder if she caught Wagner and Walken together sexually? Also, Walken has never really told the same story twice, if what he has said can even be called a story – he said he heard absolutely nothing! Do people really buy that? Also, why did he immediately go and get an attorney upon hearing that the case into Natalie’s death was being reopened? Afraid he would have to answer some questions that he doesn’t want to answer? I have read the book that Marti Rulli and Dennis Davern wrote and it just convinces me all the more that Wagner and Walken are hiding something. Nothing will ever bring Natalie back, but the people that are responsible for her death should have to pay for what they, in this case, did and didn’t do.

  • To Hal, You are right, actually Wagner right away was going with Jill St. Jones, when she right away moved to his house. Please get everybody to facts. Robert Wagner is responsible for her death-period.