January 11, 2012 in Nation/World

Natalie Wood’s death not foul play

Reinvestigation confirms finding that it was accident
Richard Winton Los Angeles Times
 

LOS ANGELES – Nearly two months after they began a controversial new investigation into the death of Natalie Wood, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detectives have uncovered no evidence to suggest the star’s death was anything but an accident.

While the case has not been closed, a top Sheriff’s Department official said it’s highly unlikely the probe will break any new ground about how the movie actress died.

“At this point, it is an accidental death. Nothing has been discovered to suggest changing that at this time,” said William McSweeney, sheriff’s chief of detectives.

Since reopening the 30-year-old case in November, detectives have conducted numerous interviews and reviewed the entire original case file, McSweeney said. Detectives also traveled to Hawaii to inspect the boat on which Wood was last seen alive.

McSweeney said detectives are still looking at some aspects of the case, making sure smaller questions not answered in the original investigation are addressed. The Sheriff’s Department typically never officially closes cold cases when there is no arrest. But McSweeney said the case will be set aside once detectives have finished their work.

The Sheriff’s Department surprised many by reopening the case on Woods’ death, saying at the time that several sources had come forward to provide more information about what happened.

On Thanksgiving weekend 1981, Wood, 43, was off Southern California’s Catalina Island on the yacht she owned with husband Robert Wagner when she somehow went into the water and died. Actor Christopher Walken, then her co-star in the film “Brainstorm,” was also aboard.

Officials at the time ruled her death an accident, but there has since been much speculation about whether there was more to the story.

Authorities at the time said that on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 28, the boat had anchored off Catalina and Wood, Wagner and Walken had dinner at Doug’s Harbor Reef restaurant. Later, they returned to the yacht and had drinks.

Wagner and Walken told officials they had an argument. They eventually calmed down and said goodnight, Wagner said, but when he went to bed, Wood wasn’t there. Wagner thought that his wife had taken a small inflatable boat by herself, as she had done before, his spokesman said after the incident.

After 10 to 15 minutes passed without her returning, Wagner went to look for her aboard a small cruiser, the spokesman said. When he couldn’t find her, he contacted the Harbor Patrol. Authorities discovered Wood’s body about 8 a.m. Sunday, about a mile away from the yacht. The dinghy was found beached nearby.


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