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Robert Wagner Supports New Look Into Natalie Wood's Death

Natalie Wood in 1979.
Natalie Wood in 1979.

Authorities in Los Angeles plan to say more later today about why they're reopening the investigation into actress Natalie Wood's drowning death over the weekend of Thanksgiving 1981.

Wood's husband at the time, actor Robert Wagner, says through a spokesman that he supports the new probe.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Wagner said through a statement that he "trusts they will evaluate whether any new information relating to the death of Natalie Wood Wagner is valid."

The "new information," according to the Times, involves comments made recently by the captain of the yacht that Woods, Wagner and actor Christopher Walken were on that fateful night. The captain, Dennis Davern, has said he does not think a complete investigation of Wood's death was done at the time and that he overheard arguments among the group on the night Wood disappeared.

On NBC's Today Show this morning, Davern said he thinks Wagner was somehow responsible and that "we didn't take any steps to see if we could locate" Wood the night she died. That conflicts with what was reported in 1981. The Times writes that Wagner went out on "a small cruiser" that night to look for his wife and that "when he couldn't find her, he contacted the harbor patrol."

Wood, Wagner and Walken had gone to Catalina Island, off the Southern California coast, for dinner. They then returned to the yacht. At some point during the night, Wood and a dinghy disappeared. Her body was discovered the next day about a mile from the yacht. "The dinghy was found beached nearby," the Times adds. Wood was 43.

The tragedy was huge news at the time and, as The Associated Press says:

"The case has become one of Hollywood's most alluring mysteries. Wood's drowning sparked tabloid speculation that foul play was involved, but Wagner and Wood's sister have dismissed any suggestion there was foul play.

"Lana Wood wrote in a biography on her sister, 'What happened is that Natalie drank too much that night.' "

Update at 2 p.m. ET: The sheriff's office just said it has enough "credible" information to warrant taking another look at the case — but also that her death is still considered to have been an accidental drowning and that Wagner is not a suspect in her death.

Note at 12:25 p.m. ET: Earlier the AP called Wood's sister "Laura Wood." It has since corrected its reports to refer to her as Lana. We've made that change above.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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