Six years ago, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopened the investigation into Natalie Wood’s mysterious 1981 death, and on Thursday, it was revealed that authorities have labeled Robert Wagner, who was married to Wood when she drowned near Catalina Island in California, as a person of interest. The New York Times has since reported that authorities are now considering Wood’s drowning to be a “suspicious death.”
Forty years after Wood’s demise, the new classification arrives due to 100 tips, including witnesses who have painted a different (albeit still cloudy) portrait of exactly what happened that night on the yacht, where Wood was only accompanied by Wagner, Christopher Walken, and captain Dennis Davern. Two witnesses overheard two separate arguments on that fateful night:
A sheriff’s department spokeswoman, Nicole Nishida, said in a statement on Thursday that new witnesses interviewed since the case was reopened gave statements that “portray a new sequence of events on the boat that night.”
One of the witnesses described hearing yelling and crashing sounds coming from the couple’s stateroom, she said. Shortly after that, separate witnesses heard a man and a woman arguing on the back of the boat and believe the voices were those of Ms. Wood and Mr. Wagner, Ms. Nishida said.
Still, CNN reports that the sheriff’s office concedes that there’s not enough information “to make an arrest at this moment,” although it’s worth noting that Wood’s death certificate was modified in 2012 to indicate “drowning and other undetermined factors” rather than simply an accidental drowning.
CBS News has reported that Wagner has refused to speak with the sheriff’s office since the probe was reopened. Walken (who was declared to not be a suspect in 2011) has spoken out to a limited degree. When TMZ confronted him in 2011, he simply answered, “I don’t know.” Yet in 1997 (via Hollywood Reporter), he told Playboy, “What happened that night only she knows, because she was alone.” He mentioned that Wood could not swim, and he added, “A dinghy was bouncing against the side of the boat, and I think she went out to move it … It was slippery.”
More investigative details may be revealed in a CBS News special, Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water, which will air on Saturday night at 10pm EST.