Ask anyone — Refinery29 might love true crime even more than feminist mantras and nipple piercings. But there's a case that happened almost four decades ago that (understandably) wasn't on my radar — until now. Six years ago, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reopened the case surrounding the death of actress Natalie Wood, who drowned off the coast of Catalina Island in California in November of 1981. She was on board her family yacht along with actors Robert Wagner (her husband) and Christopher Walken (as well as Captain Dennis Davern) and was found floating in the water the next day in her nightgown. The death was originally ruled an accident, but after the Sheriff's Department reopened the case in 2011, they've now said Wagner is "more of a person of interest" in Wood's mysterious death, and reveal many more details in an episode of 48 Hours set to air on February 3.
While her death hasn't been classified as murder, they haven't been able to prove it was an accident either. The Los Angeles Coroner's Office changed her death certificate to read "drowning and other undetermined factors" in 2012. According to CBS investigators speaking to 48 Hours, the autopsy showed fresh bruises on Wood's body.
"She looked like a victim of an assault," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Detective Ralph Hernandez.
Furthermore, while the three men on the boat originally told detectives that Wood went ashore in a dinghy before her body was found (something which doesn't make sense, since Wood previously told director Elia Kazan of her "terror of water, particularly dark water, and being helpless in it"), both Wagner and Davern have somewhat changed their stories, rousing some suspicion, as well as the fact that things were apparently tense on the boat.
"I haven't seen him tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Lieutenant John Corina told 48 Hours' Erin Moriarty regarding Wagner. "I think he's constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don't add up."
"Nobody knows [what happened]," Wagner wrote in his 2008 memoir. "There are only two possibilities: either she was trying to get away from an argument, or she was trying to tie the dinghy. But the bottom line is that nobody knows exactly what happened."
Wagner has apparently refused to speak to investigators since the case was reopened.