Robert Wagner Called ‘Person of Interest’ in Natalie Wood’s 1981 Death by Investigator

Hollywood actress drowned nearly four decades ago

Last Updated: February 1, 2018 @ 7:52 AM

Robert Wagner has been named a “person of interest” in the 1981 drowning death of his wife, Hollywood star Natalie Wood by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigator.

“As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think he’s more of a person of interest now,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant John Corina said in an interview with CBS’ “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty set to air on Saturday. “I mean, we know now that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared.”

A spokesperson for Wagner said he had no comment. In 2011, he was named “not a suspect” by the sheriff’s department.

Wood was married to Wagner from 1972 until her death on Nov. 29, 1981, off Catalina Island in California. The then 43-year-old actress was sailing with Wagner, as well as Christopher Walken and Captain Dennis Davern, when she was found floating in the water wearing a red down jacket and a flannel nightgown the next day, according to CBS.

After a two-week investigation, the death was ruled as an accident, but the case was reopened in 2011. In 2012, the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office amended the death certificate, changing the cause of death to “drowning and other undetermined factors.” The autopsy report indicates that there were several fresh bruises on Wood’s body when she was found.

“She looked like a victim of an assault,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Detective Ralph Hernandez said in the special.

“Do you believe Natalie Wood was murdered?”  Moriarty asked.

“I think it’s suspicious enough to make us think that something happened,” Corina said.

“Do you believe Robert Wagner knows a lot more about what happened to his wife than he’s ever said?” Moriarty asked again.

“Well, I think he does because he’s the last one to see her,” Corina said.

Investigators said Wagner has refused to speak with them since the case was reopened. There has long been speculation about the death of the “West Side Story” star — at first, Wagner, Walken and Davern told detectives that she took a dinghy and went to shore. Over time, investigators say, Wagner and Davern’s accounts shifted.

“I haven’t seen him tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case,” Corina said of Wagner. “I think he’s constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don’t add up.”

“We have not been able to prove this was a homicide. And we haven’t been able to prove that this was an accident, either,” said Hernandez. “The ultimate problem is we don’t know how she ended up in the water.”

The interviews will be broadcast in a new special titled “Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water” on Feb. 3 at 10 p.m. on CBS.

Watch a preview of the special above.