Natalie Wood Death Report: Original Autopsy Now in Question

by at . Comments

The investigation of Natalie Wood's death, reopened in 2011, has taken a dark and serious turn as the autopsy results have come under heavy scrutiny.

Natalie Wood Picture

The Los Angeles Coroner's Office will reportedly release a review of the original coroner's report in 1981 that raises questions about every major finding.

Initially, investigators concluded Natalie Wood's death an accident.

Now, officials reportedly believe injuries to the actress' wrists, knees, and ankles could be more consistent with injuries from an assault, raising new suspicions.

Wood died on November 28, 1981, when according to her husband, actor Robert Wagner, she fell off their yacht, the 60-foot-long Splendour.

One theory is that this possibly happened as she was trying to re-tie a dinghy that had been banging against the side of the boat, disturbing her sleep.

Her body was found hours later floating off Catalina Island; her injuries were believed to have happened while struggling to climb back on the boat.

Wood's death was ruled an accidental drowning.

However, in 2011, Los Angeles Sheriff's detectives re-opened the case after the skipper of the boat, Dennis Davern, co-authored a book about the case.

In it, he gave a very different account of what happened, saying, "I believe Robert Wagner was with her right up until the moment she was in the water."

Davern said there was arguing on board the yacht, a fight between Wagner and fellow actor Christopher Walken in which a bottle was thrown.

Key to his account is that after Natalie Wood went to bed, a loud argument - and sounds of an apparent struggle - could be heard from her cabin.

Davern said, "The fighting went back to the back of the boat and then it was quiet."

He says Wagner waited hours after Wood went missing before calling for help.

Last year, the Los Angeles Coroner's Office changed the cause of Wood's death from "accident" to "undetermined." It is unclear if criminal charges will be filed.

CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former Los Angeles Police Department deputy commissioner, said the report could be "very significant."

He explained, "It shows that the coroner is now going down the same path as the sheriff's homicide investigators, which is they have real questions."

Officials are now reexamining the "circumstances of Natalie Wood's death or if it should have ever been labeled an accident based on the medical evidence."

"Now, the sheriff's working with the evidence of the investigation, and I think what you're going to see is more impetus for the sheriff's homicide investigation to go forward."

The new report is not a new autopsy, but a supplemental report in which the current L.A. County coroner calls into question every finding that ruled Wood's death an accident.

He added, "When you take the circumstances as we've now come to learn them, Natalie Wood was, as you know, in her night gown in bed."

"She supposedly goes out to re-tie a dinghy. She can't swim. She's afraid of the dark."

"She's afraid of the water. It's sounds very unlikely she would have done that, especially if the captain, the skipper, was there and awake, and she could have told him do that."

Miller said the "million-dollar question" is if the investigators "mailed it in."

"I think that the overarching suggestion from the observations made in the supplemental are going to be that she was already unconscious in some likelihood," he says.

That, he adds, "certainly raise the possibility she had some help getting there and when you're unconscious, that is we call that suspicious."

Tags: ,
× Close Ad