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The Mystery Of Hollywood Icon Natalie Wood's Drowning Death Continues To Baffle 37 Years Later

In 2013, the coroner's office to change the cause of Natalie Wood’s death from "accidental drowning" to "drowning and other undetermined factors."

By Gina Tron
5 Famous Hollywood Crimes

Natalie Wood was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood up until her controversial death. She was a child actor who starred in Miracle on 34th Street and the iconic Rebel Without a Cause. She is equally known for her role in West Side Story. By 24, she had already received three Academy Award nominations.

Her untimely death at 43 stunned the nation. She drowned while sailing off of Catalina Island along with her husband Robert Wagner, star Christopher Walken and the boat’s captain. 

At about 1:30 a.m. on  November 29, 1981, Wood disappeared from the 60-foot yacht that she and Wagner owned.

Six hours later, Wood’s body was spotted floating facedown 200 yards away from Catalina Island, according to Vanity Fair. She was found wearing a flannel nightgown, red down jacket, and blue wool socks. Not far from her body, an inflatable dinghy washed up on some rocks.

At the time, her death was ruled an accidental drowning.

But, the case was reopened 35 years later in 2011.

“We continue to look into it and we will continue to look into it until we can come to some conclusion,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Lt. John Corina told People. The reopening appeared to be sparked after Davern admitted that he had lied to investigators about some details of that night, according to the NBC's Today. At the time, a sheriff’s spokesperson said that Wagner was not a suspect. Wood’s widow released a statement in which he said his family would “trust they will evaluate whether any new information relating to the death of Natalie Wood Wagner is valid, and that it comes from a credible source or sources other than those simply trying to profit from the 30-year anniversary of her tragic death.”

In 2013, bruises on Wood's body led the Los Angeles County coroner's office to change the cause of death, CNN reports. Instead of "accidental drowning" it became "drowning and other undetermined factors."

Wagner’s 2008 memoir, Pieces of My Heart, offers some insight into the night Wood died. He wrote that while drinking he got into a heated argument with Walken over his wife’s career.

“I picked up a wine bottle, slammed it on the table and broke it into pieces,” Wagner wrote about the altercation with Walken. But how did Wood fall off the boat?

“Nobody knows,” Walken wrote. “There are only two possibilities: either she was trying to get away from the argument, or she was trying to tie the dinghy. But the bottom line is that nobody knows exactly what happened.”
In his memoir, Wagner expressed guilt for not being more attentive to his spouse.

“Did I blame myself?,” he wrote. “If I had been there, I could have done something. But I wasn’t there. I didn’t see her. The door was closed; I thought she was below deck. I didn’t hear anything. But ultimately, a man is responsible for his loved one, and she was my loved one.”

Wood was reportedly terrified of water ever since she was a child. And, just weeks before her death she said in an interview, “I’m afraid of water that is dark.” A fortune teller apparently told her to steer clear of water and that premonition seemingly came true more than once:  During one film shoot, Wood fell into some rough waters and broke her wrist.

[Photos: Getty Images]

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