Nearly 40 years after Hollywood actress Natalie Wood died at age 43, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s official said her fatal drowning is now being investigated as a “suspicious death” as new witnesses have emerged.
Following Thursday’s bombshell “48 Hours” report that husband Robert Wagner was a “person of interest,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said new witnesses interviewed since the case was reopened in 2011 have given statements that “portray a new sequence of events on the boat that night.”
Wood, the Oscar-nominated actress who starred in “Miracle on 34th Street,” “West Side Story” and “Rebel Without a Cause,” was on a yacht with Wagner, actor Christopher Walken and the boat captain on Thanksgiving weekend in 1981. After a night of drinking, her body was found floating in the waters off Southern California’s Catalina Island.
While investigators initially ruled it an accident, the case was reopened to see whether Wagner or anyone else possibly played a role after the boat’s captain said he heard the couple arguing the night of her disappearance. The coroner’s office amended Wood’s death certificate the next year to include “drowning and other undetermined factors.”
A rep for Wagner, now 87, declined to comment.
According to Nishida, one of the witnesses described hearing yelling and crashing sounds coming from the couple’s stateroom. Soon after that, other witnesses claimed they heard a man and woman arguing on the back of the boat. They believe the voices belonged to Wood and Wagner, added Nishida.
While the sheriff’s department said Wagner is considered a person of interest, Nishida noted there isn’t enough evidence “to make an arrest at this moment.”
The police statement comes after CBS News aired an interview with Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Corina, who said he doesn’t believe Wagner has told the whole story about what happened that fateful night.
Corina told “48 Hours” the new witnesses are “very credible.”
“They have no reason to lie,” he insisted.
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