Detectives Clarify Why Robert Wagner Is a Person of Interest in Natalie Wood's Death

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Homicide Detectives shared new insights from witness accounts

By Elyse Dupre Feb 02, 2018 3:25 PMTags
Natalie WoodCBS News

After 48 Hours revealed Robert Wagner is a person of interest in Natalie Wood's mysterious death, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department clarified the announcement. 

Back in 2011, when Wood's case was re-opened, the LASD Homicide Detectives held a press conference where it was announced Wagner was not a suspect. According to a new bureau statement obtained by E! News, the department received "more than 100 tips" after the conference, and the detectives "followed up on every single one."

"This resulted in several new witness statements and information more than 30 years after the drowning death of Natalie Wood," part of the statement read. "For the first time, we have witness statements that portray a new sequence of events on the boat that night."

AP Photo

The bureau also shed light on some of the witness accounts. 

"A witness provided details about hearing yelling and crashing sounds coming from the couple's stateroom," the statement read. "Shortly afterwards, separate witnesses identified a man and a woman arguing on the back of the boat. The witnesses believed that the voices belonged to Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner." 

However, not all of the witness accounts aligned with what the bureau previously heard.

"As you may recall, Natalie Wood was later reported missing from the boat," the statement continued. "The statements from these new witnesses differ from the original version of events as related by previous witnesses, including the individuals on the boat." 

In addition, the detectives clarified that the case is still not ruled a homicide.  

"Do we have enough to make an arrest at this moment? No. This remains a suspicious death investigation," the LASD Homicide Dectectives said via the statement. "However, as LASD Homicide Detectives, we know that even the most difficult cases can be solved when witnesses come forward." 

They also added, "We ask that anyone with first-hand knowledge or any information about the death of Natalie Wood to call the LASD Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500."

It's important to note that Wagner has been labeled a person of interest in the case, not a suspect. A sheriff's spokesperson told E! News the then-husband of Wood has "always been considered a ‘person of interest.'"

"Actor Robert Wagner, her husband at the time of her death, has always been considered a 'Person of Interest' in the investigation, which remains open," the spokesperson said via a statement.

As E! News previously reported, Wood drowned in 1981 after she apparently fell off her family yacht the Splendour during a boat trip to Catalina with Wagner, friend Christopher Walken and the boat's captain Dennis Davern. The actress' body was recovered from the water the next morning. After conducting an autopsy, detectives determined she had consumed seven or eight glasses of wine and her death was ruled an accident.

During an interview for the TV special "48 Hours: Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water," LASD Lieutenant John Corina told correspondent Erin Moriarty "we know now that [Wagner] was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared." 

However, an archived interview with Wagner shows the actor saying he "wasn't there" when Wood went into the water.

"We were so in love, and we had everything," he said during an old interview shown by 48 Hours. "And in a second, in a second, it was gone. I wasn't there. I wasn't there for her."

E! News reached out to Wagner's rep.

To learn more about the case, tune into "48 Hours: Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water" Feb. 3 at 10:00 p.m. EST on the CBS Television Network.