Natalie Wood detective breaks silence to 48 Hours

Former Det. Duane Rasure tells CBS' "48 Hours" Splendour captain "Dennis Davern not telling the truth"

The lead detective at the heart of Natalie Wood's original 1981 downing investigation tells CBS News that he would have "arrested" Robert Wagner "personally" had he "had the evidence" that Wagner killed his wife, but he says he never suspected Wagner.

Speaking exclusively to "48 Hours" for the program "Vanity Fair: Hollywood Scandal", Duane Rasure, a retired detective sergeant for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Homicide Bureau, says that during his investigation into the Natalie Wood case, he "never really got suspicious of a murder."

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"All the questions, all the investigation I did-- just related to she accidentally fell off the back of their boat," Rasure tells "48 Hours" for its Saturday night broadcast.

"It was an accidental drowning, she just happened to be a famous movie star. She was a small lady. She drowned in short time, I'd say," Rasure says.

And Dennis Davern is not telling the full truth, according to Rasure. The detective sergeant, who has been at the heart of a number of Hollywood murder cases, tells "48 Hours" that Davern "just made himself look good in his book."

Vanity Fair: Hollywood Scandal
"48 Hours" Presents Vanity Fair: Hollywood Scandal

"Obviously he was trying to sell a book and make money off of it. And I think that's the whole purpose behind his-- his writing this book," Rasure tells CBS.

"If I have ever the slightest inkling there was a murder, something suspicious, I would have worked it," Rasure says. "I did not cover for anybody and I wouldn't cover for anybody. I don't care about their celebrity status. They were people."

Rasure tells "48 Hours" that his 1981 investigation was conducted over a period of several weeks.

According to Rasure, Wagner's version of events went like this: "He said that they had been together on the boat and he had assumed that she went to bed. He went to look for her. She was gone from the master bedroom about the same time the captain, Dennis Davern, noticed that their Zodiac boat was gone. At that time they assumed that -- she'd got in it and went back ashore," Rasure tells "48 Hours."

"There was time. They were uncertain," he says. "They felt that she had gone ashore in a Zodiac, that nothing was wrong. He did call and have the people on the shore search. Finally, one of the search boats come out to the Splendor, picked up Robert Wagner and took him in to do some more ground searching."

"The only person who really knows is Natalie Wood. Robert Wagner knows. I think he told me the truth."