New Natalie Wood death probe shows no signs of foul play: report

Actress Natalie Wood in 1963.
AP Photo
Actress Natalie Wood in 1963.
AP Photo

(CBS) LOS ANGELES - No signs of foul play have been uncovered in the new probe into the 1981 drowning death of actress Natalie Wood, authorities said Tuesday.

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The Los Angeles Times reports that nearly two months after the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department began a controversial new investigation into Wood's death, detectives have found no evidence to suggest the cause of death was anything but accidental. 

A top sheriff's department official said it is extremely unlikely any new ground will be broken on how the actress died.

"At this point, it is an accidental death," William McSweeney, the sheriff's chief of detectives said. "Nothing has been discovered to suggest changing that at this time."

Detectives have carried out numerous interviews and reviewed the entire original file case since reopening the case in November. Detectives also traveled to Hawaii to inspect the boat where Wood was last seen alive 30 years ago.

The sheriff's department typically will not officially close cold cases without an arrest but McSweeney said the case will be set aside once investigators have completed their work.

Detectives are still looking at some aspects of the case by answering smaller questions in the original investigation that were not concentrated on.

The sheriff's department surprised many people by reopening the case on Wood's death nearly two months ago, saying at the time that several sources had come forward with new information.

On Thanksgiving weekend in 1981, Natalie Wood, 43, was off Catalina Island on a yacht with her husband Robert Wagner and then co-star Christopher Walken. During the trip, she somehow went overboard into the water and died.

Officials initially ruled the death an accident. However, there has been much speculation about whether there was more to the story.

Authorities said that on the night of Nov. 28,  Wood, Wagner and Walken had dinner at a harbor restaurant before returning to the yacht for drinks.

Wagner and Walken told officials they had an argument, and after calming down and saying goodnight, Wagner went to bed to find Wood missing. Wagner's spokesman said he thought his wife had taken a small inflatable boat by herself as she had done before.

However, Wood's body was found the next morning around 8 a.m., about a mile away from the yacht.

CBS Los Angeles reports when her body was found, Wood was wearing a parka and it was believed at the time she fell overboard and the parka filled with water which caused her to drown. Wagner speculated that Wood was likely bothered by the sound of their dinghy hitting the side of the boat and Wood went to tie it to the boat more securely when she fell overboard.

The new probe into the case began near the 30th anniversary of Wood's death after sheriff's investigators learned of a "48 Hours Mystery" segment on the case scheduled for late November.

Meanwhile, the captain of the boat, Dennis Davern, went on several television shows expressing skepticism about the original investigation and saying he believed that Wood might have met with foul play.

Complete Coverage of Natalie Wood on Crimesider