It’s like an episode of CSI but with legendary Hollywood actors involved. The death of Natalie Wood has always aroused suspicion. She allegedly drowned by accident, scared of swimming and caught by a tide. The “West Side Story” star had been out for dinner with fellow actors Robert Wagner (her husband) and friend Christopher Walken. At the time no connection was made by the police, though conspiracy theorists were certainly making links. The Sheriff’s Department reopened the case in November 2011 on the 30th anniversary of her death.
The coroner for the reopening of the case – Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran – questioned the original findings and changed the cause of death from “accidental drowning” to “drowning and other undetermined factors”. The coroner’s report suggested unexplained fresh bruising on the actress’ right forearm, left wrist and right knee as well as a scratch on her neck.
“This Examiner is unable to exclude non-accidental mechanism causing these injuries,” the report said.
Investigators say the case remains open but there are fears that the evidence may have become stale and that the memories of those involved may have faded too much. It is apparently unusual for coroners to contradict the autopsy findings performed by their own office. The new report noted “conflicting statements” about when Wood disappeared and whether she argued with her husband Wagner. Hours before her death the three actors allegedly had dinner at Doug’s Harbor Reef restaurant.
According to the new autopsy report, Wood went missing around midnight and an analysis of her stomach contents said her death occurred around that time. The report said Wagner placed a radio call reporting her missing at half one in the morning. Roger Smith, the LA County rescue boat captain, did not receive a call to look for her till 5am. The original investigators said the bruises were sustained from her struggled to pull herself from the water into a rubber dinghy but Sathyavagiswaran said that the original investigators didn’t take nail clippings from Wood’s body to determine whether she had made the scratch marks; he believes Wood died soon after entering the water.
There are certainly a variety of questions here and plenty more investigating to be had. Whether Wagner or even Walken were involved at all is unknown and if they were at all involved, it would be one of the greatest scandals in Hollywood’s notorious history.