Natalie Wood was one of the most popular film stars of her generation; with her huge dark eyes and creamy skin, her beauty was enough to capture James Dean’s heart in “Rebel Without A Cause”. Her innocence shone through on the big screen, leaving her vulnerable and relatable. When she died mysteriously after a night of partying on a yacht with two other huge stars of the day, the world was shocked and grief-stricken. Now, her death has been changed from “accidental” by investigators to “drowning and other undetermined factors” as her case is reopened.
The night she died in 1981, Wood was on a yacht with her husband, Robert Wagner, and their good friend Christopher Walken. Wagner told police he was arguing with Walken and that after Walken went to bed for the night, he realized Wood was nowhere to be found. A brief inspection of the boat led him to discover the dinghy was also missing. The ship’s captain claimed later that Wagner was arguing with Wood–not Walken–and that he was sure Wagner was responsible for her death.
Wood’s body was later found in a Catalina cove, dressed in a nightgown, jacket, and socks; she was heavily bruised and had suffered a laceration to the face. Investigators determined she had been drinking and must have slipped while trying to access the dinghy.
Although Wagner has never been considered a suspect in her death, officials have reopened the case and are adamant about finding out how she ended up on Catalina Island and say they aren’t satisfied with the conflicting stories from the people she was last seen with.
“We don’t close these cases,” Chief Detective William McSweeney said. “These cases have active periods and more passive periods. We’re moving toward the end of an active period.”