Natalie Wood, who starred in Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story, died in a mysterious drowning incident off the coast of Catalina Island in 1981. Her death was ruled an accident, but police recently reopened the investigation after receiving new information.

Natalie Wood

One of the key pieces of new evidence is that some of the bruises on Wood’s body were probably inflicted before she fell into the water. Keep reading the article below to learn more about Natalie Wood Death.

Natalie Wood was an actress who starred in many films, and she was well-loved by audiences. But behind the scenes, her life was much more complicated. She had numerous affairs and her first marriage to Robert Wagner ended in divorce. Throughout her life, she was haunted by a fear of being alone at night, and the idea that she would drown in dark water.

The last few years of her life were tumultuous for the actress. In addition to her shaky career, her family suffered from alcoholism and depression. And her health started to decline, with multiple strokes. It was no wonder that she died at the age of 63.

It was a sad end to a life that had so much potential. But what happened that caused the star to go so quickly and so tragically?

There were many questions surrounding the night of her death, and the one thing that has never been clear is what happened to her dinghy. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopened the investigation in 2011 and changed the cause of her death from accidental to undetermined drowning. This was due to new evidence, including fresh bruises on her arms and knees.

According to the new report, it is likely that the bruises were not from her fall overboard but were inflicted after she fell into the water. This could mean that Wagner assaulted her or that she had a struggle with someone on board the boat.

Dennis Davern, the captain of the yacht that Wood was aboard when she died, has said in several interviews and in his book Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour that Wagner was responsible for her death. He claims that he heard a fight between the two of them on the night of her death. He also claims that Wagner told him to stick with the official story, which was that Wood had accidentally slipped and fallen into the water.

But his versions of events don’t always seem to match up, and it is hard for those close to the actress to believe that he was telling the truth. Lana, Natalie’s younger sister, is convinced that her brother-in-law has something to hide and often accuses him of murdering his wife.

Who Killed Natalie Wood?

For decades, people have wondered what really happened to Natalie Wood on the night of November 29, 1981. The actress disappeared from her husband Robert Wagner’s yacht off the coast of Catalina Island and was found dead six hours later floating facedown in the water. Since then, varying versions of events have been attributed to her death.

In 2000, Sam Kashner wrote a piece for Vanity Fair that detailed the many ambiguities in Wood’s case and fueled speculation that her drowning was not an accident. In 2022, author Suzanne Finstad published the definitive biography on the actress, which shed additional light on her last days.

However, despite all of these details, it remains unclear who killed Natalie Wood. The investigation was reopened in 2011, and the cause of her death was changed from accidental drowning to undetermined factors. The change was based on several red flags, including the bruising found on her body and her inability to swim.

The bruising found on her body was the biggest clue, and it’s what led the medical examiner to change her official cause of death. Wood was covered in bruises, with a large one on her right forearm and a scratch on the back of her throat that could have been made by a fingernail or thumbnail. In addition, a number of bruises on her legs were found in the area where she supposedly fell overboard.

Her erratic behavior in the hours leading up to her death also raised suspicions. According to her sister Lana, she had been drinking a lot, and the night of her death was marked by fighting with her husband and co-star Christopher Walken.

Adding to the confusion, boat captain Dennis Davern and Wood’s daughter from her second husband, Natasha Gregson Wagner, have both offered conflicting accounts of what happened. Nevertheless, police have officially named Wagner as a person of interest in the case.

Reopening the Case

For decades, the ambiguities surrounding Natalie Wood’s death off the coast of Catalina Island kept the case a mystery. But on Thursday, sheriff’s investigators said they had received fresh information justifying reopening the investigation into her death in 1981.

The reopening of the case comes more than a year after Lana Wood, the actress’s sister, called for it to be reopened. The sheriff’s department did not elaborate on the new leads, but it was clear that the reopening had nothing to do with the claims of Dennis Davern, the captain of the yacht at the time, who wrote a memoir saying he believed Wood died as a result of a fight with Wagner.

According to the memoir, the trio was out drinking on the night of her disappearance, and Wagner got angry when she began paying more attention to co-star Christopher Walken. He says he told her to stop, and she refused. Then, he says he went back to sleep because he figured she’d just take off in the yacht’s dinghy—a dinghy that was found a mile away from the boat, police say.

An autopsy revealed high levels of alcohol in her system and bruises on her arms, legs, and face that the coroner deemed consistent with falling overboard. However, the fact that she was still in her nightgown and long socks when she was found in the water and that her body was floating, a mile from where the dinghy was found, fueled speculation that her death wasn’t an accident.

At the time of her death, Wood was 43 years old and a star with credits including West Side Story, Miracle on 34th Street, Splendor in the Grass, and Rebel Without a Cause. She had also appeared in more than 30 television shows and films.

Her family and friends say she was a sweet, caring woman who loved her job as an actress. They were not ready to see her leave so early, and they continue to struggle with the loss of a daughter who was just getting started on her career.

Final Words

More than 35 years ago, Natalie Wood’s untimely death reverberated around the world. While the actress was only 25 at the time, she had already established herself as a mature actress in such films as Rebel Without a Cause and Splendor in the Grass. In addition, she had won three Academy Award nominations for her acting work.

Then, as Tibbetts notes, “She stepped into a whole new era with the Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise musical West Side Story and Gypsy.” It was in those roles that audiences got to know her more as a character who represented the restlessness of American youth expressed by youth gangs and juvenile delinquency along with early rock and roll.

While Wood’s career flourished, her personal life seemed to deteriorate. She separated from her husband at the time, Dennis Davern, and began a relationship with actor Christopher Walken. She was reportedly happy in her relationships with both men but did not have children of her own.

On the night of her death, Wood and three other people — including Wagner — left a restaurant at 10 p.m. to return to their yacht, the Splendour. A few hours later, she was found in the water with a bloody nose and face, wearing only her red parka which was saturated with water.

Her cries were heard by others in the group but were ignored. No rescue boats were sent to find her, and she was reportedly too drunk to even remember her name. Her dinghy, Valiant, was 100 yards away, but she did not make it back to the boat.

After the coroner’s office changed the cause of death from accidental to undetermined, a number of people offered varying accounts as to what happened to her. Many of those accounts were contradictory. Walken has never spoken publicly about the incident and Wagner did not speak to the media for several decades until he gave an interview in Playboy in 1997. Those interviews were inconsistent and did not confirm the events that occurred that night, but did offer some insight.