An explosive new coroner’s report reveals Natalie Wood was likely beaten aboard her yacht before she went overboard and drowned in 1981, it was claimed today.
The Los Angeles County coroner’s examination of Natalie Wood case also found flaws in “every major” finding of the previous autopsy report that led medical examiners to rule the Hollywood star’s death an accident.
It’s the latest step toward settling the question of whether Natalie Wood was murdered, or whether she accidentally fell overboard on her 60-foot yacht and drowned – as the original police investigation concluded.
The new coroner’s examination asserts that bruises found on the actress’ wrists, knees, and ankles were consistent with her being beaten – not, as the 1981 report concluded, caused by her struggling to climb back aboard to yacht after falling over the side, CBS News reports.
The Los Angeles County Coroner’s report has not been made public yet, but CBS reports that sources say the document will poke numerous holes in the original autopsy reporting and the ruling that Natalie Wood’s death was accidental.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives reopened their investigation in 2011 after the captain of the yacht claimed that Natalie Wood’s husband, Robert Wagner, was with her right up until she went overboard.
Her death was ruled “accidental” at the time, but in 2012, the coroner changed the ruling to “undetermined”.
Robert Wagner told investigators that Natalie Wood, who could not swim, must have fallen in the water when she got up to try to retie a dingy that had been knocking against the side of the yacht.
Her body was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.14 percent, nearly twice the legal limit for driving. She was also found to be under the influence of a motion sickness medication and a painkiller, which likely increased her level of intoxication.
Her body was found floating off Catalina Island, near Los Angeles, several hours later.
The captain of the yacht, Dennis Davern, claimed that a fight had broken out between Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken, who was also aboard to yacht.
He said that after Natalie Wood went to bed, he heard the fight continuing in her cabin, including sounds of a physical struggle.
Dennis Davern claims Robert Wagner waited several hours after his wife disappeared to call authorities.
Natalie Wood, 43, burst into child stardom in 1947 playing little Susie, the girl who didn’t believe in Santa Claus, in Miracle on 34th Street. Natalie Wood later starred as Maria in 1961’s West Side Story and was nominated for an Oscar for her role opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.
Robert Wagner, now 82, admitted he had a fight with his wife on the night of November 29, 1981, but said she was not in her cabin when he went to bed.
He maintains he had nothing to do with her death, though said he feels personally responsible for not looking after her.
However, Dennis Davern reportedly offered an alternate explanation for Natalie Wood’s death. Lana Wood, the actress’ young sister, claimed to author Suzanne Finstad that Dennis Davern called her and drunkenly confessed that Robert Wagner allowed his wife to drown.
“He said it appeared to him as though [Robert Wagner] shoved her away and she went overboard. Dennis panicked and [Robert Wagner] said, <<Leave her there. Teach her a lesson>>. Dennis said he was very panicky that he was sitting and [Robert Wagner] kept drinking and kept drinking.
“And he’d say, <<Come on, let’s get her>>. And he said [Robert Wagner] was in such a foul mood, at that point, that he then shut up and was waiting for when, when are they gonna go to her rescue, until all the sound stopped,” Lana is heard telling Suzanne Finstad in recordings make for her 2001 book Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood.
Lana Wood continues on to say that Dennis Davern did not think that Robert Wagner meant for Natalie Wood to die but he did not “run to her aid”.
“Even if he did not kill her, which is what I understand the guy’s saying, it was – you know, that it – it was an accident,” Lana Wood said.