Natalie Wood case still open

1981: Natalie Wood found dead
  • Police are still conducting their investigation
  • Persons with additional information approached investigators last year
  • Natalie Wood drowned off Catalina Island near Los Angeles in 1981
  • Wagner waited four hours to call the Coast Guard, captain of yacht says

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Nearly two months after reopening its investigation into the death of movie star Natalie Wood, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has yet to come across new information that changes the case.

"The investigation is not closed. It's possible we could yield new information that changes this case," said Steve Whitmore, a sheriff's department spokesman. "There are leads we're following up on and have to close them out before we say anything definitive. Sure there is possible new information that could come out that really changes everything."

Detectives continue to conduct interviews in the case, Whitmore said

Wood drowned in 1981 while boating off Catalina Island near the California coast

In November, homicide investigators decided to take a new look at one of Hollywood's most enduring mysteries after they were contacted by people who claimed they had "additional information" about the drowning, the sheriff's department said.

Natalie Wood case reopened
Natalie Wood's case reopened

"This new information is substantial enough to make us want to take a new look at the case," Lt. John Corina said at the time.

Corina declined to comment directly on new statements made by the captain of the yacht on which Wood's husband, actor Robert Wagner, Wood and actor Christopher Walken were passengers at the time of her death.

The yacht captain, Dennis Davern, offered a new account in November about how Wood's death was reported and said Wagner waited hours to call the Coast Guard after Wood went missing.

When asked if the captain could face charges for possibly lying to authorities during the 1981 investigation, Corina responded: "That, I can't say. We'll probably end up talking to the captain sooner or later, and we'll assess what he has to say then and now."

Authorities haven't gone into specifics about who they've interviewed, but did say when they reopened the case that Wagner wasn't a suspect.

Wood drowned in the Pacific Ocean on November 29, 1981, off the isthmus of Catalina Island. She once said in a televised interview that her greatest fear was of dark seawater.

Wood's body was found floating in the water about a mile away from the yacht.

According to police reports, Wood was found wearing a long nightgown, socks, and a down jacket.

The autopsy report shows Wood had two dozen bruises on her body, including a facial abrasion on her left cheek, and bruises on her arms.

"My sister was not a swimmer and did not know how to swim, and she would never go to another boat or to shore dressed in a nightgown and socks," said Lana Wood.

Although the county coroner's office ruled that Wood's death was an accident, others say the case hasn't made sense.

In 2010, Lana Wood told CNN she believes a highly charged argument between her sister and husband on the yacht's back deck preceded Wood's drowning. She told CNN last year she does not suspect foul play.

"I just want the truth to come out, the real story," she said.

Dennis Davern, the former captain of the yacht Splendour broke his long silence with a detailed account in "Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour," a book he wrote with his friend Marti Rulli. It was published in September 2009.

Davern has said he believes Wood's death was a direct result of a fight with Wagner.

In a lengthy interview with CNN in 2010, Davern said he now believes the investigation of Wood's death was incompetent and suggested there was a cover-up. He said he regrets misleading investigators by keeping quiet at Wagner's request.

Wood and Wagner married in 1957, divorced in 1962, then remarried in 1972. They often sailed their yacht off the coast of California and they invited Wood's "Brainstorm" co-star, Christopher Walken, to join them on a sail on Thanksgiving weekend in 1981.

Walken and Wood had been filming "Brainstorm" at the time and the Hollywood rumor mill was abuzz with speculation that Wagner was jealous over Walken, but authorities have said Walken witnessed only the events leading up to an argument between the couple.

Wagner admitted his jealousy in his book "Pieces of My Heart," also published in September 2009. He acknowledged that there had been a fight with Wood, writing that he smashed a wine bottle on a table.

After Wagner argued with Walken and broke the wine bottle, Wood left in disgust and went to her stateroom, Davern told CNN. Walken also retired to a guest room, Davern added, and Wagner followed his wife to their room. A few minutes later, Davern said, he could hear the couple fighting.

Embarrassed, Davern said he turned up the volume on his stereo. At one point, Davern recalled, he glanced out of the pilot house window and saw both Wagner and Wood on the yacht's aft deck. "They'd moved their fight outside ... you could tell from their animated gestures they were still arguing," he said.

A short time later, Wagner, appearing to be distraught, told Davern he couldn't find Wood. Davern searched the boat but couldn't find her. He noticed the rubber dinghy also was missing.

Wagner shrugged and poured them both drinks, Davern said. He suggested his wife had probably gone off in a temper.

Wagner's story, as told in his book, differs from Davern's. He maintains that after the argument with Walken, Wood went to her room and prepared for bed while he and Walken sat on the deck, cooling off.

Wagner writes that he went to check on Wood, but she wasn't there. He maintains that he and Davern searched the boat and noticed the dinghy was missing. Wagner wrote that he assumed his wife had gone ashore on her own.

He radioed the restaurant on shore where they'd had dinner and called the harbor master to see if anyone had seen Wood.

The dinghy was found about a mile away from the yacht, and a mile from where Wood's body was found.

Wood's first starring role was as a child in "Miracle on 34th Street" in 1947, and she played alongside some of Hollywood's top leading men -- James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause" and Warren Beatty in "Splendor in the Grass." She was nominated for Oscars in both of those films, as well as for "Love With the Proper Stranger" (1963), according to IMDb. One of her more memorable roles was as Maria in "West Side Story."

Wagner's striking good looks landed him roles in dozens of films in the 1950s and '60s before he hit it big in television. He starred in two popular series, "It Takes a Thief" (1968-70) and "Hart to Hart" (1979-84), and more recently as Number Two in the "Austin Powers" spy spoofs.

CNN's Kareen Wynter and Michael Martinez contributed to this report.