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Here's Why Natalie Wood's Death Remains a Mystery Three Decades after Her Tragic Drowning

Comfort Omovre
Jun 15, 2019
11:29 A.M.
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Remember Hollywood Academy Award Winning Actress, Natalie Woods? Decades after her death, the how’s and the why’s of her demise remain a huge mystery.


Natalie Wood was a popular Hollywood actress born on July 20, 1938, in San Francisco to Russian immigrant parents.


Her acting career was a well celebrated one, she began acting at the age of 4 and went on to receive three Academy Award nominations before she clocked 25, during the 1970s, she took a hiatus from filming and had two children with her then-husband Robert Wagner, whom she married twice. 

However, according to "People," on a cool night in November, the award-winning actress had vanished from the boat she boarded with her husband and turned up dead the next morning after wearing a nightgown, a pair of blue socks and a red down coat.

Natalie Woods, together with her husband, Robert, had one day exactly 37 years ago, decided to go on a boat cruise off the southwest coast of Los Angeles aboard The Splendour, a 55-foot yacht belonging to the glamorous couple. 


The couple invited Christopher Walken, an actor, and friend to the couple, to spend Thanksgiving weekend with them aboard their yacht on an overnight cruise around the Catalina islands in California, little did they know their celebration would take a tragic turn.


The incident had been initially tagged an accidental death and closed, however; the investigation was reopened in 2011 when Davern told the LA County Sheriff Department that he witnessed an altercation between Woods and her former husband, Robert, a short while before she vanished.

Davern stated in a book he co-authored:

"I believe Robert Wagner was with her right up until the moment she was in the water.” 

At the time of her death on November 28, 1981, Robert Wagner stated that Wood fell off their yacht while attempting to re-tie a dinghy that had been thumping against the side of the yacht, hindering her sleep.


The actress' sister, Lana Wood, reportedly requested that the case be reopened, insisting that her sister who always had a palpable phobia for any body of water would never have been caught dead attempting to re-tie the dinghy, "E-News" reported.


In an interview held in 2008 for a CBS program, Robert Wagner admitted to indeed arguing while on the yacht- not with Woods but with Christopher Walken over Wood’s career.

And in a report made by AARP, Wagner explained that the argument had escalated into an altercation that saw them both on the deck of the yacht, Wagner also stated that no one on the yacht had “heard or seen Wood take out the dinghy”, and only later noticed that both Wood and the dinghy had disappeared.

The investigators were baffled as there were two witnesses who both insisted that they saw and heard the fight between the couple. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Detective Ralph Hernandez told CBS:


“The ultimate problem is we don’t know how she ended up in the water.” 

He noted an autopsy report indicated evidence of bruising. He said:

“She looked like the victim of an assault.” 


In a report made by CBS News, the coroner’s report showed evidence of bruising on Wood’s wrists, knees, and ankles which were consistent with injuries from an assault. 

After the onslaught of the disturbing accounts given by the survivors of that tragic night, the Los Angeles Coroner's Office had the cause of Wood's death changed from accidental drowning to undetermined. 

Even with the account of the witnesses and the input of Wood’s sister, the case only seems to provoke more questions than answers.

What do you think happened that night, on the yacht?