natalie-woods

LA Sheriff: Natalie Wood death investigation is still 'ongoing'

July 8, 2012 at 2:26 PM ET

Image: FILE PHOTO: LA County Sheriff To Reportedly Reopen Investigation Into Natalie Wood's Death - Press Conference Today
The actress died in 1981, but the circumstances surrounding her drowning have never been clear. A new investigation has been opened into the case.

Nearly nine months after re-opening the investigation into the death of actress Natalie Wood, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is still looking into the case, the Sheriff's department said Friday night, noting that their investigation is "open and ongoing." 

"We have received many calls from the news media today asking about the status of the Natalie Wood death investigation case," the Sheriff's Department said. "It remains an open and ongoing investigation. There are no further details."

TMZ reported on Friday that the Los Angeles County Coroner had filed papers in late June to change the cause of Wood's death from "accidental" to "undetermined," and that detectives from the Sheriff's Department visited family members on Friday, telling them that bruises on Wood's body were inconsistent with death by drowning. According to the family members, detectives could not say for certain whether Woods' drowning resulted from an accident or foul play.

A spokesman for the coroner's department confirmed to TheWrap that Wood's case is on "security hold," and that the coroner's office is cooperating with law enforcement.

"The case is currently on security hold at the request of the Sheriff's Dept. It is an open investigation and we are cooperating fully with the Sheriff's Department," the spokesman said. "This Department is making no comments at this time."

Wood drowned near Catalina Island in Southern California on November 29, 1981 at the age of 43. She had been vacationing with her husband Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken, her co-star in the film "Brainstorm," which was in production at the time.

Her drowning was reportedly preceded by a drunken argument between Wagner and Walken. It has been theorized that Wood was either trying to leave the Splendour, the yacht that the trio was staying on, or may have been trying to secure a rubber dinghy that had been banging against the hull of the boat when she drowned.

The coroner's department determined that Wood had consumed numerous glasses of wine before her death.

The Sheriff's Department reopened the investigation in November, shortly before the 30th anniversary of Wood's death, in part because of increased media interest in the case. CBS' "48 Hours" was preparing to air a segment on her death. Yacht captain Dennis Davern, who had earlier co-authored a book questioning the account of Wood's death, had also begun making the interview rounds.

Though a Sheriff's Department spokesman said that Davern's book, "Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour" did not "have an impact in the decision" to reopen the case, Davern claimed in an interview with NBC's "Today" that Wagner was responsible for Wood's death. Davern's account of the night of her drowning has been hazy, however, and he has admitted to drinking heavily that night. 

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