Boat captain alleges actor Robert Wagner responsible for Natalie Wood's death

The former captain of the boat from which actress Natalie Wood drowned in 1981 alleged on TODAY Friday that her husband, actor Robert Wagner, was responsible for her death.

Dennis Davern said he is now urging homicide investigators to look into Wood's death. She had been boating with Wagner and his "Brainstorm" co-star Christopher Walken near Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California when she drowned.

"I made some terrible decisions and mistakes," Davern told NBC News' David Gregory. "I did lie on a report several years ago."

He added, "I made mistakes by not telling the honest truth in a police report."

When pressed by Gregory, Davern said he believed Wagner had intentionally kept the investigation into her death low-profile. And when asked if he thought Wagner was "responsible" for Wood's death, Davern said, "yes, I would say so. Yes."

"We didn't take any steps to see if we could locate her," Davern added. "I think it was a matter of, 'We're not going to look too hard, we're not going to turn on the searchlight, we're not going to notify anybody right now.'"

Wagner's publicist issued a statement saying his family supported the L.A. County sheriff's department "and trust they will evaluate whether any new information relating to the death of Natalie Wood Wagner is valid, and that it comes from a credible source or sources other than those simply trying to profit from the 30-year anniversary of her tragic death."

Many of the details he shared have appeared in the book "Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour," authored by Marti Rulli. That book was published in 2009.

"I'm not really the investigator here, and I'm far away from even thinking about profiting over a 30-year anniversary," Davern told Gregory. "I've known this information for many, many years and my book has been out for two years. I'm not in it for any kind of profit, I'm in it for the justice of the whole situation."

Davern also answered questions about why he would come forward 30 years later with new information when he could have told authorities much earlier.

"Why now is because I've been trying to tell information about this for many, many years, but there wasn't really anyone listening until now," he said. "I've been trying to get somebody to listen for a long time and now somebody is listening and they're going to carry on with this investigation. I'm not saying anything different. All the information that I've revealed in the past, it's all in that book, and now it's just up to the investigators to do an investigation."

Gregory also pressed Davern on why investigators should believe him now, as he admitted lying to them the first time.

"At that time my life was just totally crazy, and I don't think it was a time when I was even able to think straight," Davern said.

On the night of Wood's death in November 1981, Wood and Wagner got into a "terrible argument" that was never reported to the original investigators, according to Rulli. Actor Christopher Walken, Wood's "Brainstorm" co-star, went to sleep in his cabin after an angry Wagner smashed a wine bottle on a coffee table that sent everyone scattering to avoid the flying glass, Rulli said. Walken has not made any comment since these new details emerged, other than the statement from his publicist Friday.

When a "mortified" Wood went to her stateroom, Wagner followed and an argument began, according to Rulli.

"Dennis made an attempt to stop it, and was told to go away by Robert Wagner," Rulli told Gregory. "Then minutes later, Natalie was missing...Dennis wanted to do everything. Make a phone call, turn on the search light. His instincts told him something was terribly wrong, and Robert Wagner asked him not to."

The coroner's report from the time of her death indicated that she may have slipped and hit her head after she lost balance from drinking several glasses of wine.

"The rest is just ghoulish nonsense," Wood's attorney, Paul Ziffren, said at the time about speculation that Wood's death was not accidental.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


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