It’s been nearly 40 years since celebrated actress Natalie Wood died while sailing with her husband Robert Wagner on their yacht. And though the circumstances surrounding her drowning have always been suspect, it was ruled an accident at the time.
But in 2011, the case was reopened, and in an interview with CBS’ 48 Hours, which airs on Feb. 3, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant John Corina reveals Robert is considered a person of interest. “I mean, we now know that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared,” he shares.
Natalie and Robert circa 1965.
The successful actor first married Natalie when she was 19 and he was 27 in 1957, but the pair divorced in 1962. They tied the knot again in 1972 and remained married until her passing at the age of 43 in 1981. Robert has refused to speak with investigators since they reopened the case, but did write about her death in his 2008 memoir, Pieces of My Heart.
The now-87-year-old wrote that after a night of drinking, he got into an argument with fellow actor Christopher Walken — who was also on board the boat — about Natalie’s career. In a fit of rage, “I picked up a wine bottle, slammed it on the table and broke it into pieces,” he claimed.
As for how the West Side Story star fell off the yacht, Robert has maintained he doesn’t know. “There are only two possibilities: either she was trying to get away from the argument, or she was trying to tie the dinghy,” he wrote. “But the bottom line is that nobody knows exactly what happened.”
Natalie and Robert circa 1972.
Corina isn’t swayed by his version of events. “I haven’t seen him tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case,” he says on 48 hours. “I think he’s constantly changed his story a little bit.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Detective Ralph Hernandez adds that there were numerous bruises on Natalie’s body that appeared to be new. “She looked like a victim of an assault,” he admits.
Hear more about the new developments in the case on Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water, which airs on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 10 p.m. EST on CBS.