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Natalie Wood detectives face conflicting accounts

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Natalie Wood's drowning death nearly 30 years ago came after a night of dinner, drinking and arguments but the question remains _ was it anything more than a tragic accident?

In a Nov. 25, 1959 file photo, Natalie Wood and her husband Robert Wagner are made up for their roles in
In a Nov. 25, 1959 file photo, Natalie Wood and her husband Robert Wagner are made up for their roles in "All The Fine Young Cannibals," in Los Angeles. Dennis Davern, captain of the yacht Splendour, which Wood was aboard at the time of her death, said on national TV Friday, Nov. 18, 2011 that he lied to investigators about Natalie Wood`s mysterious death 30 years ago and blames the actress` husband at the time, Robert Wagner, for her drowning in the ocean off Southern California. (AP)

Conflicting versions of what happened on the yacht shared by Wood, her actor-husband Robert Wagner and their friend, actor Christopher Walken, have contributed to the mystery of how the actress died on Thanksgiving weekend in November 1981.

Two sheriff's detectives are now diving into the mysterious events on the yacht Splendour, although whether they reach any different conclusions than their predecessors remains to be seen. They recently received new, seemingly credible information and heard from potential witnesses who weren't included in the original investigation of Wood's death, sheriff's Lt. John Corina said Friday.

But he said nothing has happened to change the official view that Wood's death was originally an accidental drowning. Wagner, the former star of ``Hart to Hart,'' is not considered a suspect, he added.

Corina released few details about who investigators have contacted or plan to re-interview, but the inquiry will certainly lead them to speak with the three survivors of the trip _ Wagner, Walken and skipper Dennis Davern.

Wood's sister, Lana, was not on the boat, but told CNN's Piers Morgan on Friday that she has spoken with Davern many times and believes her sister did not fall off the boat.

``I don't think she fell, I don't know if she was pushed, I don't know whether there was an altercation and it happened accidentally but she shouldn't have died and that does stay with me and hurt,'' Lana Wood said.

``I would prefer to always believe that RJ (Wagner) would never do anything to hurt Natalie and that he loved her dearly, which he did, and I don't believe that whatever went on was deliberate. I've always cared about him. I always will care about him,'' she said.

Davern said on NBC television's ``Today'' on Friday that Wagner is to blame for the Oscar-nominated actress' death in the chilly waters off Southern California in November 1981, but didn't offer many specifics. For years he has maintained that he heard the famous couple arguing on the boat before Wood went missing and Wagner refusing to immediately search the waters nearby for his wife.

Davern's account is dramatically different from what he told investigators after Wood's body was found in 1981, when no mention of an argument between the couple was made. Wood was wearing a nightgown, wool socks and red down coat when she was found floating off Santa Catalina Island.

The renewed investigation comes at a time when plenty of attention was sure to be focused on Wood, whose beauty and acting in films such as ``West Side Story'' and ``Rebel Without a Cause'' made her Hollywood royalty. Her death stunned the world and CBS' ``48 Hours Mystery'' has been looking into the case for a special airing on Saturday.

Sheriff's officials denied the renewed attention prompted their review, which could take months.

``We're not concerned with the anniversary date,'' Corina said. ``It may have jarred some other people's memories.''

The Splendour is currently docked in Hawaii, where it's used for charter cruises. The current owner said Friday that he was contacted by Los Angeles authorities several weeks ago. He did not reveal details of the conversation.

``I have known for a few weeks that there was going to be a police investigation,'' Ron Nelson, who purchased the boat in 1986, said in an interview with KHON-TV in Honolulu. ``But I didn't know it was going to explode like it did overnight.''

Los Angeles Sheriff's Department officials said they will travel to Hawaii to look at the boat as part of their investigation.

Davern and Wagner agree on one point about the fateful night _ there was a heated argument on the yacht after the group returned from dinner on Catalina. All had been drinking, and here is where the three men's accounts begin to differ.

Davern said he heard Wagner and Wood arguing and its outcome had horrific consequences.

Was that fight ``what ultimately led to her death?'' Davern was asked by ``Today'' show host David Gregory.

``Yes,'' Davern replied.

``How so?''

``Like I said, that's going to be up to the investigators to decide,'' Davern responded after a long pause.

Wagner acknowledges a fight took place on the Splendour, but in his best-selling 2008 memoir ``Pieces of My Heart,'' he wrote that the fighting was between him and Walken. The disagreement began over the acting profession and led to Wood retreating to her cabin, while the dispute raged on between Wagner and Walken. Later Walken went to bed, according to Wagner, who, after staying up with Davern for a while, went looking for his wife and couldn't find her on board. He then noticed that a dinghy attached to the boat _and his wife _ was gone.

Walken, who has rarely spoken about the events that led to Wood's death, denied in a 1982 interview on ``Good Morning America'' that he and Wagner quarreled.

``No, that's not true,'' Walken said when asked if a fight was the reason Wood left the yacht. ``They were very good to me, that family, and that's not true.

``We were having a Thanksgiving weekend, a good time,'' he said.

But Walken told sheriff's detectives that there was an argument, according to a 2000 Vanity Fair piece that included statements from a report by the investigating detective. It also included comments from Davern, who told the magazine that he heard Wagner and Wood fighting before she went missing.

The detective, Wagner and Walken and coroner's officials all have maintained that Wood's death was an accident, possibly caused by her trying to secure the dinghy to the side of the yacht.

``The people who are convinced that there was something more to it than what came out in the investigation will never be satisfied with the truth,'' Walken was quoted in the Vanity Fair piece as saying during an interview in the 1980s. ``Because the truth is, there is nothing more to it. It was an accident.''

Wagner too addressed the uncertainty about what happened in his book.

``Nobody knows,'' he wrote. ``There are only two possibilities; either she was trying to get away from the argument, or she was trying to tie the dinghy. But the bottom line is that nobody knows exactly what happened.''

Wagner said through a spokesman that his family trusts the sheriff's department to conduct a fair investigation into Wood's death.

The couple was married twice, first in 1957 before divorcing six years later. They remarried in 1972.




'미스터리' 나탈리 우드 죽음 30년만에 재수사

할리우드의 가장 미스터리한 사건 중 하나로  꼽히 는 여배우 나탈리 우드의 죽음에 대해 경찰이 30년 만에 재수사에 착수했다.

미국 로스앤젤레스 보안관실은 17일(현지시간) 우드의 죽음과 관련해 새로운 정 보가 입수돼 재수사를 진행한다고 밝혔다.

우드는 지난 1981년 남편 로버트 와그너, '브레인 스톰'의 동료 배우  크리스토 퍼 월켄과 함께 캘리포니아에서 요트를 타다 실족해 숨졌다.

당시 조사결과 우드가 술을 마시고 "구명정에 올라타려다 물에 빠졌고 얼굴을 부딪쳐 숨진" 사고사로 결론났지만, 살해설이 끊임없이 제기돼왔다.

로스앤젤레스 타임스는 사건 당시 우드가 타고 있었던 요트의 선장 데니스 데번 이 최근 우드 사망 30주기를 맞아 언론 인터뷰를 했고, 경찰이 그의 말을 들은 뒤 재수사를 결정한 것으로 보인다고 전했다.

경찰은 18일 재수사와 관련한 기자 회견을 열 예정이며 추가 정보가 있는  사람 은 보안관 사무실로 연락해달라고 덧붙였다.

이와 관련해 와그너는 성명을 통해 "LA경찰로부터 재수사와 관련된 이야기를 들 은 바는 없지만, 우드의 죽음에 대해 경찰이 다룰 새로운 정보가 모두 타당하고  믿 을만한 정보일 것이라고 믿는다"고 밝혔다.

또 우드의 사망 30주기에 사익을 취하려는 사기꾼으로부터 받은 정보는  아니기 를 바란다는 뜻도 전했다.

1957년 우드와 결혼 후 6년 만에 이혼했다가 1972년 재결합한 와그너는 2008년 자서전에서 물을 무서워했던 우드가 왜 물 가까이 갔는지 알 수 없다면서 아내의 죽 음이 자신의 탓이라고 자책했다.

당시 자신과 월켄이 말다툼을 벌여 그녀가 그 자리에서 벗어나려고 하다 사고를 당했을 수 있다는 것. 하지만 살해설에 대해서는 일축했다. 

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