UPDATE: The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is now calling 87-year-old Robert Wagner a “person of interest” in his wife’s death, a move they previously resisted. New witnesses have reportedly emerged in the 1981 drowning of actress Natalie Wood.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida issued a statement Thursday night that new witnesses interviewed have provided statements that “portray a new sequence of events on the boat that night.” The statements differed from the original version of events that were provided by witnesses, including those who were on the boat, officials said.
“Do we have enough to make an arrest at this moment? No,” the Sheriff’s department statement said.
The new witnesses described hearing “yelling and crashing” sounds from the couple’s stateroom, followed by a man and woman arguing on the back of the boat. Those were believed to be Wood and Robert Wagner.
Wagner has declined to be interviewed by the Sheriff’s Department since the probe was reopened in 2011. He has denied any involvement in his wife’s death.
EARLIER: CBS’ 48 Hours will report Saturday that actor Robert Wagner is a “person of interest” in the 1981 drowning death of his wife, actress Natalie Wood. The report was previewed on today’s CBS This Morning.
But before crime buffs or conspiracists get ahead of themselves, remember: The term “person of interest” has no legal meaning, and 48 Hours‘ correspondent Erin Moriarty reiterated on today’s morning show that Wagner “has never been a suspect and he is not now.” (Watch a clip below).
So what’s new? In a 48 Hours interview with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant John Corina, the investigator tells Moriarty, “As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think he’s more of a person of interest now. I mean, we know now that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared.”
Actually, we probably already knew that. Wagner himself, in a 2008 memoir, wrote that he argued with Wood that night, even shattering a wine bottle against a table. The actor, who has long denied any involvement in Wood’s death and refused comment to 48 Hours or participation in the report, wrote in his book: “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.”
In the 48 Hours report Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water, L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Detective Ralph Hernandez says, addressing an autopsy report indicating various bruises on Woods’ body, “She looked like a victim of an assault.” Corina tells Moriarty, “I think it’s suspicious enough to make us think that something happened” and “I don’t think she got into the water herself, I don’t think she fell into the water.”
On CBS This Morning, Moriarty said that since the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department reopened its investigation into the case in 2011, new witnesses have come forward, specifically two people who also were boating off Catalina Island that night in November 1981. Both boaters say they heard Wood and Wagner arguing, and one says he saw Wood, acting as the aggressor, fall onto her knee – an account possibly backed up by bruises noted in the autopsy report.
Wood drowned off the coast of Catalina Island in California during a night of yachting with husband Wagner, friend Christopher Walken and yacht captain Dennis Davern.
In the 48 Hours report, Corina says of Wagner, “I haven’t seen him tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case. I think he’s constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don’t add up.”
The episode airs Saturday at 10 PM ET/PT on CBS.
Here is the CBS This Morning segment: