Captain: Wagner responsible for Natalie Wood death

The circumstances of her death remain one of Hollywood’s enduring mysteries and continue to create renewed intrigue, with homicide detectives Thursday unexpectedly reopening the case that had long been classified as a tragic accident.

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s detective will speak to reporters Friday about the decision to take another look at the Oscar-nominated actress’ nighttime demise in the chilly waters on Nov. 29, 1981. Wood drowned after spending several hours drinking onCatalina Island and a yacht with Wagner, fellow actor Christopher Walken and the ship’s captain, Dennis Davern.

Davern told NBC TV’s “Today” show on Friday that he made mistakes by not telling the truth about events leading to the death and had urged Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide investigators to reopen the case.

“Was the fight between Natalie Wood and her husband Robert Wagner what ultimately led to her death?” show host David Gregory asked.

“Yes,” Davern replied.

“How so?”

“Like I said, that’s going to be up to the investigators to decide,” the captain said.

Davern said he believes Wagner had intentionally kept the investigation into Wood’s death low profile and didn’t do everything he could have done. When Gregory pressed Davern for supporting details, the captain said that was the duty of investigators.

The Associated Press could not immediately reach Davern Friday.

Wagner spokesman Alan Nierob said Friday a statement he released Thursday spoke for itself.

“Although no one in the Wagner family has heard from the LA County Sheriff’s department about this matter, they fully support the efforts of the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. 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,” Nierob wrote in the statement.

Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said Thursday the renewed inquiry was prompted by unspecified new information about Woods’ case. The Los Angeles Times quoted Sheriff Lee Baca as saying recent comments by Davern, who was interviewed for a book project and whose comments from a 2000 article by Vanity Fair are being featured in a new print edition and a “48 Hours Mystery” episode that focus on Hollywood scandals.

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