The Reason Why Some People Believe Robert Wagner Killed Natalie Wood

The death of actress Natalie Wood is one of Hollywood's mysteries. On November 29, 1981, Wood's body was found floating in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Catalina Island. The actress spent the Thanksgiving weekend aboard a yacht, the Splendour, with her husband, Robert Wagner; her co-star, Christopher Walken; and the yacht's captain, Dennis Davern (via Biography). The following day, the medical examiner who performed Wood's autopsy declared that her cause of death was accidental drowning. She was 45 years old.

Following the news of her death, many speculated that Wood's death may not have been accidental. Decades after the incident, the investigation into the actress's death was reopened, and her cause of death was changed to "drowning and other undetermined factors," as The Los Angeles Times reported. In 2018, new details regarding Wood's last night alive and the timeline of events preceding her death emerged, which raised more questions regarding her cause of death. There's no conclusion to this decades-old mystery, and many believe Wagner was responsible for his wife's death.

The events leading to Natalie Wood's death

On the night of November 28, 1981, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Christopher Walken, and Dennis Davern left the yacht to have dinner at one of the restaurants on Catalina Island. The group reportedly had a wonderful time and had champagne with their meal. According to the restaurant's manager, he observed that all four looked intoxicated when they left the restaurant at about 10:30 p.m., per Harper's Bazaar. Wood retired to her bedroom on the yacht, while Wagner and Walken had a verbal argument. When Wagner went to the bedroom he shared with his wife, she was not there.

It was a little past 11:00 p.m. when the group realized that Wood was nowhere to be seen on the yacht. They also noticed that the dinghy was missing. As reported by ATI, Wood's body was found at around 8 a.m. the following day located about a mile from the position of the yacht. She was wearing a flannel nightgown, socks, and a jacket.

Natalie Wood had a fear of dark waters

One of the people who couldn't accept Natalie Wood's cause of death is her sister, Lana Wood (pictured above). According to Lana, Natalie had a fear of dark waters. One of the possible explanations for Natalie's death was that she attempted to secure the dinghy before she went to bed because of the noise it was making when it hit the yacht, and she accidentally fell over while doing so. However, Lana said that was impossible, as her sister never would have attempted to go near the dark waters (via Insider). In addition, Natalie didn't know how to swim, so she wouldn't have risked going near the side of the yacht, especially at night.

Lana attempted to get answers from Robert Wagner, but eventually, Wagner told her to contact his lawyer. In an interview with The New York Post in 2021, Lana said that she believes Wagner was responsible for her sister's death. "I don't believe it was premeditated. But that doesn't mean I don't think he did it. Of course, he did," she exclaimed.

Coast Guard wasn't called immediately

Robert Wagner noticed Natalie Wood missing at approximately 11 p.m. after the group returned from the restaurant. However, it wasn't 3:30 a.m. — four hours later — that Coast Guard was called to report the missing actress. (via Harper's Bazaar). According to the yacht's captain, Dennis Davern (pictured above), he held off calling the Coast Guard at the insistence of Wagner. Many people question why Wagner wouldn't want authorities to be contacted immediately, especially if there was a possibility of his wife being out in the ocean alone at night.

Davern was not forthright with the authorities when he was interviewed shortly after Wood died. However, he said that he has been urging investigators to look into the actress' death since 1983. As reported by St. Augustine, Davern co-wrote a book with his friend, Marti Rulli, titled "Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour" which details Davern's account of what happened on that fateful night. Davern said that writing the book was his way of getting justice for Wood's death.

The alleged fight between Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood

On the night Natalie Wood went missing from the yacht, Dennis Davern revealed that she had an argument with Robert Wagner. Davern talked about this detail in an interview with Phil McGraw of the show "Dr. Phil." When asked whether he believes Wagner was responsible for Wood's death, Davern replied, "Yes, I really do," as noted by USA Today. Davern also said that he heard the couple fighting loudly that night. He checked to see what was going on and found Wagner alone on the deck, and that was when he was told that Wood was nowhere to be found.

In addition, Davern also revealed that Wagner said that the three men on the boat should have the same account of what happened and stick to it, that is, that Wood must have accidentally slipped and fell into the water. That was the story Davern told investigators until he changed his story a couple of years after the incident. Another possible scenario that Wagner proposed to authorities was that Wood wanted to go back into town and accidentally drowned while in the dinghy (via CBS News). However, Davern refuted the idea by saying that Wood didn't even know how to operate the dinghy, and she would have asked him to take her if she wanted to go back to the island.

Robert Wagner's statement

Robert Wagner denied the allegations that he had something to do with Natalie Wood's murder. He has heard what Dennis Davern and Lana Wood have said against him, and he responded with a statement via his representative and said, "They are despicable human beings, capitalizing on the accidental death of a beloved member of the Wagner family. They should be ashamed of themselves" per Fox News. In 2018, an investigator looking into the death of Wood named Wagner as a person of interest, as he was the last person who saw the actress alive.

It's important to note that a person of interest is different from a suspect. According to The Times, a person of interest is someone who investigators believe has crucial information regarding a crime. A person of interest can turn into a suspect, or the information provided may lead to the identification of a suspect. A suspect, on the other hand, is someone authorities believe to have committed the crime. In May 2022, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department cleared Wagner as a person of interest. Wood's case is still unsolved and remains an open investigation.