Two homicide investigators have been assigned to take another look at the 1981 death of actress Natalie Wood, whose drowning death off Santa Catalina Island was ruled accidental.
The department conducted a news conference Friday to discuss the case, but provided few details regarding what prompted them to reopen the investigation. When asked whether Wood's then-husband, Robert Wagner, is considered a suspect, Lt. John Corina said, "No."
"Recently, we received information that we felt was substantial -- enough to take another look at this case," said Corina.
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The news conference came just hours after a "Today" show interview with the captain of the yacht Splendour. He said Friday he lied to investigators about the death of Wood and urged authorities to reopen the investigation into her 1981 drowning death.
"We'll probably end up talking to the captain," said Corina.
Wood's death -- she drowned in November 1981 while boating off Santa Catalina Island with Wagner and actor Christopher Walken -- was ruled accidental. But the LA County Sheriff's Department announced Thursday that homicide investigators were "contacted by persons who stated they had additional information about the Natalie Wood Wagner drowning."
Dennis Davern, captain of the Splendour, was on the yacht with Wagner, Walken and Wood. He told the "Today" show Friday that he urged investigators to reopen the case, adding that he lied to investigators 30 years ago and said Wagner was responsible for Wood's death.
Corina said information was provided by "several sources" that led investigators to reopen the case, but did not provide details regarding the information or who provided it.
Davern was asked several times during the "Today" show interview for details about what new information he can provide. He repeatedly mentioned that he made "mistakes," but provided few specifics.
"I'm not saying anything different," Davern said. "It's just up to investigators to do an investigation.
"I made some terrible decisions, mistakes. It's just going to be left up to the investigators. I did lie on a report years ago."http://media.nbclosangeles.com/assets/dev-thep-pdk/web/pdk/swf/flvPlayer.swf?pid=qEIVRxwily94WZyilFInim8thPHcWVIV
When asked for details, he said he lied "about everything that took place that weekend." A fight between Wagner and Wood led to her death, he said, adding that Wagner tried to make the case a low-profile investigation.
"We didn't take any steps to see if we could locate her," Davern said. "I think it was a matter of, we're not going to look too hard. We're not going to turn on the searchlight, we're not going to tell anyone at the moment."
Davern was recently interviewed for a project involving Vanity Fair and the TV series "48 Hours Mystery." He was quoted in the magazine as saying Wood and Wager fought in the Splendour's cabin before her disappearance.
The magazine article also noted that Davern has pursued a book deal for years and often told his story through tabloids.
Late Thursday, Wagner released a statement through his publicist.
"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," the statement said.
Coroner's officials ruled her death an accidental drowning that might have been caused by her slipping off the boat while trying to tie down a dinghy.
"There are only two possibilities," Wagner wrote in a 2008 autobiography. "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.''
Born Natalia Zakharenko in San Francisco, Wood became a child star at age 4 after playing the role of Susan Walker in “Miracle on 34th Street.”
Among the other classic films she went on to star in were "West Side Story" and “Rebel Without a Cause.”