The mysterious death of a beloved American actress is once again in the spotlight as shocking new evidence has surfaced that Natalie Wood may have been roughed up before she drowned.
The probe into Wood's death was reopened more than a year ago, and now Los Angeles Coroner's Office has released a bombshell report on the case after a security hold.
CBS News sources said that "the review of the original coroner's report in 1981 raises questions about every major finding that led investigators to originally conclude Natalie Wood's death an accident." Their sources went on to say that "the report concludes that the bruising on the actress' wrists, knees, and ankles could be more consistent with injuries from an assault than they were from struggling to climb back on a boat."
The report detailed Wood's injuries, which were located during the actress' autopsy. Last June, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran wrote this excerpt on the findings:
The location of the bruises, the multiplicity of the bruises, lack of head trauma, or facial bruising support bruising having occurred prior to entry in the water. Since there are unanswered questions and limited additional evidence available for evaluation, it is opined by this Medical Examiner that the manner of death should be left as undetermined.
Officials also considered that Wood wasn't wearing a life jacket at the time of her death. Wood also had no history of prior suicide attempts.
There are conflicting statements about when the boat's occupants discovered Wood was missing. The official police report estimateed her time of death was around midnight, and she was reported missing at 1:30 a.m.
L.A. County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the coroner's office has known about the findings in the newly released autopsy report for several months. However, these findings do not change the status of the investigation, which has been reopened. He went on to say that Robert Wagner, the actress' then husband, is still not being considered as a suspect in Wood's death.
Conflicting versions of what happened on the yacht have contributed to the mystery of how the actress died. It is said that Wood was on a yacht off Santa Catalina Island on November 28, 1981. She was there alongside Wagner and famed actor Christopher Walken.
According to Wagner, Wood fell off their yacht, the 60-foot-long Splendour, after trying to re-tie a dinghy that had been disturbing her sleep.
Her body was found hours later off Catalina Island. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning by authorities at the time. In 2011, Los Angeles Sheriff's detectives re-opened the case after the skipper of the boat, Dennis Davern, co-authored a book in which he gave a different account of what actually happened that night.
Davern said, "I believe Robert Wagner was with her right up until the moment she was in the water." He also stated there was arguing on the yacht, plus a fight between Wagner and Walken in which a bottle was thrown. His most important detail noted that after Wood went to bed, a loud argument and sounds of an apparent struggle could be heard from her cabin.
CBS' 48Hrs previously aired a special on Wood's drowning:
Davern went on to say that "the fighting went back to the back of the boat and then it was quiet." He noted that Wagner waited hours after Wood went missing before calling the police.
Last year, the Los Angeles Coroner's Office changed the cause of Wood's death from "accident" to "undetermined." It remains to be seen if this new information will lead to criminal charges and another break in this ongoing case.
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