Who Killed Natalie Wood?

For nearly four decades, Natalie Wood’s mysterious death has captivated the public. The documentary features interviews with a wide range of people who offer their opinions, including Wood’s stepfather, Robert Wagner.

Natalie Wood

The film also focuses on bruises that appeared on her body shortly after her death. The documentarian hopes that the fresh marks will help authorities reopen the investigation. Keep reading the article below to learn more about Who Killed Natalie Wood.

Hollywood legend Natalie Wood was one of the era’s most alluring, and mysterious, stars. She had long, luscious hair and beautiful blue eyes that made her a desirable actress for directors and studio executives. She was also a hard worker, famous for learning her lines quickly and effortlessly.

On Thanksgiving weekend of 1981, Wood was sailing her and husband Robert Wagner’s yacht Splendour off the coast of California. The couple invited several friends to join them, but they declined due to the less-than-ideal weather conditions. Only Wood, Wagner, and Brainstorm costar Christopher Walken were aboard the boat along with skipper Dennis Davern.

The exact circumstances leading up to the actor’s death are unclear, and there have been multiple conflicting stories circulating. The most prevalent theory is that Wagner and Walken got into a heated argument about the direction of Wood’s career, and she left the room to go back to her cabin. When she returned, a wine bottle was smashed on the table and Wagner began to argue with her once again. The dispute led to Wood leaving the yacht in embarrassment, and she ended up drowning in the chilly water shortly thereafter.

Bruises were later found on her body, which raised suspicions that she may have been physically assaulted. This is supported by the fact that Wagner denied any physical altercations in an interview he gave after his wife’s death.

More recently, Wood’s sister, Lana, has been vocal about her suspicions and is pushing for the case to be reopened. In 2021, she wrote a book called Little Sister: My Investigation into the Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood. The book’s co-author, former Arkansas prosecutor Sam Perroni, has likewise been advocating for the case to be reopened.

In a 2021 interview with USA Today, Davern claimed that Wagner had lied in his initial testimony regarding what happened in the hours leading up to Wood’s death. He said he had held off on revealing new information because of fears that he would be intimidated by Wagner. He is now urging Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide investigators to reopen the investigation.


For more than four decades, the question of what happened to Natalie Wood has lingered as one of Hollywood’s most enduring mysteries. In this unique book, author Sam Perroni uses his own investigation to produce the most far-reaching and in-depth examination of this case to date. Drawing upon official documents and photographs, never-before-released confidential documents, dozens of interviews with witnesses and forensic experts, and extensive research, he exposes a glossed-over investigation by local law enforcement agencies and the entrance of powerful Hollywood insiders who helped suppress the truth for more than a quarter century.

On the evening of November 28, 1981, Wood was on a yacht with her husband, actor Robert Wagner, and co-star Christopher Walken sailing off the coast of California’s Catalina Island after filming Brainstorm. She had been drinking. At some point, she left the Splendour to take a small dinghy back to the boat. Ten to 15 minutes passed, and when she failed to return, Wagner called Harbor Patrol. Her body was found the next morning floating a mile away from the ship, with her dinghy beached nearby. A medical examiner initially ruled her death accidental, but investigators reopened the case after the publication of Davern’s 2009 memoir, in which he alleged that he had heard Wagner and Wood arguing before she went into the water. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reclassified the cause of death as suspicious and designated Wagner, then 91, a person of interest.

A number of bruises and scratches on Wood’s body seemed to indicate that she had been assaulted prior to her drowning, but no charges were ever filed. In the years since her death, Wagner has insisted that he is innocent and that the accusations against him are malicious. But Wood’s younger sister Lana and her former brother-in-law Davern remain convinced he has something to hide.

This book is an exhaustive look at the evidence, revealing how and why the original investigation failed to capture what really happened that night. It is also a portrait of a beloved actress whose talent and wholesome persona charmed audiences around the world, leaving behind a legacy that remains to this day.

Accidental Death

Natalie Wood’s death was ruled an accident in 1981, but questions have lingered over the years. One of the main suspects is her husband, Robert Wagner, who was also aboard her yacht that night. He, Dennis Davern and Christopher Walken all gave varying statements to police that don’t always add up. As time went by, their accounts shifted and this was a red flag to investigators.

The night of her death, Wood and her husband were spending Thanksgiving weekend on their yacht, Splendour, with Walken as a guest. They were all drunk. When they departed from the yacht to go drinking ashore on Catalina Island, the three men became increasingly jealous of Walken and it got tense. After some fighting, they all returned to the boat. They drank some more and then argued again. The arguing escalated and then, according to Davern’s later statements in interviews and his book, Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, the fight got physical.

Davern claims that Wagner shoved Wood into the water and her body was lost in the ensuing chaos. He didn’t call the Coast Guard for help and he didn’t even try to search for her. He said he lied because he was under pressure from Wagner not to say anything and didn’t have any real evidence. He later changed his story, but he still doesn’t offer up any actual evidence to support his claim that Wagner pushed her into the water.

After a few hours of searching, a local Islander named Doug Bombard found the body of a woman floating in the water. She was wearing a flannel nightgown, a down jacket and socks. She was about a quarter of a mile from the yacht.

Wood was an actress who played many characters that were either true blue or high-strung and neurotic, so it’s no wonder that she was anxious on her own time off the set. Her real-life life was no different. She was married twice and had a lot of ups and downs. She starred in classics like West Side Story and Rebel Without A Cause. Then she died, at the age of 43, off the coast of California.


Two generations have been born since Natalie Wood died, but her story has never disappeared from the public eye. Wood was a movie star who seemed to embody all that Hollywood stood for at the time, a mix of beauty, talent, sex, and scandal. She played many roles, from the good-hearted to the high-strung and neurotic. She was a popular and beloved actress, but the end of her life was sordid and lonely.

What happened to the actress that night off the coast of Catalina Island has remained a mystery. Despite the fact that her death was ruled an accident, investigators have continued to look into the incident and new details have surfaced over the years.

In 2011, the case was reopened because of information provided by the captain of the yacht she was on at the time, Dennis Davern. In his 2009 book, he said that before Wood disappeared, he heard the couple arguing. He also said he had seen Wagner trying to retie the dinghy and that he might have caused the bruises on her body.

Police were skeptical of Davern’s claims and did not find any evidence to support his account. However, they did not close the investigation and in 2018, they classified Wood’s death as suspicious. They also named Robert Wagner, now 91, a person of interest in the case.

One of the most interesting theories of what happened to Wood involves her husband, actor Robert Wagner. He was an experienced seaman who had been a merchant mariner before his acting career took off and they were married for ten years at the time of her death.

Their relationship was rocky and Wagner had been unfaithful in the past. After their argument on the yacht that night, he went back to his cabin and Wood did not return. He searched for her in the wardroom and in their cabin but could not find her. He later told detectives that he had left to go to the restaurant and when he returned his wife was missing.

Wagner was not arrested for any crime in connection with Wood’s death, but he has always been suspected of being involved in her disappearance. He did not testify in the original investigation or the reopened one and has been careful not to say anything publicly about his role in her death.