The death of movie star Natalie Wood four decades ago continues to fascinate the media and now the "Dr. Phil" show has joined in, hosting the yacht sk
The death of movie star Natalie Wood four decades ago continues to fascinate the media and now the “Dr. Phil” show has joined in, hosting the yacht skipper who now claims Wood was murdered and Wood’s sister who accuses her ex-brother-in-law, actor Robert Wagner, of doing it.
On November 29, it will be 37 years since Wood, the Hollywood child star-turned-Oscar-nominated actress, died at age 43 in a mysterious drowning off the coast of Santa Catalina, the popular pleasure island in the Pacific southwest of Los Angeles.
Wagner, Wood and their friend, actor Christopher Walken, sailed to the island in the couple’s yacht, Splendour. Wood disappeared from the yacht under circumstances that remain murky.
Hours later, her body was found, clad in a flannel nightgown, red down jacket and blue socks, floating in the Pacific about a mile away from the yacht.
Her death was initially ruled accidental drowning; in 2012, it was changed to drowning plus “undetermined factors.”
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has been trying for decades to pin Wood’s death on Wagner, now 88, by periodically re-opening their investigation, labeling the death “suspicious,” and calling for eye and ear witnesses to come forward.
In interviews Thursday and Friday on his show, host Phil McGraw talked to two familiar faces from the Wood saga: Dennis Davern, the man usually identified as the “skipper” of the yacht, and actress Lana Wood, 72, Natalie’s sister.
Davern, who initially told police Wood’s death was an accident, now is saying he believes it was murder. “You believe Robert Wagner murdered Natalie Wood?” McGraw asked him on Friday. “Yes, I really do,” Davern said.
Davern told McGraw he heard Wood and Wagner engage in a loud fight that night and when it grew quiet he went on deck to find Wagner standing alone. Wagner told him that Wood was missing, and when Davern suggested calling for help, Wagner blocked him from doing so.
Later, he said, Wagner instructed him on the story they would tell to police: That she must have slipped and fallen into the water by accident.
Lana Wood has long been suspicious of that story and of Wagner’s behavior on the yacht that night; on Thursday, she told McGraw that Wagner has “something to hide.”
“Are you suggesting that he knocked her out and threw her in the water?” McGraw asked. “Something like that, absolutely,” she said.
She criticized the original investigation into Wood’s death and remains angry at “RJ,” as Wagner was known, for continuing to refuse to talk to detectives about it.
“The only reason can be is that he has something to hide. Otherwise, why wouldn’t you talk to the police?” Lana Wood told McGraw. “Why wouldn’t you say ‘Ask me anything, of course.’?”
Lana Wood has made similar accusations in the past. In July, she appeared on “Megyn Kelly Today” to talk about the tragedy. When Kelly asked her if she thinks Wagner murdered her sister, Lana Wood said, “Yes.”
Wagner has long denied murdering his wife, and routinely declines to comment when the case is brought up in the media or by sheriff’s detectives.
His rep, Alan Nierob, told USA TODAY that Davern and Lana Wood should be shamed.
“They are despicable human beings, capitalizing on the accidental death of a beloved member of the Wagner family,” Nierob said. “They should be ashamed of themselves.”