The Los Angeles Coroner’s Office released a new report today suggesting the actress Natalie Wood may have been assaulted before she drowned in 1981, NBC reports.
Wood drowned in 1981 off Santa Catalina Island on a yacht with her husband Robert Wagner and fellow actor Christopher Walken.
The star’s death was originally ruled accidental.
But yacht skipper Dennis Davern has long believed there was more to the story, and his book ultimately prompted Los Angeles authorities to re-open the case in 2011, CNN reported at the time.
And now the coroner’s office has found that bruising on Wood’s wrists, knees, and ankles seem to indicate an assault, rather than a struggle to climb back on the boat after she fell, CBS News reported Monday.
The report stated “bruises especially in the upper extremities appeared fresh and could have occurred before (Wood) entered the water,” according to NBC News, adding that “the location of the bruises, the multiplicity of the bruises, lack of head trauma, or facial bruising support bruising having occurred prior to the entry into the water.”
Davern told authorities Wood and Wagner were fighting before the actress went overboard.
The new report is not a brand-new autopsy but rather a fresh look at the old autopsy, in which the coroner “calls into question every major finding” that led investigators to rule her death an accident, CBS News reported.
“When you take the circumstances as we’ve now come to learn them, Natalie Wood was, you know, in her night gown in bed,” CBS News senior correspondent John Miller said. “She supposedly goes out to re-tie this dinghy. She can’t swim. She’s afraid of the dark. She’s afraid of the water. It’s sounds very unlikely she would have done that, especially if the captain, the skipper, was there and awake, and she could have told him do that.”
The report ultimately found the medical examiner “is unable to exclude non-volitional, unplanned entry into the water,” according to NBC News.
Miller called the new report “very significant” and said he thinks it will provide extra information for the sheriff’s office’s reopened murder investigation.
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