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REPORT: Assault suggested in Natalie Wood reopened death investigation

Natalie Woods

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American actress Natalie Wood (1938-1981), her children Natasha (C), Courtney (R), and her husband U.S. actor Robert Wagner arrive at London airport 04 July 1976.

Natalie Wood

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Wood, the daughter of Russian Immigrants, was born Natasha Gurdin on July 20, 1938 in San Francisco, California. She got her first role at the age of four in a movie called 'Happy Land' (1943). She is most famously known for her role in "West Side Story," a film that won multiple Oscars.

Exterior Views Of Natalie Woods' Former Boat "Splendour"

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Natalie Woods' former boat, The Splendour is seen docked at Keawalo Basin boat harbor on November 19, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

American actress Natalie Wood poses in a

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American actress Natalie Wood poses in a Yves Saint Laurent costume, 19 September 1964 in Paris. Wood, the daughter of Russian Immigrants, was born Natasha Gurdin on July 20, 1938 in San Francisco, California. She got her first role at the age of four in a movie called "Happy Land" (1943). She continued playing roles of young girls until the age of 17, where she landed the role of "Judy" in the film "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955). Natalie Wood married Robert Wagner 28 December 1957, divorced in 1962 and later remarried in 1972. She was nominated for two Academy Awards for her roles in "Splendor in the Grass" and "Love With a Proper Stranger". She acted in "West Side Story", a movie which won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Supporting Actors, Best Supporting Actress. Natalie Wood had made 56 films for Tv and the silver screen. She died drowning 29 November 1981.

Mercer 20011

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Natalie Wood and James Dean with director Nicholas Ray on set of Rebel Without a Cause.

American actors Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood

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American actors Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood chat together at the Cannes Festival in May 1962.

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Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Lieutenant John Corina speaks at a news conference on the reopening of the investigation into Natalie Wood's death, Nov. 18, 2011.

A Los Angeles County Cor­on­er’s document was released Monday related to the unkillable death investigation of actress Nat­alie Wood.

The new coroner's supplement ques­tions ori­gin­al forensic find­ings in the drowning case, and suggests the 43-year-old actress — found floating face down in the ocean off Catalina Island on Nov. 29, 1981 — could have been assaulted before entering the water.

DOCUMENT: Read the full report below

Wood's body was discovered at the time several hundred yards from the yacht "Splendour" where she had been spending Thanksgiving holiday with her husband, actor Robert Wagner, and actor Christopher Walken.

The newly released report notes injuries on the actress' arm, wrist and neck, initially attributed to Wood attempting to climb into an inflatable dinghy, could have occurred before she entered the water.

The L.A. Times notes that "the "new findings — which Sheriff's Department sources said they have known about for some time — stop short of classifying her death as a homicide."

According to a section of the supplement titled, Discussion and opinion by the current Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner:

  • "There are conflicting statements as to when the decedent went missing from the boat and whether there were verbal  arguments between the decedent and her husband.''
  • "With the presence of fresh bruises in the upper extremities of the right forearm/left wrist area and a small scratch in the anterior neck, this Examiner is unable to exclude non-accidental mechanism causing these injuries.''
  • "This Medical Examiner is unable to exclude non-volitional, unplanned entry into the water.''
  • "Since there are many 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.''


In 2011, shortly before the 30th anniversary of the three-time Oscar nominee's death, Sheriff's investigators  renewed the death investigation.

The reopening also coincided with the release of the yacht captain's book which suggested foul play, claimed drugs and alcohol were used by the actors on board, and detailed a heated, extended arguement between Wood and Wagner on the night she disappeared.


During the reevaluation, Los Angeles County Coroner Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran met with former coroner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, who originally conducted Wood's autopsy in 1981.

In March 2012, Sathyavagiswaran met with detectives to discuss the bruising, lack of evidence of head trauma and other factors. Those findings were formalized in the new report.


In July 2012, the nature of Natalie Wood's demise was reclassified from "accidental" to "undetermined"  and officially amended on the actress' death certificate.

Changes to the death certificate reflected 30-year-old questions surrounding Wood's drowning, including how the actress got into the water. That detail has yet to be clearly established.


Los Angeles County Coroner's report (Updated), via L.A. Times.


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