Sunday, May 20, 2018

Authorities amend Natalie Wood's death certificate

LOS ANGELES — Natalie Wood's death certificate has been changed to reflect some of the uncertainties and lingering questions surrounding her drowning more than 30 years ago in the Pacific Ocean off Southern California.

The document was amended this month and shifts the actor's death from an accidental drowning to "drowning and other undetermined factors," according to a copy of the certificate obtained Tuesday by the Associated Press.

The amended document also states that the circumstances of how she ended up in the waters off Catalina Island in November 1981 are "not clearly established."

The changes occurred nine months after sheriff's homicide investigators renewed their inquiry into Wood's death shortly before its 30th anniversary.

Chief of Detectives William McSweeney said the decision to amend the death certificate was ultimately made by the coroner's office, which has been instructed by detectives not to discuss the case. "I would just say undetermined is descriptive," he said.

McSweeney said detectives still have work to do on the case, but that doesn't necessarily mean that a major shift is coming.

The changes to the death certificate were approved by the Los Angeles County chief medical examiner, Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran, in late June, but were not formally recorded until Aug. 1. The certificate wasn't made public until recently.

Conflicting versions of what happened on the yacht shared by Wood, her actor-husband Robert Wagner and their friend, actor Christopher Walken, have contributed to the mystery of how the actor died on Thanksgiving weekend in 1981. Authorities have said Wagner is not a suspect in his wife's death.

Investigators re-opened the case last November but have released few details about its progress. They traveled to Hawaii to inspect the Splendour, the yacht the trio was aboard on the night of Wood's disappearance.

The renewed inquiry came after the boat's captain, Dennis Davern, told 48 Hours Mystery and the Today show that he heard Wagner and Wood arguing the night of her disappearance and believed Wagner was to blame for her death.

Wagner wrote in a 2008 memoir that he and Walken argued that night. An email seeking comment by Wagner on Tuesday was not returned.

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