Natalie Wood Death may have been a Homicide, New Coroner's Report Suggests

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The death of actress Natalie Wood has been re-opened in light of an amended coroner’s report. The report now contends that the bruises found on the actress suggest she was beaten before she fell in the water off Catalina Island and drowned.  

Wood, who was best known for playing little Susie in the 1947 movie “Miracle of 34th Street” and starring opposite James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause,” was found dead on November 30, 1981 floating in the water just off the shore of Catalina Island, and about a mile from her yacht, the Splendor. The autopsy report at the time said the actress died of a combination of drowning and hypothermia.

The case was re-opened in November 2011 after the captain of the yacht Dennis Davern revealed that Wood’s husband Robert Wagner had been fighting with her up until the moment she went missing. Wagner told police in 1981 that Wood was not in the cabin when he went to bed, and that he thought she must have gotten up in to re-tie a dingy that was banging against the boat when she fell in the water.

The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office released their amended report Monday, citing that the bruises on the actress’ wrists, knees and ankles are likely more consistent with an assault prior to her fall off the boat, yet they have not been able to find enough evidence to classify the case as a homicide.

Wood, who was 43 when she died, had been on Catalina Island at a restaurant that night with her husband and costar Christopher Walken. All three had been drinking heavily by the time they returned to the yacht, and when the actress was found, it was revealed she had a blood alcohol level of .14 percent as well as motion sickness and pain killer medicine in her system.