Wagner not suspected in Natalie Wood death-police

LOS ANGELES Fri Nov 18, 2011 8:39pm GMT

LOS ANGELES Nov 18 (Reuters) - Homicide detectives who have reopened an inquiry into the death of Natalie Wood said on Friday the film star's husband, actor Robert Wagner, was not considered a suspect in the case.

The new investigation was opened into Wood's 1981 drowning off the California coast after a yacht captain said he lied about the incident three decades ago and now holds Wagner responsible for her death.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Homicide Lt. John Corina told reporters at a news conference on Friday the original finding that Wood's death was an accidental drowning had not changed.

But detectives had reopened the investigation based on new information from several sources "which we felt was substantial enough to make us take another look at this case," he said.

Asked by reporters if Wagner, now 81, was considered a suspect, Corina responded: "No."

In an interview with NBC's "Today" show, yacht captain Dennis Davern said Wagner fought with Wood, 43, shortly before she went missing from the "Splendour" and Wagner showed little interest in trying to find her.

Wood had spent the night dining and drinking with Wagner, and her "Brainstorm" co-star, Christopher Walken.

Her body was found floating in a Catalina Island cove off the coast of California on Nov. 29, 1981. The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled her death an accidental drowning, noting that Wood had been drinking and was intoxicated when she died.

Questions over the circumstances surrounding her death have lingered for 30 years.

A spokesman for Wagner has said the actor's family had not been contacted by sheriff's officials but "fully supports" the department's efforts.

The family members trust the sheriff's department "will evaluate whether any new information relating to the death of Natalie Wood Wagner is valid and that it comes from a credible source or sources, other than those simply trying to profit from the 30-year anniversary of her tragic death," spokesman Alan Nierob said in the statement.

The department has asked that anyone with information about Wood's drowning contact sheriff's homicide investigators or an anonymous tip line.

Wood, born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko to Russian immigrant parents in San Francisco, appeared as a child in such films as the Christmas classic "Miracle on 34th Street" and "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir."

She was nominated for a best supporting actress Academy Award as a teenager for her role opposite screen legend James Dean in the classic 1955 film "Rebel Without a Cause."

Wood was also nominated twice for best actress Oscars, for parts in the 1961 film "Splendor in the Grass" and "Love with the Proper Stranger" two years later. She never won the award. (Editing by Greg McCune and Todd Eastham)

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