Natalie Wood may have had bruises before drowning, says coroner

Ben Arnold
Yahoo UK Movies News15 January 2013

A Los Angeles coroner has said that actress Natalie Wood may have had bruises on her body before she drowned.

Her death was originally ruled accidental, but scratches on her neck, bruises on her arms and grazes on her face led her death certificate to be amended to cite the cause of death as 'drowning and other undetermined factors'.

[Related story: Washington was planning film with Tony Scott]

Wood drowned in 1981 while on a boat trip with her husband, actor Robert Wagner, and Christopher Walken, her co-star in the film 'Brainstorm'.

She had been drinking, and it is thought that she had slipped while trying to board the boat's dinghy.

But the case was reopened in 2011 when the captain of the boat, Dennis Davern, told a US TV programme that he had heard the couple arguing, had lied to the police, and believed that Wagner was responsible for her death.

“The location of the bruises, the multiplicity of the bruises, lack of head trauma, or facial bruising support bruising having occurred prior to entry in the water,” said Chief Medical Examiner Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran in the report.

“Since there are 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.”

Wagner said in his book 'Pieces of My Heart' that he had argued with Wood on the night she drowned, but the authorities have said that he is not a suspect in his wife's death.

Wood, who was 43 and had been nominated for Oscars in 'Rebel Without a Cause', 'Splendor in the Grass' and 'Love with the Proper Stranger', was found floating near Catalina Island in California.

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