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Robert Wagner Responsible for Natalie Wood's Drowning Death?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on November 18, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Robert Wagner is responsible for Hollywood actress Natalie Wood's drowning death off Catalina Island near Los Angeles in 1981, according Dennis Davern. Davern was the captain of the boat on which Wood was sailing when she drowned.

Now, three decades after investigators concluded that her death was a tragic accident, her case has been reopened.

It's a new development in a case that has long been shrouded in mystery. Wood, the star of such iconic movies as Miracle on 34th Street and Rebel Without a Cause, died at the age of 43. Her body was found floating in the water. The actress was wearing a nightgown, socks, and a down jacket.

It was a sad death for Wood, who had previously said in a televised interview that her greatest fear was "dark seawater."

Her death was also curious. She was on the boat at that time with her then-husband Robert Wagner and their friend, Christopher Walken. There was speculation that Wood's death was the result of a fight that took place between her and her husband.

In California, there is no statute of limitations for murder charges or other offenses that may be punishable by life in prison. This means that no matter how long ago the murder took place, an action can be commenced at any time.

But, murder charges are typically only for intentional killings. If the death was accidental or the result of negligence, it's more likely that charges of involuntary manslaughter would come down.

In that case, it's probable that any criminal prosecution will be barred. Felonies that are punishable by 8 or more years in prison must be commenced within 6 years of the offense. Offenses punishable by any imprisonment must be commenced within 3 years.

Since it's been 30 years since Natalie Wood's death, if the investigation shows that Robert Wagner was responsible, but her drowning wasn't intentional, he likely cannot be prosecuted.

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