Thursday, June 24, 2010

How did Natalie Wood drown?

Natalie Wood's death still unsolved, in our opinion!

Although she has been gone a long time, there are still many unanswered questions as to the death of Natalie Wood. After her death we attempted (in the Hollywood Star), to solve the mystery of what happened that night on Catalina Island. As a matter of fact, Los Angeles Coroner, Dr. Noguchi, phoned me to see what my thoughts were on how she had died? Of course we all know she drowned but the facts that led to her demise have never been satisfactorily explained. After briefing him in on the story he said, "very interesting theory," although he had a different light on what happened in his book. Our theory of what happened that night, is based upon Coroner Noguchi's autopsy as well as using "common sense."

In a press conference called by the Los Angeles Coroner, Dr. Thomas Nuguchi, stated, "Natalie Wood died from "axidentol dwowding" (his words). She had been drinking heavily the evening of her death and her reflexes may have been affected when she tried to board a dinghy from her yacht, the Splendour; losing her footing and hitting her head on the side of the yacht, then falling into the ocean where she drowned. Water entering her lungs could have prevented her from yelling out for help."

At he time of her death, she was wearing a blue nightgown and a red, down jacket. The dinghy was found the next morning, on the shore, the key in the off position in the ignition and the gears were set in neutral. Natalie is alleged to have untied the dinghy, prior to falling, or she may have slipped and fallen from the dinghy while untying it.

Dr. Noguchi was questioned by the press for one hour. I was among the reporters. He had been asked if there had been an argument aboard the yacht? Dr. Noguchi replied there had been an argument between Robert Wagner and a guest on the boat. He was asked if the guest was actor, Christopher Walken? Noguchi said he wasn't sure of the name of the party but said that his investigators had told him, minutes before the conference, that there had been a non-physical argument between Wagner and his guest. Noguchi later stated that he thought the guest's name was Christopher Walken. Sheriff's investigators later stated that they were unaware of any such argument after they had questioned witnesses. In our opinion, the Coroner's investigation wouldn't make up such a story, especially regarding a celebrity such as Natalie Wood.

Dr. Noguchi's speculation on how Natalie Wood died, is merely that- "speculation."
And it is a logical explanation. He isn't to blame if Natalie Wood died a different way. The Coroner is not a police investigator. It is not his duty to investigate for foul play, (although autopsies often do discover this). His job is to try to explain the "cause of death." And he did (in his opinion), as "axidentol dwounding." And as far as his job is concerned, that is all he was responsible for. If his speculation on how she drowned was wrong, he isn't responsible for that. The National Enquirer, not the world's most credible newspaper, stated Natalie Wood had checked into a hotel the night before her death, with actor, Christopher Walken. Other sources have confirmed this to me as well. A Sheriff's investigator told me otherwise.

The night Natalie Wood drowned was a very cold night at Catalina. The story that she was going to go boating around the cove in a dinghy at midnight; in her nightgown, even if she was wearing a down jacket, doesn't make sense to me. Even if she had been drunk, it doesn't sound realistic. And she surely wouldn't be going ashore dressed like that, as other stories have implied. Natalie Wood was a "movie star," and drunk or sober she wouldn't be seen in public wearing a night gown at midnight. Also, she was afraid of the water.

The autopsy report reveals numerous recent bruises, over the lower, backside of her legs, although there were no bruises shown on her back. The Sheriff's department says, "it is common to have bruised legs when you are on boat. It's a natural thing to be to be bumped around and bruised." I guess they are right, but when the Splendour was anchored, would there be enough movement aboard to cause a person to get bruised? But, the large bruise or abrasion on her cheek, wasn't made from just walking around on deck. After Robert Wagner went off to Switzerland, a friend of Wagner's told the press, that Wagner said Natalie went down to tie down the dinghy, which may have been bouncing against the boat making a loud noise, and she fell in. This was a "rubber" dinghy! Could it have made that much noise to disturb her? Her blood alcohol level was .14, plus there were two undissolved pills initialized in her stomach. Sleeping pills were one of the prescribed medications on board the yacht.

Robert Wagner's mental state, after the accident, is what bothers me. Bill Pierce who was in charge of the Westwood Village Mortuary, told me at 10:00 p.m., on the Tuesday night before Natalie's Wednesday funeral, that "Natalie may not be buried on Wednesday, as was stated by the press."

He said he was on stand-by awaiting word from Howard Jeffries, who was handling the funeral arrangements. Pierce was told he was to have the flowers there Thursday morning, not Wednesday. He said Ronald Reagan's secretary had even phoned to get information regarding funeral arrangements so that he could send flowers. Pierce said he was unable to give out any information. The secretary exclaimed, "But this is from the President of the United States."

Pierce said it was to be a closed casket funeral, although there may be last minute changes. He said if it were to be an open casket, MGM was going to send over make-up men. (Natalie had been filming "Brainstorm," at MGM and Christopher Walken was her co-star.) Then he said he had just talked to Howard Jeffries a few minutes before I arrived and was told, R.J. "will not" be at the funeral. Well, this was a shocker. I couldn't believe it. The first thought that hit me was, does he have a guilty conscience? I couldn't imagine he wouldn't attend his own wife's funeral no matter how difficult it may have been for him.

I phoned the story to the associated press, UPI and NBC-TV. Needless to say, they never printed or mentioned my story but instead they hounded Jeffries with the facts I had presented. Obviously, Jeffries knew now that R.J. had to attend the funeral, otherwise the public would be aroused and wonder why he hadn't? In other words, it would become a negative, irreversible situation. Pierce had also told me that about ten persons would be at the funeral, mainly Natalie's relatives. Well, we now know there was about one hundred guests at the televised cemetery. This had been a last minute decision as well. Whether Walken was there is unknown to us at the Hollywood Star. He was staying at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. I talked with someone in his suite, asking them if they knew when the funeral was? They said they didn't know.

The Coroner speculated Natalie had slipped while boarding the boat. The Sheriff's department stated they felt she fell while trying to secure the dinghy. We speculated otherwise, based upon the autopsy report. (I want to add now, that with two men aboard, why couldn't they have tied down the dinghy?)

First of all, if Walken and Wagner had been arguing in a restaurant that evening, as has been printed, then it is also possible they may have been arguing aboard the yacht. And (maybe) on deck. Natalie may have tried to break them up. Fists could have been flying and she may have tried to break them up and accidentally been hit by one of them, sending her backwards over the railing. This would explain the recent bruises on the lower part of her legs, being bruised by falling backward over the railing of the yacht into the ocean. Each wrist also had bruises which could have been received as she tried to grab the railing as she went over. The location of the bruises seem to support this theory. She could have instinctively reached for the rail and missed but hit her wrists as she fell. Wagner and Walken could have untied the dinghy hoping to get her out of the water, but after untying the dinghy, (both had been drinking wine and champagne), they may have panicked and let the dinghy drift away before they could board it. The dinghy then drifted to the cove where it was found.

Further suspicions arise when the exact time Wagner alleges to have discovered Natalie missing on the yacht. The time she was discovered, was changed on the typed police report. Maybe a typographical error or maybe he was too drunk when he was first asked, to remember the exact time. The fact remains, the time was changed on the report. It was said he had waited a couple of hours before reporting she was missing from the yacht.

At that time a Sheriff's homicide investigator told me the case was closed, while another said it was still an ongoing investigation. One investigator on the case (I didn't get his name), phoned us to get our theory. He agreed that there had been several theories but felt Natalie had just accidentally fell while trying to secure the dinghy. Then when I asked him about the National Enquirer story, about Natalie checking into a hotel the night before with Walken, he said it isn't true. He said the skipper, Dennis Davern, checked into the hotel when R.J. sent them to shore because the water was too rough that night. (Dennis Davern wouldn't tell us over the phone whether it had been him or Walken who had checked into the hotel with Natalie? He said, "It doesn't matter now," and he stated not to call him anymore.) When I asked the investigator where Walken was that night?, he said on board with Wagner. This sounded alright for awhile, until a few minutes later he added, "Walken was really shook up the whole weekend. He wasn't used to being on a boat and the water was rough." If Walken wasn't used to boats and rough water, and if he were seasick, why didn't he check into the hotel instead of the skipper, who wasn't afraid of rough water? If this is true, common logic tells us that Walken would have gone ashore with Natalie, not the skipper. Davern could have signed the hotel registry for Walken because Walken was well known and recognizable as an actor. The story of who was and who wasn't there doesn't make sense.

There is only one conclusion to draw. Four people know what really happened. One is dead, the victim who can't tell us what happened. And I always felt polygraph tests should have been given to the other three. It was the only way to clear this mystery. I'm sure that however Natalie died, it was an accident, it wasn't intentional. But, if she was knocked overboard and there was a cover-up, then this is manslaughter, at the very least. And this could be what the three feared. Even a polygraph can be tampered with but it could still clear the air as well as all three suspects and put closure to the case. The District Attorney, at that time, had told me they may start their own investigation after they received the Sheriff's report. One official told me, "If you walk past someone who is drowning, it's not manslaughter, but if you cause someone to fall into the water and they drown, then this is manslaughter." He also said it is very hard to get someone to take a lie detector test. You have to have something strong enough for them to want to take it."

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner said you could drive a truck through the holes in the stories released to the press.

On September 30th (anniversary of James Dean's death), Natalie had a prescription filled at Schwab's drugstore for 30, 500 mgs. of Placidyl. On the 29th of October, there was only one pill left, stuck in the bottom of the bottle. This could mean she had taken a pill a day. In addition to this, she had taken 10 mgs. of Valium. The United States Supreme Court Justice, William Rehnquist, had, at that time taken Placidyl to help him sleep while afflicted with back pain. Rehnquist experienced a "disturbance in mental clarity" and a distorted perception of reality due to a drug reaction for about a two hour period. And get this, Natalie, in addition to Placidyl and Valium, also took Darvon, a pain pill, Dalmane, a mild sleeping pill, a diet pill called Synthroid, Antivert, a pill for dizziness and a kidney pill called Bactrim. Three different doctors prescribed medications. Dr. Rutnick, Dr. Sutnick and Dr. Shuman, are named on the prescriptions.

I asked Dr. Noguchi to review his own drawings to understand my conclusions. He seemed to have been impressed with our conclusions but still said death was due to axidento dwowning.

Didn't he also say, "water going into her lungs may have prevented her from yelling out for help?" But, what about the persons on a nearby yacht who said "they did hear a woman yelling out for help, for several minutes?" What was Wagner and Walken doing all of this time?

Let's take a close look at certain pages of Natalie's autopsy. The page marked 20-B shows fresh bruise marks on the wrists, bruises and scratches on the "lower back of her legs," which could have been made by the Splendour's railing as she was knocked over from a blow to her face.

No bruises are shown on her back, which back up our theory. On page 12 OPINION it states: "most of the bruises on the body are superficial and probably sustained at the time of drowning."

Did you ever hear of water bruising a person? And why just the lower back side of her legs? Page 20 states: "superficial facial abrasion. Probable upward direction." If she was accidentally hit in a confrontation on deck, it could have been an upper blow she got in front of. How else could she have gotten an upper blow? Did the water give her this blow too?

Nowhere in the autopsy was it stated that she had had a prior altercation resulting in a facial abrasion before her drowning. Robert Wagner, Christopher Walken and Dennis Davern never mentioned she had a facial bruise. (Shown in the original manuscript, is the complete autopsy report.)

( My Roots in Flint