Natalie Wood's Sister Is Convinced Her Mysterious Death Wasn't an Accident

Actress Natalie Wood mysteriously drowned in 1981 and her sister, Lana, has been outspoken about the circumstances surrounding her death.

Michelle Stein - Author

May 5 2020, Updated 6:04 p.m. ET

natalie sister
Source: Getty Images

Thanks to an HBO documentary titled, Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind, there has been a renewed interest in the case of actress Natalie Wood's mysterious death. Natalie, who starred in classic films like West Side Story and Penelope, drowned during a weekend boat trip back in 1981. She was 43.

Details surrounding how Natalie ended up in the water, along with bruises found on her body and arms, have prompted suspicion of foul play among many — including her sister, Lana.

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On the night of her drowning, Natalie was at Catalina Island with her husband, actor Robert Wagner, actor Christopher Walken, and the boat's captain, Dennis Davern.

"What happened that night only she knows, because she was alone," Christopher told Playboy Magazine in 2011. "She had gone to bed before us, and her room was at the back. A dinghy was bouncing against the side of the boat, and I think she went out to move it."

lana natalie wood sister
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He continued, "There was a ski ramp that was partially in the water. It was slippery — I had walked on it myself. She had told me she couldn’t swim; in fact, they had to cut a swimming scene from [Brainstorm]. She was probably half asleep, and she was wearing a coat."

Natalie's sister, Lana, has been outspoken in the wake of her death.

Natalie's younger sister, Lana — a former actress and a model — is among those who aren't convinced Natalie simply slipped into the water and drowned.

"Let’s be truthful about who she was and how she was,” Lana told The New York Times in 2019, of her late sister. “I am not making judgments. I am not supposing. I’m not doing any of those things. I’m simply looking at facts. Natalie didn’t swim. Her fear of dark water was deeply ingrained.”

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During a CrimeCon presentation held in New Orleans in June 2019, Lana elaborated on her sister's mannerisms.

“Natalie would not go anywhere not fully made-up, wearing something terrific,” she said, according to The New York Times. “She certainly would not get into a dinghy in her nightgown by herself. She would get dressed, put on full makeup and have Dennis Davern take her ashore to stay in a motel on Catalina, which is exactly what she did the night before, when she wanted to leave.”

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Source: Getty Images

Add to this the suspicious bruising found on Natalie's body, along with a witness telling police she had heard a woman screaming the night Natalie died, and Lana feels certain her sister's death was no accident.

“Robert Wagner maintains her death was an accident," she said at Crime Con. "How was she accidentally assaulted?”

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Although Natalie's death was initially ruled an accident, the investigation was reopened in 2011 and the cause of death was changed to "drowning and other undetermined factors." The move came after the boat's captain, Dennis, said he had heard Natalie and Robert arguing the evening she died.

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Following the statements of more witnesses, Robert, who is now 89, is considered a "person of interest."

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind airs from 9-10:40 p.m. (ET) on May 5 on HBO.

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