The Los Angeles Police Department has reopened the case of Natalie Wood’s 1981 drowning death, making it clear neither her husband Robert Wagner nor their friend Christopher Walken, the last men to see her alive, are suspects. While it would be nice to learn the true story of what went down on that yacht, it most likely wouldn’t legally matter due to California’s statute of limitations.
Natalie Wood’s mysterious and untimely death came after an evening of partying on a yacht with her hubby Wagner and her Brainstorm co-star Walken over Thanksgiving weekend. Though ruled an accident 30 years ago, the case was reopened this month after yacht captain Dennis Davern revealed he’d lied about what happened and admitted there wasn’t much of a search for Wood’s body after she disappeared.
Wagner and Davern have both taken the blame for Wood’s death, in some part, but not for actually killing her. All these years later, the LAPD hopes to figure out what really happened that night, and they’re not just reviewing Davern’s new lead.
If investigators manage to learn Wood’s death was not an accident, however, they won’t likely be able to prosecute anyone for foul play. Whether it was a case of involuntary manslaughter or second degree murder, the statute of limitations has long passed.
If the LAPD could prove Wood’s death was a planned first degree or felony murder, that would be another matter. A “willful, deliberate and premeditated” murder has no statute of limitations in California and would still be prosecutable, but the LAPD would be hard-pressed to find proof of intent for Wagner, Walken, Davern or some unknown assailant — unless of course one of them decided to confess or admit to being a witness.
This has led many to wonder why the LAPD even reopened the case. “It’s an exercise in futility,” a source from the district attorney’s office admitted to TMZ. “I just don’t get it.”
SheKnows suspects Wood’s family does get it, even if her sister admits she’s afraid of what we might learn. Stay tuned for more on this story as it continues to unfold.
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