When Hollywood actress Natalie Wood drowned in 1981 near California's Catalina Island, an autopsy and coroner's report determined the death of the 43-year-old actress was an accident.
Wood's crewmates on the 60-foot yacht Splendour, husband Robert Wagner and pal Christopher Walken, said she likely fell overboard while trying to securing a dinghy that was banging against the side of the boat, making noise and keeping her awake.
However, the case file was reopened in 2011 after the yacht's skipper, Dennis Davern, co-authored a memoir in which his account of the events that night differed from the official report. In August 2012, the cause of Wood's death was changed from accidental downing to "drowning and other undetermined factors." But the reasons for the change were not released until Monday.
The 10-page supplement to the autopsy says that "bruises especially in the upper extremities appeared fresh and could have occurred before (Wood) entered the water." It also says that "the location of the bruises, the multiplicity of the bruises, lack of head trauma, or facial bruising support bruising having occurred prior to the entry into the water."
"I believe Robert Wagner was with her until the moment she was in the water," Davern told CBS News
Davern wrote that there was an argument between Wagner and Walken on the boat the night Wood died, that a bottle was thrown and that, after Wood went to bed, an argument could be heard from inside her cabin.
"The fighting went back to the back of the boat and then it was quiet," Davern said.
The information brings to question whether the death should have been ruled an accident at all, given the "superficial skin bruises on the extremities and abrasions on the left side of the face," the new report says. These could be more consistent with an assault than with a struggle to get back into the yacht, as was the original narrative of the evening. It is still unclear how Wood ended up in the water.
"When you take the circumstances as we've now come to learn them," said CBS New senior correspondent John Miller, a former Los Angeles Police deputy commissioner, "Natalie Wood was, you know, in her night gown in bed. She supposedly goes out to re-tie this dinghy. She can't swim. She's afraid of the dark. She's afraid of the water. It sounds very unlikely she would have done that, especially if the captain, the skipper, was there and awake, and she could have told him do that."
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