In a startling development in the investigation of the 1981 death of actress Natalie Wood, the Los Angeles County Coroner has changed the cause of death on her death certificate, TMZ reports.
Originally the cause of death was determined to be "accidental." With the change the official cause is now listed as "undetermined," the story reports.
The Coroner’s Office has not changed its finding that Wood died of drowning off the Southern California island of Catalina on Nov. 29, 1981.
However, TMZ reports, "Law enforcement sources tell TMZ the reason for the change is that there was bruising on Wood’s body that is not NECESSARILY consistent with an accident … but it doesn’t prove foul play."
The TMZ story goes on to say that the Los Angeles County Coroner at the time, the famed Dr. Thomas Noguchi, had "jumped to the conclusion" that Wood’s death was an accident when the evidence indicated all along that he should have said it was "undetermined."
What is not in question is that Wood and her husband, actor Robert Wagner, had been on their yacht anchored near Catalina when, on Nov. 29, 1981, Wood drowned.
This latest revelation is just another in a long series of twists in the case. The Los Angeles Times reports that in January 2012, just "two months after reopening the case, a top sheriff’s official told The Times it was highly unlikely any new light would be shed on how the actress died. ‘At this point, it is an accidental death,’ said William McSweeney, the [Los Angeles County Sheriff’s] chief of detectives. ‘Nothing has been discovered to suggest changing that at this time.’
"At the time, McSweeney said detectives had conducted several interviews and reviewed the entire original file. They had also traveled to Hawaii to inspect the yacht Wood and the others were aboard."
But as noted in the latest Times story, published yesterday, July 8, 2012, "Nearly eight months after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopened its investigation into the 1981 death of actress Natalie Wood, officials said the case remains an ‘open and ongoing investigation.’ Sheriff’s Capt. Mike Parker released the statement on Friday, citing ‘many calls from the news media’ asking about the status of the investigation. He declined to release further details."
TMZ, in its story today, writes: "Our sources say the investigation is still officially ‘active’ but in fact it’s been at a dead end and detectives have unearthed no new evidence to lead them to a conclusion there was foul play. We’re told there is ‘certainly no evidence’ leading detectives to a suspect."
The TMZ story also reiterates something the Sheriff’s Office has said since it reopened the case in 2011 — that Robert Wagner is not a suspect in the reopened case. There has been some speculation that Wood and Wagner had some sort of altercation the night before her body was found in the ocean.