The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

January 14, 2013

New coroner report on Natalie Wood death: bruises may have been before entering water

— A newly released report shows coroner's officials amended Natalie Wood's death certificate based on unanswered questions about bruises on her upper body but were lacking several pieces of evidence and could only determine that she drowned under undetermined circumstances more than 30 years ago.

Los Angeles County coroner's officials state in an 10-page addendum to Wood's autopsy report that some of the bruises may have occurred before she went into the water and drowned, but that could not be definitively determined.

Officials reviewed Wood's case after Los Angeles sheriff's investigators renewed their inquiry into her November 1981 drowning in late 2011. Wood's death certificate was amended last year to change her cause of death from drowning to "drowning and other undetermined factors" and the report released Monday details the reasons for the alteration.

Wood was on a yacht off Catalina Island with husband Robert Wagner and co-star Christopher Walken on Thanksgiving weekend in 1981 before somehow ending up in the water. A dinghy that was attached to the boat was found along the island's shoreline, but investigators could not locate it to review it last year.

Several of the original coroner's investigators who worked on the case were re-interviewed, and attempted to test some items taken during the investigation into Wood's death and an autopsy, but could not be located.

"The location of the bruises, the multiplicity of the bruises, lack of head trauma, or facial bruising support bruising having occurred prior to entry in the water," the report states. "Since there are unanswered questions and limited additional evidence available for evaluation, it is opined by this Medical Examiner that the manner of death should be left as undetermined," Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran wrote in the report completed in June.

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