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Natalie Wood Had Eerie, Lifelong Connection to Water

Long before the mysterious drowning death of actress Natalie Wood in 1981, the star and her husband Robert Wagner had a history of memorable moments involving water.

In his 2008 memoir, “Pieces of My Heart,” Wagner recalled how he had fallen in love with Wood on board a boat he owned.

“I remember the instant I fell in love with her. One night on board a small boat I owned, she looked at me with love, her dark brown eyes lit by a table lantern. That moment changed my life,” he said.

The couple wed in 1957, but split in 1962.

After years apart, the two reunited in 1972. Following a hectic storm at sea while en route from New York to London on the Queen Elizabeth II, the couple announced they were planning to remarry.

That July, the couple remarried aboard a friend’s yacht off Catalina Island, in Southern California. 

The next year, Wagner recalled that his wife sent him a note on Easter saying “Dearest, here’s to smooth sailing for us from now on!”

According to Wagner, their reunion also provided them with “renewed appreciation of how much we loved the ocean. We bought a 60ft boat which we called the Splendor, after one of Natalie’s films.”

Wood, however, had a well-documented fear of water. So strong was her fear that the actress would not even go in her own swimming pool.

In an interview with TMZ, Wood's sister Lana said their mother had warned Natalie that she would die in dark water.

In November of 1981, Wood and Wagner invited actor Christopher Walken to Catalina with them for Thanksgiving.

Wagner recalled a note from Wood saying she had taken the dinghy with Walken to a restaurant on the island, according to an excerpt from “Pieces of My Heart.” According to him, he took a shore boat to meet them and the three of them spent the evening drinking.

Wood’s body was later found floating off of Santa Catalina Island. The death was ruled an accidental drowning.

Coroner's officials said that Wood was "possibly attempting to board the dinghy and had fallen into the water, striking her face."

An autopsy at the time also revealed two dozen bruises on her body.

The captain of the yacht, Dennis Davern, came forward Friday to say that he believed Wagner was responsible for Wood’s death. 

Davern told NBC TV's "Today" show on Friday that he made mistakes by not telling the truth about events leading to her death, and urged Los Angeles County sheriff's homicide investigators to reopen the case.

"Was the fight between Natalie Wood and her husband Robert Wagner what ultimately led to her death?" morning show host David Gregory asked.

"Yes," Davern replied.

"How so?"

"Like I said, that's going to be up to the investigators to decide," Davern said.

Davern said he believes Wagner intentionally kept the investigation into Wood's death low profile, and didn't do everything he could have done. When Gregory pressed Davern for supporting details, the captain said that was the duty of investigators.

Wood’s sister, Lana, also said she believed that Wagner’s story did not add up and that he had withheld information from authorities after the drowning.

Lana Wood told TMZ that Davern had once told her in a drunken phone call that Wagner told him to leave Natalie in the water the night of her death.

Davern told Wood that Wagner said at the time, “’leave her there, teach her lesson.” 

Police said Friday that Wagner is not a suspect in Wood’s death and that it is still classified as an accidental drowning. Wagner's rep issued a statement welcoming any information the new investigation turns up.

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