Bad Timing: Robert Wagner Plays Murder Suspect on 'NCIS' Episode

Published November 23, 2011

| FoxNews.com

'NCIS' was the beneficiary of some timely casting on Tuesday night's episode.

Robert Wagner appeared in a guest-starring role as Anthony DiNozzo, Sr., a man who was  found in a car with a dead body in the trunk and no memory of the previous night.

The 'NCIS' team had to figure out if he was capable of murder.

Sound familiar?

The episode comes during the reopening of the investigation into the drowning death of Wagner's wife, Natalie Wood, 30 years ago. A new witness came forward this week with some chilling new details about the fateful night of Nov. 29, 1981.

“Help me, someone please help me, I’m drowning,” Marilyn Wayne said she heard repeatedly from her sailboat on that night.

Wayne, a former stockbroker, was aboard the Capricorn in the waters near Catalina Island in Southern California with boyfriend, John Payne, when the couple heard a disturbing scene.

“A woman’s voice, crying for help from drowning awakened John, and he awakened me,” Wayne said in a sworn statement to investigators. “Alarmed, I called out to my son, who also heard the cries, and looked at his new digital watch: it was just minutes after 11:00 P.M.”

Wood died while she was boating on the yacht Splendour with Wagner and actor Christopher Walken. Her body was found the next morning, floating in the water about a mile away from the yacht. According to police and autopsy reports, she had dozens of bruises on her body and injuries to her face and arms.

The official cause of death was listed as accidental drowning, and there was no determination of foul play. Police recently reopened the investigation of Wood’s drowning death, citing “additional information” in the case.

After hearing the woman’s cries for help, Payne said she turned on a spotlight and searched the dark waters, while Wayne went up onto the deck to try and look for the victim.

“While listening to the cries, we called the harbor patrol but no one answered,” Wayne said in her statement. “Then we called the sheriff’s office in Avalon, 12 miles away, and whoever answered told us a helicopter would be sent, but it did not come. We heard loud music coming from somewhere, so thought there was a party on a nearby boat. Then I heard a man’s voice, slurred, and in aggravated tone, say something to the effect of, “Oh, hold on, we’re coming to get you,” and not long after, the cries for help subsided, but we heard the cries for up to 15 minutes. We returned to bed, terribly disturbed.”

When the couple woke up the next morning, Wayne said they saw police boats and learned that Wood had drowned.

ABC News reports that police never interviewed Wayne during their initial investigation, and that she received a threatening note cautioning her to keep quiet about the night of Wood’s death.

Wagner and Walken, who was filming a movie with Wood at the time, reportedly got into an alcohol-fueled argument prior to her death. Wood’s fear of water was well-known. She did not know how to swim and once said in an interview that her greatest fear was of dark seawater. 

Wagner has never been charged, and police say that he is not a suspect. The actor, now 81, has steadfastly maintained that there was no foul play in his wife’s death.

The captain of the yacht Splendour, Dennis Davern, believes otherwise.

“We didn’t take any steps to see if we could locate her,” Davern told NBC’s “Today” show of his and Wagner’s halfhearted search for Wood. “It was a matter of don’t look too hard, don’t turn on search light, don’t call anyone.”

According to his rep, Wagner has not been contacted by authorities and accused Davern of seeking publicity from his story. “(The Wagner family) fully support(s) the efforts of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. and trust they will evaluate whether any new information relating to the death of Natalie Wood Wagner is valid, and that it comes from a credible source or sources other than those simply trying to profit from the 30-year anniversary of her tragic death.” 

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