Date TimeFebruary 02, 2018
Robert Wagner, the actor and husband of the late actress Natalie Wood, has been dubbed a "person of interest" in her death. An investigator for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department made this claim in an interview scheduled to air on CBS's "48 Hours" on Saturday, February 3, as part of a special titled "Natalie Wood: Death and Dark Water."
The show will examine her death and the surrounding circumstances. While the show may very well make for good TV, viewers should be careful not to equate convincing television theories and speculation, with the evidence necessary for a successful prosecution.
It should be noted that a "person of interest" designation is merely the tag ascribed to an individual who is under investigation by police, and is being looked at very closely. It falls short of officially being named a "suspect" or an actual "defendant", who is the person being directly accused of committing the crime.
Was it a shocking, unfortunate, and tragic accident? Or was it something more sinister -- like murder? That's what investigators are endeavoring to determine some 37 years after the fact.
It was November 29, 1981, when the beautiful and talented actress, then 43, went missing from her family yacht, The Splendour, off California's Santa Catalina Island. Her body was found a short time later floating only a mile away in the Pacific. A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department issued a statement Thursday night that Wagner is now a " person of interest" because new witnesses have provided statements that "portray a new sequence of events on the boat that night."
Rumors swirled at the time about how it happened, why it happened, and whether someone — other than Wood -- might be responsible for her demise. The focus immediately turned to her husband, then-51-year-old actor Robert Wagner, with whom she was married twice. The first marriage, in 1957, lasted only five years — while their second marriage, which began in 1972, appeared solid and loving, at least until her untimely death.
An investigation ensued but was closed only two weeks later, when the coroner, Thomas T. Noguchi, found that Wood slipped and subsequently drowned.
At the time she went missing, there were only three other people on the yacht -- her husband, Wagner; fellow actor Christopher Walken; and yacht captain Dennis Davern. All three were interviewed and told investigators what they knew. Though suspicion and speculation continued, there was no basis to conclude that Wood's death was anything other than an accident.
Wagner initially gave his rendition of events to investigators when the incident occurred. He has denied any involvement in Wood's death.
Fast forward 30 years to 2011. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department reopened the investigation citing "substantial new evidence." While investigators have not said what specific "new evidence" exists, it appears from the information publicly available that they are likely troubled by at least three factors: 1) the ever-evolving stories of the only witnesses; 2) fresh bruises identified on the autopsy report on Wood's body, arms, and left cheek, which could be consistent with an assault; and 3) the silence of her former husband, Wagner -- who has refused to talk to investigators, and was the last person to see her alive. It's hard to imagine, however, how any of these factors would substantially advance the case, or how any of this could be viewed as "new evidence."
When the case was reopened in 2011, Wagner's publicist issued a statement saying that Wagner's family trusted that the LA Sheriff's Department would "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."
To date, they have not arrested Wagner -- though Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Lt. John Corina told "48 Hours" that "I think he's constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don't add up." Investigators are also placing reliance on Davern, who admitted in 2011 in an interview on NBC's "Today Show" that he lied during the initial investigation. His new story has been that there was a fight on the boat that somehow resulted in Wood's death. When asked why he was coming forward after, at the time, 30 years, he said "I've been trying to tell information about this for many, many years, but there wasn't really anyone listening until now."
For those wondering how this case could potentially be prosecuted now, remember, there is no statute of limitations on murder -- the state can pursue a case at any time. But no matter how many years later such a case may be presented, the evidentiary rules remain the same: First, it would be necessary to prove the case "beyond a reasonable doubt." That is, speculation, innuendo, and shifting hypotheses just won't do. Second, although the state never would have to prove motive, inquiring minds always want to know. A jury would wonder why a man who married a woman twice would want her dead. And if authorities haven't been able to answer that question for nearly 40 years, it's unlikely a compelling reason will magically surface now.
Third, juries like to hear credible evidence. And while Davern changed his story 30 years later, during the 2011 investigation to point to nefarious conduct, he would open himself up to a bevy of questions by skilled defense attorneys: "Were you lying then, or are you lying now?" "And by the way, how many times have you been interviewed in the last 30-plus years? Do any of those stories match the one you're deciding to reveal now?"
I can't imagine that the former captain's answers to these questions would be too persuasive.
And as to Wagner, he's simply not talking. There's something called the Fifth Amendment that gives him the absolute right to remain silent -- lest he incriminate himself. While investigators might not like it, and even deem it suspicious, no jury will ever be permitted to infer that his silence equates with guilt. In fact, a judge will specially instruct the jury not to do so. So while investigators may be upset, and the public may look at Wagner cross-eyed, his silence is the most appropriate legal course of action to take and can't be used against him.
And finally, on the topic of evidence: How many other witnesses can the state produce, and what can they remember? Evidence gets pretty stale after almost four decades. Besides, will any witness produced by the State in a potential prosecution be able to say they told that story before? If not, why not and why now?
All that said, I'll be watching CBS on Saturday night, and taking note of the compelling theories pointing to Wagner's alleged guilt. But I'll also be mindful of the most pertinent fact that I can direct an audience to remember: Hollywood theories and courtroom convictions are about as far apart as the conflicting stories Davern told investigators in 1981 and in 2011.
And so while this, and any murder, may be prosecuted at any time, I doubt this one will see a courtroom anytime soon. And in the unlikely event that it does, reasonable doubt will rule the day.

'Nunes memo' published after Trump declassifies controversial document
James Corden, Stephen Colbert Debunk Trump's State of the Union Ratings Claim
Father lunges at Nassar in court before being restrained
Groundhog Day 2018: Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, 6 more weeks of winter
US Added 200000 Jobs in January; Wages Rise Most Since 2009
Trump Accuses His Justice Department, FBI Of Favoring Democrats
Devin Nunes is acting like he's in a spy thriller
Robert Wagner named 'person of interest' in Natalie Wood death investigation
Bitcoin price WARNING: ‘Will hit $50,000’ but end ‘really BADLY’ for investors says expert
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry suit up for first black tie engagement together
Trump to Democrats: Stop dragging your feet on DACA
Smoking Driver Hits Crowd In Shanghai After Accidentally Igniting Van
Hundreds of workers trapped in South African gold mine
4 students hit by gunfire at Los Angeles school; 12-year-old girl in custody
Frankfurt Airport bus crash - 13 Ryanair passengers injured in collision
'Huge explosion' in Ankara - smoke rises above Turkey capital
Laura Benanti's Melania Trump Responds to State Of the Union Address
Apple: All iPhones, iPads and Macs affected by chip flaws
West Ham suspend director of player recruitment Tony Henry amid racism claim
May in China LIVE: Brexit trade boost as its revealed Chinese nickname PM 'AUNTIE'
Tesla's Musk sells $10 million in flamethrowers in four days
Hope Hicks Told President That Trump Jr.‘s Emails ‘Will Never Get Out’: Report
Dorian Awards: 'Call Me by Your Name' Hailed as Film of the Year
Tomi Lahren Apologizes to Congressman for Vulgar Remarks
US missile defense test failed in Hawaii
Night photos that make Tokyo look like a sci-fi utopia
President Trump opts out of Super Bowl interview
Former NBA player Rasual Butler, 'American Idol' star killed in car crash
Michelle Obama finally reveals what Melania Trump gave her during awkward gift exchange
Chrissy Teigen Got on Her Knees and Called Beyonce a Queen at the Grammys
Train Carrying GOP Members Of Congress Collides With Truck
Equifax will offer free credit protection deal for five more months
Mesut Ozil: Real reason Arsenal star has agreed new contract revealed by reporter
One dead as strong earthquake rattles Afghanistan, Pakistan
Ivanka Trump wears £2520 tweed dress to State of the Union - it almost SELLS out across UK
The speech in 2 minutes
Redskins' trade for Alex Smith comes at significant cost
On China visit, Britain's May focused on post-Brexit future
Trump's State of the Union spoke to America's innovative, entrepreneurial spirit. Carpe diem, everyone
Stormy Daniels Joins Jimmy Kimmel for Post-'State of the Union' Guest Appearance
Cyrus Yavneh, Producer on '24,' 'Supernatural' and 'It's Pat: The Movie,' Dies at 76
The first lady's cream suit, kente cloth and purple ribbons: What the SOTU fashion choices meant
Kevin Towers, who guided the San Diego Padres to the World Series, dies at 56
Glee actor Mark Salling found dead aged 35
James Corden Fires Back at Critics of Hillary Clinton's Grammys Appearance
Andrea Tantaros Claims Female Fox News Employees Were Secretly Recorded Disrobing
Health experts urge Facebook to shut down Messenger Kids
Chris Christie Joining ABC News as a Contributor
Amazon, Berkshire, JPM team up for cheaper employee healthcare
More than 63 million women 'missing' in India, statistics show
What happened to the State of the Union address? Originally, it helped the president and Congress deliberate
Rihanna Celebrates Grammy Win With Rumored Billionaire Boyfriend
US releases list of Russian oligarchs, political figures
Melania Trump, out of sight since Stormy Daniels reports, will attend State of the Union
Stephen Colbert Weighs In on Grammys' Political Night
Kim Jong Nam met with mystery American
David Beckham announces launch of Miami MLS team – here’s all you need to know
Elon Musk sells $3.5m worth of flamethrowers in a day
FBI No. 2 official McCabe steps down amid Trump criticism: source
Russian fighter jet buzzes US spy plane in Black Sea, Navy says
Hackers invade YouTube ads to mine cryptocurrency
Angelina Jolie describes 'soul-destroying' visit to Syrian refugee camp
Rosenstein approved surveillance extension of former Trump adviser Carter Page
U.S. memo urges big push on 5G wireless technology, eyes China threat
Strava fitness tracking app reveals movements on remote military bases
Penelope Cruz to Get Honorary Cesar Award
'Babylon Berlin' Takes Top Honors at German TV Awards
Grammys 2018: Janelle Monáe Addresses 'Time's Up' Movement In Empowering Speech
Grammys 2018 take on Trump, DACA and gender equality as Bruno Mars takes home Album of the Year
Grammys: Alessia Cara Wins Best New Artist
Nikki Haley wants politics out of her Grammy awards
Donald Trump hits back at Jay-Z over race record even as aides promise a more conciliatory tone in State of the Union address
Five dead in Pennsylvania shooting rampage
'Lady Macbeth' Director William Oldroyd Adapting 'Chimerica' for U.K.'s Channel 4
Putin critic arrested in nationwide protests
Iranian-American imprisoned in Iran given 4-day leave after hospitalization
Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad dies aged 91
Trump says he would negotiate Brexit with 'tougher' attitude than Theresa May
Prince Harry's ex-girlfriend Cressida Bonas posts racy snap after Meghan Markle engagement
'SNL': Will Ferrell Reprises George W. Bush Impression in Cold Open
Facebook And Google’s Surveillance Capitalism Model Is In Trouble
Canada's Bombardier gets big win over Boeing
Space X to launch world's most powerful rocket
At least 5 police officers killed in Colombia bombing
Rolex 24 has coolness factor, Daytona charm and more
Paris on flooding high alert as swollen River Seine set to rise further 
Italy: 800 migrants rescued, 2 bodies found in Mediterranean
Sean Hannity's Twitter account is deactivated
Caroline Wozniacki wins Australian Open title after epic battle with Halep
Three teenagers dead after car crashes into west London bus stop
Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed released as corruption probe winds down
Russia's opposition leader: Putin regime 'built on corruption'
Taliban attacker driving ambulance packed with explosives kills 40 in Kabul
US preparing for WAR in SPACE with China or Russia says Trump Defence Secretary Jim Mattis
Acid attack epidemic: RECORD number of incidents in London last year, data reveals
'Salyut-7' Awarded Best Russian Movie at Golden Eagles Ceremony
Report: RNC Finance Chair Steve Wynn Accused Of Decades Of Sexual Misconduct
US official warns Hong Kong over North Korea smuggling
Davos: Bitcoin is not a currency
BREAKING: Amsterdam GUN ATTACK – At least one dead and two hurt in Netherlands shooting
Hillary Clinton Chose to Shield a Top Adviser Accused of Harassment in 2008
Paris is still on flood alert even though rain has stopped
Nikki Haley denies Trump affair rumors
India Republic Day 2018 in pictures: Massive military parade, motorbike stunts and camels
Nutella CRISIS: France descends into CHAOS with RIOTS after sale
You’ve got FOUR WEEKS! Brussels issues Brexit trade deadline to Theresa May
Roger Federer reaches seventh Australian Open final as Hyeon Chung retires
Tesla denies further Model 3 production issues
Casey Affleck withdraws from presenting best-actress award at Oscars
Trump wanted Mueller fired back in June, reports say
James Corden Says Grammys Will Include #MeToo Moment
Stormy Daniels Set to Appear on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!'
White House proposes path to citizenship for 1.8 million people
Deadliest fire in 10 years kills 39 in South Korean hospital
The White House 'requested a Van Gogh, but got a golden toilet instead'
What is the Doomsday Clock? Why has the dreaded clock moved closer to midnight TODAY?
'We'll talk about it' Donald Trump reveals visit to Britain could still go ahead
First lady Melania Trump skips Davos, goes to Holocaust memorial in Washington
5.8 earthquake strikes off Northern California coast. No tsunami threat
Lisa Kudrow Recalls Not Recognizing Jane Fonda
Who is Virginia Woolf? Google Doodle honours English book author’s 136th birthday
Captain Cook statue VANDALISED: Protests mount ahead of Australia Day
Trump, in Davos, Hopes to Sell the Story of US Success
Oprah Shuts Down 2020 Presidential Run Rumors
Meryl Streep joins 'Big Little Lies' Season 2
BREAKING: Train derails in horrific rush-hour crash in Milan - fatalities reported
Trump seeks $25 billion for border wall, offers 'Dreamer' citizenship
Google Parent Alphabet Announces New Cybersecurity Firm
Megyn Kelly's Jane Fonda Jab May Cost 'Today' Star Bookings
Trump 'looking forward' to going under oath
Julian Assange's health in 'dangerous' condition, say doctors
Bitcoin news: Arsenal signs cryptocurrency deal in world first
One reason Netflix users might want to buy a Google Home instead of an Amazon Echo
WATCH: Theresa May 'FALLS ASLEEP' as PM and Hammond mock Corbyn's tiresome NHS argument
Country singer Lari White dead at 52 after short cancer battle
The iOS 11.3 developer beta is available for download right now
Monkey see, monkey 2: Scientists clone monkeys using technique that created Dolly the sheep
Larry Nassar sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for decades of sexual misconduct
Roger Federer overpowers Tomas Berdych to set up Hyeon Chung meeting in Australian Open semi-finals
Toys R Us closing 180 stores: Full list of store closures planned in huge restructure
Alaska earthquake: 78 quakes hit gulf near Kodiak after 7.9 shock sparks tsunami warning
Late-Night Hosts Weigh In on Oscar Nominee Snubs, Surprises
Car bomb attack near Benghazi mosque kills 34
'This Is Us:' Jack's cause of death revealed and fans are heartbroken
’Social media cryptocurrency’ will allow users to earn money for Facebook 'likes'
Facebook acquires biometric ID verification startup
TV Writers Launch Anonymous Pay Survey Amid Push for Salary Parity
Ursula K. Le Guin, famed science fiction and fantasy writer, dies at 88
Haley, Tillerson call out Russia on Syria's chemical weapons use
Two students dead, 12 others wounded by gunfire in Kentucky high school shooting
See the full list of 2018 Oscar nominees
Alaska earthquake: Terrifying graphic reveals true extent of TSUNAMI DANGER
Musk may get no salary unless Tesla hits milestones
Tsunami warnings canceled after magnitude-7.9 earthquake off Alaska
Peace between Israel and Palestinians 'more possible' after Jerusalem move, Pence says
Hugh Masekela, South African jazz legend, dies at age 78
BREAKING: Fireball engulfs TRAIN in deadly flames after horror crash with 'ethanol truck'
Neil Diamond announces Parkinson's diagnosis, immediate retirement
Man arrested over threats to 'gun down' CNN employees: report
'Conan': People of Haiti Roast President Trump in Preview Clip
Hijab-wearing model pulls out of L'Oreal campaign over 2014 tweets
Facebook, Google promote 'scurrilous' news, and should pay for quality content, said Rupert Murdoch
US shutdown to end as Senate Republicans and Democrats reach a deal
Megyn Kelly Lambasts Jane Fonda: Her "Name Is Synonymous With Outrage"
'Vampirina' Gets Second Season at Disney Junior
Jerusalem Embassy Move Will Happen Next Year, VP Pence Says
BREAKING: Another royal wedding as Princess Eugenie confirms ENGAGEMENT to Jack Brooksbank
France's Macron hosts 140 world business leaders
Philippines Raises Alert Level as Mayon Volcano Eruption Intensifies
Prince Harry SECRETLY introduces Meghan Markle to ‘very significant person’ in his life
Apple makes significant investment in Malala's education fund
Amazon Go app hits Google Play just ahead of Seattle store opening
SAG Awards: Rosanna Arquette, Marisa Tomei Give Emotional Tribute to Women of #MeToo
Star of popular North Korean girl band visits South Korea ahead of Olympic performances
Macron: French would 'probably' back a 'Frexit'
Thousands join Women's March in London for gender equality
Jim Johannson, US Olympic men’s hockey general manager, dies unexpectedly at age 53
'SNL': Kate McKinnon Debuts Robert Mueller Impersonation
Pence says immigration talks over until government reopens
America planned to bring Russia in from the cold with Star Wars project
Julie Neville: How I healed myself with superfoods
Sign of alien life? Mysterious phenomenon spotted in skies above Japan
Ivanka Trump ‘will follow father Donald Trump as US President by 2032’
The Latest: Taliban kill 18 militiamen in Afghanistan
Natalie Portman, Alfre Woodard, Olivia Munn and more bring Time's Up fire to Women's March in L.A
Prague hotel fire: At least two dead and seven injured after horror blaze engulfs hotel
Trump Blames Democrats For Government Shutdown In Morning Tweets
'This is about equality': Activists take to the streets for Women's March
'The Crown': Paul Bettany Near Deal to Play Prince Philip
Turkish jets hit Kurdish positions in northern Syria
Tom Petty died of accidental drug overdose, says family
Santa Barbara Film Fest: Margot Robbie, Allison Janney to Share Performer Award
Everything you need to know about women's marches this weekend
Facebook to start 'trust ratings' for media outlets as it fights back against fake news
REVEALED: This is where World War 3 will break out – and it is NOT North Korea
U.S. government shutdown begins as spending bill fails in Senate
Supreme Court to decide legality of Trump travel ban
Watch Al Pacino in First Trailer for HBO's 'Paterno'
White House officials say they're preparing for "Schumer shutdown"
Kim and Kanye reveal baby girl's name: Chicago West