• Perroni_Investigation

    The Investigation


Because of space limitations in my book, I could not include all the information that may be of interest to readers about the six-year (and continuing) investigation I have conducted of the handling of the Natalie Wood investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LACSD) and the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner (coroner’s office). There were thousands of pages of letters, court pleadings and public records generated in my effort to use the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain U.S. Coast Guard records and the California Public Records Act (CPRA) to obtain records from the sheriff, coroner and Los Angeles County Executive Office for my Natalie Wood investigation. But I only included some of the most interesting and revealing that demonstrate how law enforcement officers, agency officials and others relentlessly obstructed my efforts to examine the Natalie Wood death. And I thought I would show you the lengths people went to prevent me from exposing the fraud and deception that has been used by some people in the printed media and publishing business over the past 40 years to manipulate the facts and sensationalize pieces of evidence and events to answer the question – How did Natalie Wood die?

Production companies and media publishing companies tried to obtain what I discovered about the Natalie Wood death by making promises they never intended to keep. They failed, but it was disappointing to witness. Furthermore, after Natalie’s death, certain authors worked with the LACSD who thereafter obstructed me and others from getting fair access to information and records the LACSD shared with them. The same agency employees also worked with writers and the TV media to attempt to upstage my book publication. Some of the scheming was addressed in my Natalie Wood death book (Chapter 19), but there were other instances of people playing favorites in an effort to keep certain authors as “the authorities” on the Natalie Wood investigation. I have my suspicions about why this occurred, but I will keep those to myself for the time being.

THE BEGINNING – How did Natalie Wood die?

Following my instincts and training as a prosecutor, I set out on a trail that led in the direction of the only logical Natalie Wood murder suspect—her husband Robert J. Wagner Jr. My object was simple. I wanted to corral as much of the truth as I could and present it in a logical, straightforward fashion. Next, in my Natalie Wood investigation, I wanted to see if there was any credible evidence out there that would suggest there was in fact a Natalie Wood murder and, if so, the identity of the culprit. Finally, I wanted to know, Why? Doesn’t the answer to that question most always lead to the perpetrator of any crime? Some people kill just to kill. But there is still a reason—be it mental illness, terror or revenge. I have successfully defended many people in court on the basis of lack of motive, and I have convicted people as a federal prosecutor with that same type of evidence.

Official files addressing how did Natalie Wood die had been concealed in agency archives for decades. After reading Suzanne Finstad’s 2001 book Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood in 2015, I knew in my gut something was not right, including her portrayal of the evidence as pointing in the direction of accidental death. So, I outlined a strategy and gathered as many official records as I could online. And each time I found something, there was always a question about it—Was it complete, altered or unofficial? Then I researched the California Public Records Act. All 50 states have public records laws that allow the public to request documents from state and local governments. You need to read the entire law for the state you are interested in and look at court cases interpreting that law, because some states, like Arkansas, limit access to current citizens of the state.

After satisfying myself that California had no such limitation, I sent CPRA requests to the LASD and the coroner’s office for their files on Natalie Wood’s death. I want to add a footnote here. Before sending the CPRA requests, I wrote to Finstad and Sam Kashner, the author of an article about Natalie that appeared in Vanity Fair magazine in 2000. I wanted to see if they would share the LACSD and coroner files they purportedly used to write their respective stories. I did not receive the courtesy of a response from either of them. Furthermore, as stated in my book, I gave all three men aboard the yacht the night Natalie went missing—Wagner, Christopher Walken and Dennis Davern—an opportunity to talk with me. Likewise, there was no response or cooperation. I knew going in some of the records were probably protected under California law, even though I seriously doubted there was still an active Natalie Wood murder investigation as the LACSD would claim. But I was also confident that both agencies had waived any claims of exemption when their agents/employees gave records access to Finstad, Kashner, freelance writer Marti Rulli, chief pathologist Dr. Thomas T. Noguchi and coroner’s consultant Paul Miller. None of those people were state employees or agents at the time of the disclosures, but four out of five were making money selling presumptive facts about Natalie’s death. When the agencies stonewalled my repeated requests for disclosure, I sued to access critical records and photographs.

When the litigation ended, I had uncovered many details concerning Natalie’s death that had been hidden from public view for decades. I also explored the existence of a cover-up in 1981 and the LACSD’s motives for reopening Natalie’s investigation in 2011. But my solitary mission was to aid the public in understanding why Natalie’s death happened and permit facts and reasonable inferences to guide my readers’ judgments on who, if anyone, was responsible for her death. Approaching the investigation like an actual criminal probe, I feel I have presented a hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners account of what likely transpired on Catalina Island during Thanksgiving weekend 1981 and what the authorities did about it in 1981 and 2011.

Because of space limitations and relevancy to the overall subject matter of my book, I decided to provide those who are interested with materials relating to my investigation of Natalie’s case, including the lawsuits I was forced to file in California when the authorities there attempted to block my access to important documents and materials. I hope this will give you some idea of the efforts I made to properly investigate Natalie’s death. Clicking on the icons listed below will conveniently and automatically download the pdf.