The Investigation

The Producers

My litigation in Los Angeles was interrupted by publicity that led to something I cherish to this day.

The National Enquirer articles about my CPRA lawsuit against the sheriff and coroner let everyone know I was out there sniffing around. This eventually sparked a friendship with two remarkable British filmmakers.

I had been poring over the sheriff’s department’s records for weeks, including the painstaking process of deciphering each word of the investigators’ personal notes with a magnifying glass. Sometimes, when I got stuck on a word, it became a team effort to figure it out. I would photograph and enlarge the page and broadcast it to my team or send it to my experts who could assist me in understanding what had been written. I would then print the words in red above what was written in the printed text.

My wife, Pat, and I were planning a winter trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and I was hard at work deciphering the notes when I received a surprising email from Dave Nath, one of the principals of a London-based independent documentary and drama production company called Story Films.

In the email, Dave told me he had been doing some research on Natalie Wood when he saw an article that said I was conducting an independent investigation of Natalie’s death. He explained he was interested in visiting with me over the phone. My heart raced at the prospect of working with them, but I was only cautiously optimistic that it would work out.

By this time, I had uncovered some gripping motive evidence and at least two reporters and one network had attempted to entice me into revealing what I had uncovered for their planned TV shows and articles. I declined on each occasion when they refused to sign a confidentiality agreement that had been drawn up by my lawyer friend, Bob Hardin. It protected disclosure of my sources and efforts without my permission.

Of course, I replied to Dave that I would welcome a discussion by video teleconference. Dave was agreeable and the meeting was arranged within a couple of days. As soon as we began talking, however, I knew that my new British friend was someone I could trust.

Before our teleconference, I located the Story Films website where I was pleased to learn that Dave Nath is a three-time British Academy of Television Arts (BAFTA)-winning director. His 2015 trilogy The Murder Detectives was celebrated as the “documentary of the decade” earning him a BAFTA Best Factual Director honor. Trained as a print journalist and executive producer before concentrating on directing, I would soon learn his demand for excellence.

I explained to Dave that I did not want to disclose anything about the information I had found or how I obtained it and I wanted to keep it that way without an agreement. Dave had no problem with that. He told me he and his partner, Peter Beard, would be traveling to America to visit with representatives of TV and movie production companies.

Peter, known by his friends as Pete, is an Emmy-nominated and BAFTA-winning director and producer. He is also a superb cameraman. Pete’s 2015 film My Son the Jihadi was described as “near perfect television” by The Times of London and won a BAFTA for Best Documentary. That film has since gone on to be nominated for, or win, six additional awards. The Story Film website said Pete, “has always sought to make visually distinctive, intelligent films.” Natalie’s case needed that since most of the reporting to date had reduced the facts to shambles, and the articles and TV creations hadn’t helped things much.

Dave was hopeful that he and Pete could get together with me sometime during their trip to America. I informed Dave that I would be in Cabo for at least two to three months and if he and Pete wanted to meet with me anytime soon it would have to be there. I explained the geographical location of Cabo to LA, and Dave was going to discuss the matter with Pete and get back with me. It did not take long before I heard from him. The meeting was scheduled for January 2017.

I was in a state of euphoria over a possible joint enterprise. I was impressed with Dave and Pete’s history and their obvious commitment to producing quality products. While I was not interested in 15 minutes of fame, I needed something to boost my literary credibility. Like it or not, many books sell not because they are good or accurate, but because they have a name that translates into money and success for the publishing business. Unknown authors have to get a break with some sort of media attention.

The duo’s plan was to fly to Los Angeles, meet with network executives and during their stay, make a trip South for a couple of days to see me. When the time came for them to arrive and the trip was not cancelled, I knew just how serious they were. Eager for their arrival, I agreed to pick them up at the airport.

Pete had a movie camera in tow that he guarded like the Hope Diamond. He literally never let it out of his sight, including sleeping with it. It must have been unbelievably valuable, but I didn’t ask. During the 45-minute drive to our home in the Pedregal, we had a lot to talk about. After greeting Pat and Bella, our friendly spaniel, we quickly got settled and went to work. Over the next two fun-filled days, we would establish a trusting friendship that continues to this day.

Dave and Pete spent hours going through my documents, and both had me jumping during the filming process to create a “sizzle reel,” also known as a “demo reel.” Sizzle reels are short videos, usually no more than five minutes in length, that are used by independent film makers to sell their idea for a production “commission,” a contractual relationship that establishes a budget to produce a film. Of course, everything in the movie business, or for any business for that matter, revolves around finances and whether a production will be financially profitable for all concerned.

That is when I understood for the first time that their idea was a documentary about me investigating Natalie’s case, the evidence I had uncovered that established a potential homicide, the motive or motives for the homicide, and whether the homicide was covered up.

I will confess, it scared me at first. I did not want the project to fail because I was not interesting enough. I was not concerned for me personally. My concern was that I wanted my two friends to succeed, and I wanted Natalie’s case to be truthfully aired.

While the reel itself is confidential, I can state without equivocation that the demo reel produced by Dave and Pete for their Natalie Wood project was very well done. Pete’s camera skills and Dave’s direction made it easy for this hard-of-hearing lawyer to do his job. We also found time to enjoy the beauty of the jewel at the tip of the Baja and to eat at our favorite restaurants, and we downed a few Pacificos and margaritas along the way. When they left, Pat and I were sad to see them go. I am grateful to them for their kindness to Pat. She had just been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. But she remembered Dave and Pete for a long time after their visit.

The two movie makers also gave me some helpful ideas and leads on additional evidence. But I can tell you now that I regret not listening more closely to Dave’s observation about the format I was using for my book. It was hard for Dave to accept a trial format of someone who had never been charged with a crime. I thought that made the book unique, but looking back, I should have accepted it as a sign that agents and publishers would have the same reservations. That is why I shelved the first version and rewrote it in its present form.

While the commission did not work out for Story Films, in substantial part because the networks they approached erroneously felt there was not enough interest in Natalie’s case, I know that if they had been given the funds to produce what they envisioned, it would have been a well-received film accurately disclosing truthful facts and reasonable inferences.

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.