Brainstorm Blog

Who was on Natalie Wood’s boat when she died?

In late October 1981, the cast of Brainstorm, including Natalie Wood, Academy Award winner, Louise Fletcher and Academy Award winner, Christopher Walken, left location shooting in North Carolina and returned to Los Angeles, California to finish the final scenes of Brainstorm. By the time they arrived in Los Angeles, Thanksgiving was rapidly approaching, and Christopher Walken decided to remain in Hollywood so they could wrap the movie up as soon as possible. Natalie Wood and her husband, Robert Wagner, decided to have a Thanksgiving get together at their home and Christopher Walken was invited. Before that gathering, discussion had been had between Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner about taking their yacht, Splendour, to Catalina Island after Thanksgiving to spend a long weekend there, Friday November 27 through Sunday November 29.

According to friends of the Wagners, at least two and as many as four people were invited to go on the yacht with them Thanksgiving weekend, 1981. However, the friends said that due to personal circumstances, they were unable to go on the trip with the Wagners. That left Christopher Walken, Robert Wagner, Natalie Wood and the yacht captain, Deniss Davern, as the only passengers on Splendour when they left Marina del Ray to travel to the largest city on the island, Avalon, Friday, November 27, 1981.

According to the forensic evidence, Natalie Wood died between midnight, Saturday, November 28, 1981, and 1:00 a.m., Sunday, November 29, 1981. On the yacht were the boat captain, Dennis Davern, Robert Wagner, and Christopher Walken.

I the book Brainstorm the author takes a deep dive into the investigation and draws out many new facts surrounding the case.  One such account is below.

Paul Wintler, an Island maintenance worker on the scene recounted to the author what happened during the first hours after Natalie’s disappearance. Contrary to 40 years of reports, Wintler, a longtime troubleshooter for the Santa Catalina Island Company, was the first person to encounter Robert Wagner early that Sunday morning, November 29. His discussion of what Wagner told him of a fight between Natalie and Walken contradicts Christopher Walken’s age-old claims of ignorance about the night’s events because he was “asleep.” The chapter concludes with the author’s meticulous analysis of the handwritten investigative report of Deputy Bill Kroll, the sheriff’s department first responder who arrived on the scene early that Sunday morning.

The author’s persistent efforts to gain access to public records concerning the investigation of Natalie’s death, including two lawsuits filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court under California’s Public Records Act against the sheriff’s department and coroner’s office challenging their refusal to give him records and photographs relating to Natalie’s death, resulted in the author’s access to over 300 records, crime scene photographs and reports from the official files of both agencies that had been concealed for over three decades. Those records, which include investigators’ notes, tell a different story about the existing evidence in Natalie’s case that suggested Natalie’s death was not an accident. That evidence was ignored or concealed from the public eye until the author revealed it in his book Brainstorm.

The author also discovered that there was an intertwined close personal relationship between actor Jill St. John, Wagner’s current wife, Frank Sinatra, and Wagner. As well as a close relationship between Sinatra, Natalie, and Wagner before Natalie’s death. For the first time, the author exposed a confirmed timeline that establishes the fact that Wagner began publicly seeing St. John less than two months after Natalie died. The author also describes a timetable of Wagner’s suspicious movements between October 28, 1981, and November 14, 1981, two weeks before Natalie’s death, and provides a reasonable basis for believing that Wagner was seeing another woman (most likely St. John) before Natalie died.

The author also discloses, for the first time, a confidential memorandum from boating expert Paul Miller to Dr. Noguchi that the author obtained during his first public records lawsuit that revealed Miller’s findings after examining the Splendour and its Zodiac dinghy the day Natalie’s body was discovered.

Want to know more about the death of Natalie Wood, discover more inside the book.


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