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Breaking Down Last Night’s 48 Hours-Natalie Wood Updates

For anyone who has read Goodbye Natalie Goodbye Splendour, the big “reveal” from last night’s updated repeat of a CBS News/Vanity Fair 48 Hours investigation into the re-opening of the Natalie Wood drowning investigation was already well familiar.

In chapters 32 and 34, author Marti Rulli writes that she encouraged Splendour captain Dennis Davern to call Wood’s younger sister Lana in 1992. During these conversations, Davern speculated about different possible scenarios involving Natalie’s final moments on the boat with Robert Wagner. Ten years later, Lana revisited these talks with Suzanne Finstad, author of the 2001 biography Natasha, with a taped excerpt of that conversation showcased on last night’s program.

There were two problems with this. One, 48 Hours made no mention of the wealth of related information in Rulli’s book. Two, the show misleadingly framed the Wood-Finstad audio as “Davern told her [Lana] he saw what happened to her sister.” Even though Lana is next heard saying that Davern “said it appeared to him…” (in the non-literal sense). From Rulli’s book:

Suzanne informed me that Dennis, years ago, had corroborated to Lana part of the Marilyn Wayne and John Payne account – that in fact Natalie was in the water crying for help as R.J. argued with her. She said Dennis had told Lana that R.J. “might have” pushed Natalie into the water and that R.J. decided to teach Natalie a lesson by not helping – taunting her when she was in the water.

A much more legitimate reveal from last night’s program was the news that the LA County Sheriff’s Department flew Davern to Hawaii in July to step back on board the Splendour to help with the ongoing re-investigation. 48 Hours even somehow managed to obtain video of Davern’s emotional reaction.

We contacted Rulli to get her thoughts on last night’s 48 Hours broadcast. “Dennis and Lana discussed many possible scenarios during their 1992 conversations,” she told us via email. “The episode completely validates the information revealed in Goodbye Natalie Goodbye Splendour, and I fully support the LASD’s efforts with their ongoing investigation of the Wood case.”

There was scant information in updated show portions about what is sure to remain a central element of the renewed investigation: the autopsy report and bruises found on Wood’s body. For now, Rulli agrees with Winstad from last night’s show; the recent change on Wood’s death certificate of the cause from accidental to undetermined is “huge.”

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