Owner of ‘Splendour’, the Yacht Once Owned by Hollywood Stars Natalie Wood and her husband Robert Wagner, Becomes Instant Celebrity

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BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN- HONOLULU, HAWAII – Ronald Nelson has become an instant international celebrity.

The Honolulu resident, who has had a mooring permit in the a small boat harbor in Honolulu, is the owner of the Splendour, a yacht once owned by Hollywood stars Natalie Wood and her husband Robert Wagner.


The yacht, which will soon be inspected by Los Angeles investigators, may be a key part of the investigation reopened yesterday into the 1981 drowning death of Wood.

Reached by phone today, his wife said a number of media outlets are asking for interviews.

The Los Angeles Police Department said today in a press conference that using new DNA technology, investigators will examine the boat that Wood, Wagner and their friend Christopher Walken were on the night the actress died 30 years ago. They have not disclosed what they expect to find.

In a written statement, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said: ‘Recently sheriff’s homicide investigators were contacted by persons who stated they had additional information about the Natalie Wood Wagner drowning. Due to the additional information, sheriff’s homicide bureau has decided to take another look at the case.”

The boat captain Dennis Davern, who was with the trio the night Wood fell off the boat and drown, alleges that Wagner is responsible for Wood’s death and that he lied for Wagner in the past as a part of a cover up.

This comes as 48 Hour Mysteries and Vanity Fair magazine are about to release a special investigative report on the star’s demise.

48 Hours Presents Vanity Fair: Hollywood Scandal airs Saturday, Nov. 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS, the network’s web site said.

Police so far maintain that Wagner is not a target of the investigation.

However, Wood’s sister also claims Wagner is responsible for the beloved star’s death.

She told TMZ that Wagner “left her to drown” and told the captain to ‘Leave her there, teach her a lesson.”

Splendour, now berthed at Kewalo Basin

The captain said publicly today that he was prevented by Wagner from calling the U.S. Coast Guard for four hours.

Reports are that Wood, Wagner and Walken were drinking heavily that night, and Wood and Wagner had a volatile fight over whether Walken wanted to sleep with her. The captain claims to have turned up his music so he would not have to hear them argue.

The question police have to answer now is whether Wood fell, or slipped trying to get off the boat into a smaller dingy, or was pushed into the water while they were sailing off of Catalina Island.

Marti Rulli, who authored “Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour”in September 2009 could not be reached for comment, but her investigation – and the other new publicity surrounding her death – may have contributed to police reopening the case.

Splendour's fantail

Wagner has not made a statement about the LA police department’s decision.

A source close to the Wagner family told Hawaii Reporter that Wagner has been cooperating with the police and they don’t believe the captain’s story is credible.

A statement released from Wagner’s publicist is similar: “We trust they will 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.”

Wood, who was nominated three times for Oscars for her roles in West Side Story and Rebel with out a Cause, also starred as a child in such films as the Christmas classic Miracle On 34th Street and The Ghost And Mrs. Muir.

She was 43 when she died. The couple, who was married twice, first in 1957 and again in 1972 after being divorced for 6 years, had two daughters.

Meanwhile when the Los Angeles police will arrive in Honolulu is part of the mystery – at least for now.

Honolulu Police Department has not been contacted so far by Los Angeles authorities to aid in the investigation, according to Caroline Sluyter, spokesperson for HPD.