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Natalie Wood witness says she heard 'Help me, I'm drowning'

Natalie Wood witness Marilyn Wayne heard 'a woman's voice crying for help,' on the night of Nov. 28, 1981. Ms. Wayne is the first new Natalie Wood witness to emerge since the investigation was reopened Friday.

By Dan WhitcombReuters / November 23, 2011

Actress Natalie Wood shortly before her death in 1981. A new witness has come forward in the reopened investigation into her death.

AP file

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Los Angeles

A new witness has emerged in the investigation into the death of Natalie Wood.

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California resident Marilyn Wayne said that she heard “A woman’s voice, crying for help from drowning, awakened John, and he awakened me. ‘Help me, someone please help me, I’m drowning’ we heard repeatedly. Alarmed, I called out to my son, who also heard the cries, and looked at his new digital watch: it was just minutes after 11:00 P.M.,” said Ms. Wayne in a sworn statement.

ABC News reports that Wayne said she and her boyfriend, John Payne, were sleeping aboard a sailboat, the Capricorn, on Nov. 28, 1981. The window of the cabin was open. According to Wayne’s statement, Payne turned on the sailboat’s beam light and played it over the area while she went up onto the deck, though it was dark and damp and she says that she was unable to see anything.

Homicide detectives who reopened the investigation into the drowning death of Wood  after three decades said on Friday that the film star's husband, actor Robert Wagner, was not considered a suspect.

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The new inquiry into Wood's mysterious drowning off the California coast in 1981 comes amid new attention to the case on its 30th anniversary. The captain of the yacht she was on before her death now says that he lied to police at the time and holds Wagner responsible for her death.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lt. John Corina told reporters at a news conference on Friday that two homicide detectives had been assigned to reexamine new tips.

"Recently we have received information which we felt was substantial enough to make us take another look," Corina said. He declined to elaborate on the new information.

Asked by reporters if the now-81-year-old Wagner, one of three people on board the "Splendour" with Wood that night, was a suspect, Corina responded: "No."

Wood's body was found floating in a Catalina Island cove on the morning of November 29, 1981. The 43-year-old actress was dressed for bed in a long nightgown and socks, but wearing a red down jacket over her nightclothes.

The Los Angeles County Coroner at the time ruled the "West Side Story" star's death an accidental drowning, but questions have lingered for 30 years.

Corina said her death remained classified an accidental drowning, but added: "If our investigation at the end of it points to something else, then we'll address that."

Sheriff's officials have asked that anyone with knowledge about the case contact homicide investigators.

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