Dennis Davern, former captain of the Splendour, the yacht co-owned by Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood, repeatedly refused this morning on the Today show to spit out any hard specifics surrounding the November 1981 drowning death of Wood as he knows or recalls them. But the cowardly Davern did gradually and oh-so-vaguely finger Wagner as having been responsible for her death, particularly in his reluctance to try and find Wood after she’d disappeared in the wake of a huge fight.

NBC’s David Gregory, wielding a pair of pliers, finally pulled a few fragmentary facts out of Davern, who may be telling the truth but is obviously (to me anyway) a rather weak and snivelling coward who’s dealing with old-age guilt pangs. Gregory also got some alleged facts from journalist Marti Rulli, author of “Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour,” which she wrote with Davern’s input.

Rulli and Davern’s quotes combined: “The wine-bottle smashing [by Wagner]…a terrible argument broke out…minutes later Natalie was missing…Dennis wanted to turn on the searchlight and try to find Natalie, [but] Wagner told Davern not to take direct steps to find her…’we’re not going to look too hard…we’re not going to turn on the searchlight’,” etc.

It all seems to boil down to Davern’s assertion that Wagner was so consumed with rage and resentment over a possible affair Wood had been having with Walken that, in a furiously angry and possibly drunken state and in the wake of some kind of altercation that (according to Davern) involved an overheard “thump”, discouraged or blocked efforts to try and find his wife. Which could conceivably result in some kind of negligent homicide charge…or not. Or something in that roundabout realm.

Davern’s interview aired after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced yesterday that they are re-opening the investigation on Wood’s death, “saying that individuals had come forward with new information.”

“Recently Sheriff’s Homicide Investigators were contacted by persons who stated they had additional information about the Natalie Wood Wagner drowning,” a statement issued by the department on Thursday says. “Due to the additional information, Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau has decided to take another look at the case.”

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