Homicide detectives investigating the mysterious death of NATALIE WOOD 33 years ago should exhume the body to determine whether or not Robert Wagner killed her.
That’s the bombshell demand from the chief investigator on the cold case who claims to have unearthed new evidence suggesting the screen siren’s skull was brutally bashed in before she plunged to a watery death off Catalina Island in 1981.
“I believe that Natalie suffered a skull injury that rendered her unconscious,” investigative journalist Marti Rulli told The National ENQUIRER in a world exclusive interview.
But in a shocking breach of medical protocol, Natalie’s brain and skull were not examined in the original autopsy that determined she “accidentally drowned,” The ENQUIRER has learned.
“It’s an unconscionable oversight, as it may have established how Natalie was left unconscious before landing in the ocean!” Marti said. “If her body is exhumed, whether she suffered a skull injury could still be determined.”
Natalie is buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park cemetery in Los Angeles, alongside a cavalcade of Hollywood’s biggest stars – including Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin and Eva Gabor.
Her coffin would include chilling clues that could establish what really happened aboard the “Splendour” as the couple entertained her “Brainstorm” co-star Christopher Walken, it’s believed.
“It’s the only way to learn the truth about Natalie’s death,” a crime scene investigator told The ENQUIRER. “New forensic tests and techniques could help reveal how she was killed, or worse, who killed her.”
“Splendour” Captain Dennis Davern first blew the whistle on the alleged cover-up, claiming Wagner flew into a jealous rage and beat Natalie that night.
He and Marti co-authored the book, “Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour,” which was instrumental in police re-opening the case.
Other investigators have corroborated the foul play theory: As The ENQUIRER first reported, journalist Kathleen Hewtson said she believed Wagner beat Natalie so savagely her earlobe was “torn off” before she was dumped in the ocean.
According to Marti, that scenario matches with the Los Angeles medical examiner who, in 2013, questioned the original 1981 findings and changed Wood’s cause of death from “accidental drowning” to “drowning and other undetermined factors.”
Coroner Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran’s report cited unexplained fresh bruising on the actress’ right forearm, left wrist and right knee, along with a scratch on her neck and a superficial scrape on her forehead.
Officials concluded the wounds open the possibility she was assaulted before drowning.
What’s more, Natalie’s bladder contained several ounces of urine, “which scientifically proves she was not conscious in the ocean,” said Marti.
In the wake of the new evidence, one of the nation’s top pathologists has called for a fresh examination of Natalie’s remains.
“Having her body exhumed for a second autopsy can determine if anything was possibly missed,” Dr. William Manion, a forensic consultant, told The ENQUIRER.
Adding to the mystery surrounding the condition of Natalie’s body, The ENQUIRER learned she was laid out in an open coffin, her body draped in a full-length fur coat to ensure her extensive bruises were not visible to mourners.
A makeup artist on “Brainstorm” also tended to the actress’ battered face and neck, according to author Gavin Lambert’s book, “Natalie Wood: A Life.”
At the funeral parlor, Natalie’s then 7-year-old daughter, Courtney, asked to have the coffin opened so she could take one last look at her mother.
“RJ gave his permission and he and Courtney went and stood for a moment at the casket,” her sister Lana wrote in her book, “Natalie: A Memoir By Her Sister.”
As The ENQUIRER has reported, Lana firmly believes Wagner has gotten away with murder.
Likewise, Marti believes authorities have enough evidence to charge Wagner, 85. “With the extremely strong circumstantial and medical evidence that has piled up, Wagner’s celebrity should not factor into this,” she said.
“If it looks like a murder – and Natalie’s death certainly does – then it should be treated like a murder.”
The man heading the revived probe, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau Lt. John Corina, told The ENQUIRER he’s considered exhumation, pending further investigation.
Detectives recently flew Davern to Hawaii – where the “Splendour” is anchored – to re-enact Natalie’s terrifying final moments in a series of tests critical to whether Wagner will be charged.
The officer also told The ENQUIRER that Wagner has been ducking the detectives for years – and the case remains active.
Added Marti: “It’s time to let a jury decide. Arrest Robert Wagner!”