In a startling twist to the long-running mystery behind NATALIE WOOD’s death, shocking new evidence may prove the beloved actress was murdered!

The National ENQUIRER can reveal in a blockbuster world exclusive the shocking new theory that Natalie’s husband, Robert Wagner, beat her and ripped her earlobe off during a violent brawl shortly before she died, according to an account published in a sensational new book.

Investigative journalist Kathleen Hewtson uncovered the stunning new evidence, and now one of the nation’s top pathologists is calling for Natalie’s remains to be dug up for another autopsy.

“Having her body exhumed for a second autopsy can determine if anything was possibly missed,” Dr. William Manion, a forensic consultant, told The ENQUIRER.

Natalie died Nov. 29, 1981, at the age of 43. She and Wagner had been entertaining her “Brainstorm” co-star, Christopher Walken, aboard their yacht “Splendour” before the trip turned tragic.

Kathleen, author of “The Night My Husband Killed Me,” told The ENQUIRER she believes Wagner, now 84, beat his wife bloody before dumping her in the ocean.

She claimed she tracked down a witness who boarded the 60-foot cruiser after the tragedy, and found an earring with a piece of Natalie’s earlobe still clinging to it!

“The cabin was just trashed, and she found one of Natalie’s earrings with a little piece of flesh attached to it,” Kathleen said.

Los Angeles County rescue boat captain Roger Smith, now 70, who declared Natalie dead, told The ENQUIRER he was aware of an on-board brawl because another rescue worker asked him, “Roger, did you look at the boat? It’s a mess – it was like they had a huge fight!”

While Wagner has admitted arguing with Walken that night, he claimed Natalie left them and went to the yacht’s master cabin.  The superstar’s body was later recovered in the water.

While police have not named either Wagner or Walken as suspects in Natalie’s death – “Splendour” captain Dennis Davern has long maintained there was foul play involved.

In 2011 police investigators reopened the case and a year later changed Natalie’s cause of death from “accidental drowning” to “drowning and other undetermined factors.”

For the FULL STORY with ALL the details – it’s ONLY in the new ENQUIRER – on sale now!