ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Thursday, investigators named actress Natalie Wood's husband -- actor Robert Wagner -- as a person of interest in her death.
Dennis Davern was the captain of the boat Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner were on in 1981. He lives in St. Augustine part of the year.
While he is out of the country right now, First Coast News spoke to his friend, Marti Rulli, Friday. Rulli co-authored a book with Davern about his experience on the boat the night Natalie Wood died.
"When Natalie died, he contacted me because he knew he could trust me," Rulli said.
Rulli spoke to First Coast News from her home in New Jersey. She and Davern have been friends since childhood.
"Dennis knows there was a huge fight on the back of the deck. He heard it. He turned on the music to try to drown out the sound of the fight just to protect them. He loved both of them," Rulli said. "Then, when everything went quiet, he went down to the deck immediately and Robert Wagner was right by the swim step and nervous and shaking and said "Natalie's missing. Go look for her." And Dennis did that."
Natalie Wood was not onboard.
"Dennis wanted to call for help. He wanted to turn on the searchlight and Robert Wagner said 'no,'" Rulli said.
Four hours later, according to Davern, Wagner called the coast guard.
"When your wife is missing, you just don't do that," Rulli said.
Wood's lifeless body was found in the water. Her death was ruled accidental, but Davern believed foul play was involved.
"Robert Wagner was with Natalie the last minute of her life," Rulli said, "and Dennis believes he had something to do with it."
Davern moved to St. Augustine. He and Rulli wrote a book about the death, prompting investigators to re-open the case in 2011. And now, investigators have named Wagner a person of interest. Dennis is pleased.
"He is very happy this has happened because he feels vindicated, substantiated, that it's not just his story now against Robert Wagner's. There are other witnesses who tell the same story Dennis told and passed a polygraph," Rulli said.