Feb. 11, 2013
Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner
Without a doubt, this glamorous woman’s fatal midnight plummet from the deck of The Splendour into the cool ocean waters off Catalina Island in 1981 has got to be the most high profile “accidental drowning” on record.
In the hours preceding her watery demise, she was overheard loudly quarreling with an enraged and jealous husband. They had been at this all day, in fact. All evening they’d been drinking.
Married, divorced, and remarried for a second try, the two were known to have a volatile relationship, with more than their fair share of public and private disagreements, be they drunk or sober. But this argument was different. The worst one yet.
When she drowned, she had prominent contusions in “no particular pattern” all over the front and back of her body. Some of these were fresh injuries, said to have been obtained as she frantically grappled with a small, wooden dinghy secured to the side of the yacht. Some she’d received just days before plunging to her death.
He mysteriously disappeared on October 12, 2012 from downtown Indianapolis, Indiana where he'd spent the evening entertaining himself at a few popular watering holes.
Peppers Bar, Applebee's Restaurant, Mindshaft, Landsharks...the 23-year-old friendly, fearless, and athletic Walton Matthew Ward spent an hour or two at all of these crowded establishments, socializing, dancing, and drinking at each one before moving on to the next.
At 10:30 p.m. when his mother buzzed his cell phone just to touch base with him again and chat for a few minutes, Ward assured her everything was okay and that, as might be expected, he was having a blast.
But shortly thereafter, at approximately two in the morning, there was a drastic change in that happy status. Ward was dragged from Landsharks by security staff into the parking lot, and during this event he placed an emergency 911 call which was terminated after only one second.
After that, the outgoing young man wouldn't be seen again until October 23rd when construction workers downtown discovered his body floating in the White River.
In America, if you’re going to die, especially before your time, it better be by natural causes and not require a whole lot of investigation to support that finding. Because, if your death is the result of foul play but there’s no glaring evidence of blunt force trauma, it’ll probably be through either good luck or powerful connections that it’s ever ruled a homicide.
Why is that? Well, for starters, there are tons of dead bodies piling up out there and a dearth of medical examiners to perform thorough autopsies on them.
It’s also about money.
Expediency in making death determinations is one of the major reasons that the relationship between a local police department and the coroner’s office is so “tight.” Cops are often the first to be called to the scene whenever a corpse is found, and their opinions greatly influence how closely forensic pathologists in turn look at that body once it’s been transported to the morgue and placed on a slab.
If, for instance, a deceased young male is fished out of the river after he vanished from a nearby pub or party, then, unless the lad’s also missing his head or bullet-ridden, his death is almost instantly ruled an “accidental drowning.” This will be true, regardless of how suspicious his initial disappearance might have been, or whether the non-recreational water fatality occurred during a cold-weather month.
Open, shut and certified: “The guy was drunk, went to the water for some fresh air, slipped on a rock, fell in, and died.”
At its best, law enforcement working side by side like this with a medical examiner so to expedite a cause of death is arguably an economical and efficient arrangement which can quickly dispose of those cases where there clearly is “no sign of foul play” involved.
But, at its worst, this coziness presents a situation that’s just rife for corruption and cover ups...
Face it, you don’t have to live very long to discover that people with the courage to follow their convictions are a pretty uncommon breed.
You don’t have to look very far either to see that other important species are also becoming equally rare these days, thanks to the unwavering industrialization of the planet and, as a consequence, the steady deterioration of Earth’s vulnerable ecosystems.
Famed fugitive from justice and wildlife researcher, Rebecca J. Rubin, was barely in her twenties when she decided to bravely act on her belief that world corporations and their “puppet” governments were wantonly exploiting global resources and inflicting widespread environmental devastation in their wake.
These are the true eco-terrorists in her opinion, not herself or the Earth Liberation Front, an elusive group of skilled arsonists of which she is a card-carrying member.
Sought for over a decade by the FBI for her and ELF’s anti-corporate misdeeds and methods, Rubin finally surrendered to authorities yesterday at the Canadian border, thus ending her role in a campaign of economic sabotage that is estimated to have inflicted over $40,000,000 worth of losses on the enemy.
A drop in the bucket really, when compared to the billions of dollars of damages derived from just one oil spill, or those wrought this year alone by super-storms, droughts, floods and wildfires, the legacy of environmental plundering and degradation that began in the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution.
Self-confessed teenage psycho-killer Austin Reed Sigg has another hearing today, as justice for Jessica Ridgeway begins to clumsily meander through the criminal court system like a drunk on a binge.
Gag orders issued by the judge, though standard practice of late, aren’t helping much, either. Because of that restriction, both the prosecution and defense remain mum on exactly what to expect from today's proceedings or where the case is ultimately headed, and when it might get there.
The matter, crystal clear when the youth was first apprehended, is becoming murky already, as measures are taken to push it off the public’s radar so the jury pool doesn’t get tainted.
Will Sigg cop a plea well before then and spare the county the expense of a dragged out trial, maybe cough up another victim or two in hopes of sweetening the deal? Or will the 17 criminal charges he faces be transferred to the juvenile court where he could expect to receive total privacy and far more lenient sentencing if convicted?
With the purpose of writing about true crime in an authoritative, fact-based manner, veteran journalists J. J. Maloney and J. Patrick O’Connor launched Crime Magazine in November of 1998. Their goal was to cover all aspects of true crime: from organized crime to serial killers, from capital punishment to prisons, from historical crimes to celebrity crime, from assassinations to government corruption, from justice issues to innocent cases, from crime films to books about crime. Read More