The Tragic Story Of William Shatner's Third Wife's Death

The following article discusses issues of alcoholism and addiction.

Having celebrated his 90th birthday in March 2021, William Shatner has been an important thread in America's cultural fabric for decades. The Canadian actor rose to prominence in the 1960s, when he first began playing the part of Captain James T. Kirk in the "Star Trek" franchise. The role later transformed him into a cultural icon thanks to syndicated reruns, as The New York Times Magazine noted. Shatner initially tried to fight the fame off — even telling "Trek" fans to "get a life," per the outlet — but the cult following was here to stay. He went on to star in seven movies based on the original series.

Shatner has undoubtedly enjoyed a colorful career — an adjective that can also be used to describe his love life. Shatner has had four marriages, the last of which ended in January 2020 when his divorce from Elizabeth Martin was finalized, as Fox News reported. His first divorce, however, coincided with the end of "Star Trek: The Original Series," as he and actor Gloria Rand split in 1969, per The Biography Channel. Shatner shares his three children with his first wife, the report noted.

Shatner went on to marry Marcy Lafferty, with whom he shared the screen in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and "T.J. Hooker," per The Biography Channel. They divorced in 1996, just a year before he married Nerine Kidd. The marriage, however, would end in tragedy two years later.

William Shatner's third wife, Nerine Kidd, drowned

William Shatner found Nerine Kidd's lifeless body in the swimming pool of their Hollywood Hills home around 10 p.m. on August 9, 1999, CNN reported. She was 40 years old. Autopsy results found Kidd's blood to have elevated levels of alcohol and sleeping pills, according to The Los Angeles Times. Kidd's body also showed injuries to her face and neck, which led authorities to conclude she jumped head-first into the pool and hit the bottom of the pool, the report detailed. Kidd's cause of death was attributed to accidental "drowning associated with neck trauma," per People.

Kidd dealt with addiction for years — an issue that affected the marriage, according to The Biography Channel. The LA Times noted Kidd had been convicted of drunk driving on several occasions and undergone rehabilitation. "My grief was overwhelming. This was the type of pain that makes you think either I'm simply going to die or I'm going to kill myself," Shatner wrote in his 2018 memoir "Live Long and...: What I Learned Along the Way." 

Despite their marital struggles, Shatner never stopped loving Kidd, he said on CNN's "Larry King Live" in February 2002, while also describing the extent of her illness. "My wife, whom I loved dearly and who loved me, was suffering with a disease that we don't like to talk about — alcoholism — and met a tragic ending because of it," said the actor.

Leonard Nimoy tried to help William Shatner's wife

William Shatner's friends tried to help Nerine Kidd in her fight against alcoholism, including his "Star Trek" co-star Leonard Nimoy, with whom Shatner remained close despite their early feud. Nimoy had struggled with the condition in his early acting days and could recognize it in his friend's partner, Shatner wrote in his 2008 memoir, "Up Till Now: The Autobiography" (via the Daily Mail). "After Nerine and I had been to dinner with Leonard and Susan Nimoy one evening, Leonard called and said: 'Bill, you know she's an alcoholic?' I said I did," he wrote, believing Kidd would "give up alcohol for me." 

Later on, Nimoy took Kidd to Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, but she continued to struggle. While he couldn't help Kidd, his efforts left a deep mark in Shatner. "Leonard Nimoy's personal experience of alcoholism ... helped us bond together in a way I never could have imagined in the early days of 'Star Trek,'" Shatner wrote.

After his third wife's tragic death, William Shatner felt inspired to raise awareness for alcohol addiction. He established a fund in Kidd's name to raise funds for Friendly House, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that helps women in their recovery journey from alcohol, he explained in a letter published on his website (via Sci Fi Wire). Shatner also urged fans to make a donation. "My beautiful soulmate has moved on, and I am determined to accomplish something lasting and meaningful in her memory," he wrote.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).