LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The wife of the 1960s television “Tarzan” star Ron Ely was stabbed to death at their California home by the couple’s son, who was then fatally shot by police in a confrontation outside the residence, authorities said on Wednesday.
Sheriff’s deputies responding Tuesday night to reports of a family disturbance in the Hope Ranch suburb of Santa Barbara found the actor’s wife, Valeerie Lundeen, 62, dead from multiple stab wounds inside the home, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Deputies immediately identified the suspected killer as the couple’s son, Cameron Ely, 30, whom they found on the property outside after a brief search.
The younger Ely posed an unspecified threat to the deputies, leading them to open fire on him, the statement said. He was fatally wounded, but none of the four deputies involved in the shooting was hurt, according to the sheriff’s account.
The deputies were being placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, it said.
The elder Ely, 81, described in the sheriff’s account as disabled, was also found at the home and taken to an area hospital for evaluation. There was no immediate word on what may have precipitated the stabbing.
Ely is best known for playing the title role in the original prime-time TV “Tarzan” series, which ran from fall 1966 until fall 1969 – first on NBC, then on CBS.
He was the 14th screen actor to inhabit the role of the jungle hero created by Edgar Rice Burroughs since “Tarzan of the Apes” was released as a silent movie nearly a half century earlier.
Ely performed most of his own stunts, although the famed Tarzan yell was dubbed from a recording of Johnny Weissmuller, the Olympic champion swimmer who starred as Tarzan in a dozen Hollywood film during the 1930s and ‘40s.
In the 1980s, Ely hosted the game show “Face the Music” and twice hosted the Miss America Pageants. He and Lundeen, a former Miss Florida USA, married in 1984 and had three children, including Cameron.
Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Osterman