SANTA BARBARA, Ca. — “Tarzan” actor Ron Ely’s wife was stabbed to death in their California home by their 30-year-old son, who was then shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies, authorities said Wednesday.
Deputies summoned to the home by a 911 call found Valerie Lundeen Ely, 62, dead with multiple stab wounds shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday, a Santa Barbara County sheriff’s statement said.
The deputies talked to Ron Ely and identified his son, 30-year-old Cameron Ely, as the suspect, and found him outside the home in Hope Ranch, a suburb of luxury homes outside Santa Barbara, authorities said.
Cameron Ely posed a threat to deputies, four of whom opened fire and killed him, the statement said. It did not say what he had done that was threatening.
Ron Ely, 81, played the title character on the NBC series “Tarzan,” which ran from 1966 to 1968.
He was host of the Miss America pageant in 1980 and 1981 and later married Valerie Ely, a former Miss Florida. The couple had three children.
There was no report of Ron Ely being injured. Authorities confirmed he was at the home during the stabbing and the shooting, and an earlier sheriff’s statement said an elderly man in the home was taken to a hospital for evaluation.
The home where the killings took place is one of two addresses listed in public records for Cameron Ely. It is not clear whether he had been living with his parents.
The tall, musclebound actor Ron Ely was not quite as well-known as Johnny Weismuller, the Olympic swimmer who played “Tarzan,” the character created by novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs, in movies in the 1930s and 1940s. But Ely formed the image of the shirtless, loincloth-wearing character remembered by many in the baby-boom generation.
Ely said in interviews that he did his own stunts on the show, working directly and precariously with the tigers, chimps and other wild animals that were Tarzan’s friends and servants.
Ely’s Tarzan didn’t speak in the monosyllabic grunts often associated with the character. He was instead an educated bachelor who had grown sick of civilization and had returned to African jungle where he was raised.
Ely also played the title character in the 1975 action film “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze,” but otherwise had mostly small roles in TV and films including the 1958 movie musical “South Pacific.”
Ely retired from acting to focus on his family in 2001. But he returned briefly in 2014 in the TV movie “Expecting Amish.”