Lifestyle & Human Interest

Former Miss Florida and Wife of 'Tarzan' Actor Ron Ely Reportedly Murdered in Her Own Home


Update: At 2:30 p.m. PST Wednesday the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department sent out a news release confirming the victim’s identity as actor Ron Ely’s wife, Valerie Lundeen Ely, 62. The department also released that the identity of the suspect — who was fatally shot on scene by four deputies — is Ron and Valerie’s 30-year-old son Cameron Ely. The full news release can be found at the bottom of this article. The story is still developing. We will update this article as more information becomes available.

Valerie Lundeen, former Miss Florida and the wife of “Tarzan” (1966-68) actor Ron Ely, was reportedly found dead in her Santa Barbara home on Tuesday night.

Authorities responded to reports of a domestic dispute at the actor’s home around 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday night before discovering an elderly woman’s body with apparent stab wounds.

According to CNN, an elderly man with impaired speech who was at the property at the time told authorities that another family member was involved in the fatal stabbing.

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Assuming the suspect was still on the property, deputies launched a search for the suspect with the help of a back-up air support unit.

Once they located the suspect, Lt. Erik Raney of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office said the suspect posed a threat to officers before they opened fire.

“We don’t know exactly how many shots were fired. We did have several deputies that were involved in the shooting. Fortunately all of our deputies are OK,” Lt. Raney told KEYT.

While Ely’s relation to the elderly woman was not immediately clear, a man who claims to be a close friend of the actor’s wife confirmed that it was Valerie Lundeen.

“My good friend Valerie Lundeen Ely was stabbed yesterday, RIP Valerie- great woman !! Bummed today,” Dale Goodman wrote on Facebook Wednesday morning.

It is unknown if the 81-year-old actor was home at the time of the disturbance, but Ely was reported safe by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s department, according to CNN.

Ely starred in various television shows in the 1960s, but is most commonly known for playing the lead role in NBC’s 1966 series “Tarzan.”

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The actor retired in 2001 and told the Fresno Bee that he stepped away from his career to spend more time with his family.

“I stepped out of acting to raise a family and be able to spend more time with them here in Santa Barbara,” he said in 2014.

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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