November 19, 2021

‘Tarzan’ Star Ron Ely Lost Wife & Son on the Same Day in 2019 - His Son Killed His Mom

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Ron Ely took a break from his acting career for thirteen years to spend more time with his family. Five years after returning to the big screen, his son Cameron stabbed his mother and the actor's wife to death. 

Ronald Piece Ely, otherwise known as Ron Ely, is recognized as an American actor and novelist. On June 21, 1938, he was born in Hereford, Texas, and spent most of his childhood days in Amarillo.

He gained fame in 1966 when he played the lead role in the popular series "Tarzan." The TV show aired on NBC for two years before it came to a halt. Ely played the fictional character, Tarzan, a young boy raised by apes in the African jungle. 


American actor Ron Ely plays Tarzan in a TV series, circa 1967. [Left] | Actor Ron Ely and family attend Second Annual Toys for Tots Benefit on December 19, 1992. [Right] | Photo: Getty Images

The storyline was drawn from a 1914 book written by well-known Fiction Writer Edgar Rice Burroughs. After his appearance on "Tarzan," the actor made appearances in other classic movies like "Fantasy Island" and "Expecting Amish."


Fans of the star also witnessed his acting prowess when he was featured in the 1975 box office hit "Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze." The icon also did well as an event host, hosting the Miss America Pageant.

Ron Ely at Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel & Convention Center on Saturday October 9, 2011 in Burbank, California. | Photo: Getty Images



Despite his busy schedule as an entertainer, Ely afforded enough time for his personal life. He has been married twice, and his second marriage was to former Beauty Queen Valerie Lundeen. Lundeen captivated the hearts of many with her incredible looks.

In 1981, she competed in and won the Miss Florida beauty pageant while representing Miami. Later that year, after winning the title, Lundeen competed at the Miss USA beauty pageant but did not win.

Valerie Lundeen attends Third Annual Cathy's Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic on June 25, 1977. | Photo: Getty Images


Ely and Lundeen tied the knot in 1984, and their marriage yielded three children — their son, Cameron, and two daughters, Kirsten and Kaitland.

Even though the actor was famous for his contributions to the movie industry, his dedication to his immediate family was top-notch and left many wondering.

Actor Ron Ely and wife Valerie Lundeen attend Third Annual Cathy's Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic on June 25, 1977. | Photo: Getty Images



In 2001, Ely decided to take his devotion to his family to another level. He took a break from show business to spend more time with them. The author stayed away from acting from 2001 to 2014.

Ely spoke candidly about the reason behind his decision during an interview at Comic-Con with the website Fan Boy planet. He revealed that he stepped out of business to be fully committed to his wife and children.

Ely said he wanted to spend more time raising his kids, which he did. The father of three paused movies and decided to put his talent as a writer to work. At home, Ely began writing books.


Monochrome portrait of actor Ron Ely circa 1975. | Photo: Getty Images

Being at home meant that he became available for his children's sports games and other school events. Overall, Ely was grateful to share those little but precious moments with his kids and watch them grow.


The Hollywood icon's close bond with his family was often commended, but these days, Ely's name and family are associated with a gruesome tragedy. 

The lawsuit alleged that the deputies violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution.

Actor Ron Ely attends the Paley Center for Media and the Warner archive collection 'Retro TV Action-Adventure-Thon' on September 22, 2012. | Photo: Getty Images



In October 2019, detectives called to Ely's Santa Barbara home in California met the shock of their lives upon arrival at the location. The police officers found Lundeen's body lying lifeless with multiple stab wounds.

The officers searched the apartment and its surrounding. While they were at it, Cameron walked towards the police from the backyard with his hands up. Reports revealed that the young man killed his mother and was bleeding from the lower part of his body from multiple stab wounds.

American actor Ron Ely playing in the annual celebrity tennis tournament, held at the La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California, 26th June 1971. | Photo: Getty Images


Upon seeing Cameron, four detectives on the crime scene released fire, shooting the young man 22 times, and killing him on the spot. The policemen relayed that they shot Cameron for various reasons.

According to them, Ely's son appeared to be threatening, failed to follow orders to hit the ground, and sprang up while moving his hands towards his waist and shouting, "I have a gun." After shooting Cameron, the detectives proceeded to search his body.

They found items like small rocks, a car key fob, crumpled papers, a bank card, playing cards, an iPhone in his pockets. They also found a plastic bag containing a substance that later tested positive for cocaine.


Actor Ron Ely and family attend Second Annual Toys for Tots Benefit on December 19, 1992. | Photo: Getty Images


Cameron was a brilliant young man with a bright future ahead. Seven years before his death, he had graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology.


He was also a quarterback on the school's football team and was listed on the team's roster as a freshman quarterback from Phillips Exeter Academy.

Ron Ely in a promotional photo for a Movie. | Photo: Getty Images



Following Cameron's death, Ely and his two daughters filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Santa Barbara County, four named deputies, and the Sheriff's office in the Federal Court in California.

In the document, the trio tagged the reprehensible conduct of the Santa Barbara's Sheriff's Department deputies as egregious, unconstitutional, and entirely unreasonable.

Ron Ely in a promotional photo for a Movie circa 1971. | Photo: Getty Images


The lawsuit alleged that the deputies violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. Also, it claimed that they conspired to violate civil rights in connection with the "unjustified use of deadly force, and denial of medical care," which resulted in Cameron's death.

Regarding the Sheriff's office and Santa Barbara County, the lawsuit claimed that failure to discipline the deputies demonstrated the existence of an entrenched policy and culture.

Ron Ely on a movie scene "The Love Boat" on December 6, 1980. | Photo: Getty Images


The document also asserted that the above-listed parties promoted, tolerated, and ratified with deliberate indifference the making of improper detentions and arrests.

Currently, it is still unclear if the case has been settled or it is still ongoing. The loss of Cameron and Lundeen will always be a tough pill for Ely and his daughters to swallow. May their souls rest in peace. 


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