Palmetto High grad and wife of ex-‘Tarzan’ star stabbed by son, cops say

Valerie Lundeen was a junior at Miami Palmetto High in 1973 in this yearbook photo.
Valerie Lundeen was a junior at Miami Palmetto High in 1973 in this yearbook photo. Palm Echo Yearbook, Palmetto High

A former Miss Florida and Miami Palmetto High graduate was brutally murdered in her California home that she shared with her husband, Ron Ely, the famed ‘Tarzan’ actor, authorities said Wednesday.

Photo from the television program “Tarzan.” In photo are Ron Ely (Tarzan) and Andrew Prine. Photo is in Public Domain Photo is in public domain

On Tuesday evening, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call at the home of Ely, the lead actor in the television series, “Tarzan,” which ran from 1966 to 1968.

Deputies found Valerie Lundeen Ely, 62, dead with multiple stab wounds shortly after 8 p.m., according to a sheriff’s department statement.

Valerie Lundeen won Miss Florida in 1981, representing Miami. She grew up in Miami-Dade County and graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High School, Class of 1974.

She was also a former flight attendant and won Miss Airlines International in 1980, according to The Miami News.

Valerie Lundeen (middle) was a Chatonette in her senior year at Miami Palmetto Senior High School in 1974. The Chantonettes were a performance group that was part of the marching band that marched, drilled, danced and performed kick routines. Palm Echo 1974

The suspect was the Elys’ son, 30-year-old Cameron Ely, deputies said. After searching the area, deputies found Cameron outside the Santa Barbara County home. The sheriff’s office said he posed a threat and four deputies shot and killed him. No deputies were injured.

There was no report of Ron Ely, 81, being injured. Authorities said he was at the home during the stabbing and the shooting.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident.

Soya Owens, who went to high school with Valerie, posted on Facebook condolences and said she was “a very sweet person.”

Helen Berggren, another classmate of Valerie’s said on Facebook, ”I flashed back when Val told me she was marrying Tarzan. She was very funny. Standing near the escalators at Burdines, her laugh so distinctive and a radiant smile that was more beautiful than her blonde tresses.”

Valerie’s daughters Kirsten and Kaitland, who are both social media influencers, have not yet spoken about their mother’s murder. The couple had three children, according to news reports, Cameron and the two sisters.

Miami Herald Real Time Reporter Devoun Cetoute covers breaking news, Florida theme parks and general assignment. He attends the University of Florida and grew up in Miami. Theme parks are on his mind in and out of the office.