At one time Cameron Ely was a golden boy—with a pedigree of elite schools on his resume, a place on the Harvard football team and a revered place in his “Tarzan” actor father’s heart—but this week the 30-year-old's life took a dark turn after authorities say he stabbed his mother to death and was later killed by deputies near the family’s Hope Ranch home.
Ely was shot to death Tuesday night by Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputies after posing a "threat" to them outside his family's home, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.
Just before the 30-year-old’s life came to an end, authorities said he stabbed his 62-year-old mother Valerie Lundeen Ely to death, then tried to blame the act on his elderly father, Ron Ely, according to a dispatch recording obtained by The Blast.
But before Tuesday night’s family tragedy, Cameron Ely at one time had a promising life before him. As a handsome 6-foot-5 high schooler, Ely had once won the 2006 Mr. Royal talent competition at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara, according to The New York Post.
He was also an accomplished football player, taking home high school trophies as the school’s quarterback before finishing his high school career at the prestigious New Hampshire boarding school, Phillips Exeter Academy.
From there, he’d go to Harvard where at one point he was a member of the football team. In a 2007 article from The Harvard Crimson highlighting new incoming talent, Ely is described as a player with “a GPA above 4.0, questionable arm strength and supreme intelligence.”
Ely graduated from the Ivy League college in 2012 with a degree in psychology, a campus spokesman told People.
His father told Fanboy Planet that same year that his son was living at home—along with the couple’s two older daughters—each in separate wings they had created for the children. Cameron’s suite was upstairs in the home and took up two rooms, he said.
“It's great in the morning. We see each other. We see each other in the evening, we see each other when they come and go. We're always in touch. We weren't always when they were in school anyway,” Ron Ely said.
Ron Ely said he and his wife wanted their children to feel welcome at the home for as long as they wanted.
“I think it's important that they feel that, and know that,” he said. “It gives them a security that you don't have when you're out there struggling on your own, and maybe not eating so well, not able to make the rent. But it's nice to know you’ve got a place to come back to.”
Ron Ely said it was his dedication to his own family that caused him to step back from acting—after having successfully played the title character in the 1960s TV show “Tarzan” and serving in recurring and guest roles on popular shows such as “Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island.”
“I am fully committed to my wife and my children. That’s why I stepped out of the business because I wanted to spend more time to raise my kids,” Ron Ely said.
Less is known about Cameron’s later years, however. The Los Angeles Times reports that the former football player had been licensed as a security guard for the last two years.
On Tuesday night, the sheriff’s office reported receiving a call about a family disturbance at the Ely home. When they arrived, they found Valerie Ely—a one-time Miss Florida—dead from multiple stab wounds.
Ron Ely, now 81, was unable to clearly talk due to a medical condition but was somehow able to tell authorities that his son was the suspect in the brutal stabbing. After searching the property and surrounding grounds, they found Cameron Ely outside where the sheriff’s office said he “posed a threat” and was killed by deputies.
No motive has been released in his mother’s stabbing.
Ron Ely was taken to a local hospital for evaluation after the tragic night that ended the lives of two family members.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.