Salisbury Post, January 1, 1972
HOLLYWOOD (AP) — Peter Duel, the dark-haired Smith of the television Western series Alias Smith and Jones, has died in a shooting, which police said was a suicide. The 31-year-old actor’s body was found Friday (December 31, 1971) in the living room of his modest Hollywood Hills home, sprawled near a Christmas tree. Investigators said he had been shot in the head. A pistol was near the body.
Sgt. Dan Cooke said the police weren’t ruling out the possibility of an accident but said, “It tends to look like a suicide.”
A girlfriend who discovered Duel’s body told police she had been at his home watching his TV show with him Thursday night. The girlfriend, Dianne Ray, 29, said that after midnight Duel walked into a bedroom, took a revolver from a drawer, told her, “I’ll see you later,” and walked into another room. Then she heard the shot.
Police said friends and relatives reported that Duel had been despondent over a drinking problem. Court records showed that he pleaded guilty to a felony drunken driving charge last June after an accident in which two persons were injured.
Police investigators said a second bullet had been fired about a week ago from the gun which killed the actor. Cooke said Duel apparently had shot at a telegram, framed and hung in the hallway of his home, telling him he had lost election to the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild.
Duel, a bachelor whose real name was Deuel, was a native of Rochester, N.Y., son of Dr. and Mrs. Ellsworth Deuel who live in the Rochester suburb of Penfield. After attending St. Lawrence University, Duel studied acting at the American Theater Wing in New York City. He took a role in a road company of the comedy, Take Her, She’s Mine, wound up in Hollywood and stayed.
He had regular co-star roles in the series Gidget and Love on a Rooftop. This was his second season co-starring with Ben Murphy in Alias Smith and Jones, a comedy about two Western outlaws trying to reform themselves.
A spokesman said ABC has five more completed episodes of the show which it plans to broadcast at the regular time for the next five weeks, starting Thursday. Plans for the series after that were uncertain.
A memorial service is scheduled at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine at 3 p.m. Sunday. The body is to be flown to Penfield for the funeral and burial.
Survivors include his parents, a brother, Geoffrey, 27, also an actor; a sister, Pamela, a singer; and Duel’s grandmother, Mrs. J.B. Deuel of Penfield.