Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, January 1, 1972; by Tom Ryan.
Los Angeles police said last night Rochester-born actor Peter Duel’s death “looks very much like a probable suicide,” but that it could have been an accident. Duel, 31, co-star of the television series Alias Smith and Jones, was the son of Dr. and Mrs. Ellsworth S. Deuel of 1790 Penfield Road, Penfield.
Duel was found shot to death on the living room floor in his Hollywood Hills home beside a Christmas tree about 1:25 a.m. yesterday. His .38-calibre revolver was by his body, police said.
Detective Lt. John Konstanturos of the Hollywood Division of the Los Angeles Police Department said the possibility of homicide had been all but ruled out. Konstanturos said an investigation indicated Duel “had been upset over several … personal matters,” but said there was no indication of severe despondency.
The detective said the shooting was reported by Dianne Ray, 29, an unemployed secretary said to have known Duel about two years. She told police Duel invited her to his house Thursday night to watch his show on the ABC network. (The program was aired here between 8 and 9 p.m. Thursday.)
Police Sgt. Daniel Cooke, news media liaison officer, said Miss Ray told detectives Duel switched channels to watch a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game and she went into another room. Miss Ray said she was awakened by the rattling of paper and saw Duel unwrapping a gun he had taken from a bedroom dresser. It had been in a box wrapped in paper, Cooke said.
Miss Ray said the actor then muttered “I’ll see you later” and went back into the living room. Moments later, Miss Bay, said she heard a shot and ran into the living room to find Duel dead.
Cooke said there was indication that Duel had been drinking, “but we don’t know how much.” A medical investigation was still going on, he said. Duel, known as an outdoor man who liked to take off for the mountains in his camper truck, has had problems with drinking, police said.
Last June 15, he pleaded guilty to drunken driving as a result of an auto accident Oct. 24, 1970. A Santa Monica judge placed the actor on two years’ probation and gave him a suspended sentence of 180 days in county jail.
The judge also ordered Duel to abstain from alcoholic drinks and to stay out of bars and cocktail lounges. The judge dismissed a second drunken driving count and one of leaving the scene of an accident.
Investigators said they discovered that a second shot had been fired from Duel’s gun about a week ago. They said the actor had shot a telegram framed and hung in the hallway of his home. The telegram said he had lost election to the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild.
Among those interviewed by police after the shooting was Peter’s brother, Geoffrey, 27, also an actor, who lives in Los Angeles. Sgt. Cooke described Geoffrey Deuel as “extremely shaken,” adding that “he took it very hard.”
Duel, a bachelor, played the role of happy-go-lucky Hannibal Heyes in the Alias Smith & Jones television series about two western outlaws trying to reform themselves.
Duel filmed an episode for the show Thursday and spent a full day on the set. An associate described him as cheerful then. The actor was to return to the set at 8 a.m. yesterday. Ben Murphy, the co-star in the series, could not be reached.
ABC said it hasn’t had time assess the effect of Duel’s death on the show’s future. Alan Cahan, the show’s publicist, said the series had been renewed. Cahan said he spent Christmas Day with Duel and “He was fine, in good spirits.”
Police described Duel’s small two-story home in the foothills of Hollywood as “modest” in a middle to upper neighborhood. Peter dropped the first “e” in the family name for professional reasons. His brother, Geoffrey, kept it. Their sister, Pamela, is a singer with the Entourage group.
Peter graduated from Penfield High School in 1957. He attended St. Lawrence University, where he majored in English drama and psychology. His father, a third-generation physician, saw Peter in a college production of “The Rose Tattoo” and urged him to pursue an acting career.
Peter successfully auditioned for the American Theater Wing in New York City and spent two years studying and appearing in plays. He got his first big break in show business when he was signed for the movie Wounded in Action, which was filmed in the Philippines. He later had a top role in the national road company production of Take Her, She’s Mine, which starred Tom Ewell.
Although he desired to be a feature film performer of note, his greatest success came in television. He had parts in such TV series as Combat!, 12 O’Clock High, The Fugitive, Ironside, The Virginian, The Name of the Game, Marcus Welby, M.D., The Young Lawyers, and The Bold Ones. He played the brother-in-law in the Gidget series and starred as a young bridegroom in “Love on a Rooftop” with Judy Carne.
Although friends said Duel was pleased with his career, he had indicated otherwise in a recent Los Angeles Times interview. He said he was fed up with the grind of doing a series and felt his creativity was being stifled.
The dimple-faced, square-jawed actor with the soft-spoken easy manner and determined ambition also had strong interests in such things as ecology and overpopulation. He also found time for piano lessons, guitar playing, sketching and writing free verses.
Memorial services are scheduled for 3 p.m. tomorrow at the Glasband-Willens Funeral Home in Hollywood. The body then is to be flown to Penfield for funeral services and burial.