‘Alias Smith’ Star Killed With Own Gun, Police Report
by Doug Shuit, Times Staff Writer; Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1972
Actor, Peter Duel, 31, a star of the television series, Alias Smith and Jones, was found shot to death with his own gun in his Hollywood Hills home Friday, police said. Investigators said the death was a “probable suicide.” A coroner’s office spokesman said the single gunshot wound in the right temple “was consistent with a self-inflicted type of wound.”
It was reported that Duel, who spent Thursday night at home with a girlfriend watching his show and a basketball game on television, had been despondent over a drinking problem.
The body of the dark-haired actor was found lying next to a Christmas tree in the living room of his rustic, two-bedroom home at 2552 Glen Green Terrace. A snub-noted, .38-caliber revolver, which he usually kept in a bedroom, lay at his feet, police said.
Miss Dianne Ray, 29, an unemployed secretary who was with the actor Thursday night, reported the death at 1:25 a.m. Friday, police said.
Drinking Problem Told
Police said that during questioning of Miss Ray and the actor’s brother, Geoffrey Deuel, 28, also an actor, it was reported that Duel — who had shortened his family name — was despondent over his heavy drinking.
Last June, Duel entered a plea of guilty to a felony drunken driving charge stemming from an accident in West Hollywood in which two persons were injured, court records showed. Included in the terms of probation was the condition that the actor refrain from drinking and stay out of bars.
Duel played Joshua Smith opposite actor Ben Murphy, who plays Thaddeus Jones, in Alias Smith and Jones, a popular Western series.
Hollywood Det. Eugene Kamadol said Miss Ray told officers that she and the actor, a bachelor, had watched the television show and then the Los Angeles Lakers-Seattle Supersonics basketball game on television.
Miss Ray said she was in a bedroom when Duel came in, took the pistol from a drawer and said, “I’ll see you later,” Kamadol said. A short time later, Miss Ray said she heard the shot, the detective related.
Officers found two empty shell castings in the revolver. One of the shells apparently had been fired about a week earlier at a telegram Duel received from the Screen Actors Guild saying he had lost an election to the guild’s board of directors, police said. The telegram had been pinned to a wall.
The bullet that killed Duel passed on through a window and landed on the floor of a carport across the street.
Duel, who spent two years at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., before leaving to study acting at the American Theater Wing in New York City, said in an interview four weeks ago that acting in a television series “is a big fat drag to an actor who has any interest in his work. It’s the ultimate trap.”
“Such a Dreadful Bore”
“It isn’t the work that tires you, it’s that it’s all such a dread bore that it makes you weary, weary…” he said.
Before getting his role in Alias Smith and Jones, currently in its second year on the ABC network, Duel was a regular in the television series Gidget and Love on a Rooftop.
Besides his brother, Duel leaves his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J.B. Deuel, and a grandmother, Mrs. J.B. Deuel, all of Penfield, N.Y. Memorial services are scheduled for Sunday at 3 p.m. at Glasband-Willens Funeral home in Hollywood. The body will be flown to Penfield for funeral services and interment.
Photo Caption: Mourn Actor’s Death — Geoffrey Deuel, brother of TV’s Pete Duel, leaves the Hollywood police station with a friend, Jane Saghner, on right, and Dianne Ray, a friend of the actor who was found shot to death with his own gun. The actor starred in Alias Smith and Jones.