Sunni Welles, an actor and musician who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, died on Monday in Downey, California, after battling lung cancer, as Variety reports. She was 72. Her son Shaun O’Banion confirmed the news via Twitter.
Welles began her acting career at the age of 10 and appeared in popular TV shows such as Leave It to Beaver and My Three Sons. Born Nancy Kay Rihl in Caracas, Venezuela, she adopted her stage name when she was a teen.
Her entertainment career spanned music and dancing in addition to acting, and she toured the world performing. In 1979, she starred as the principal dancer with the Folies Bergère musical variety show in Las Vegas.
In 2015, Welles alleged Cosby sexually assaulted her when she was 17 years old in the Sixties. According to a March 2015 statement she made via her lawyer Gloria Allred, Welles claimed she met Cosby while on set for I Spy and that he later invited her to a jazz club, where she ordered a Coca-Cola. Welles stated that she didn’t remember leaving the club or driving anywhere. What she remembered next was “waking up naked in a bed alone in a sparsely furnished apartment” and feeling as if she had had sex. She alleged that after she called Cosby to ask what occurred, he said that she had drunk champagne and he took her to the apartment to sleep it off. At the time, she said she believed him.
In a second incident, she went to dinner with Cosby at the Magic Castle where she recalled drinking a Coke again and she “awakened in the same room alone and naked.” She said they never spoke again. Welles was among dozens of women who accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them. In 2018, Cosby was convicted of sexual assault. His conviction was overturned in June 2021 by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
In the late Nineties, after Welles retired from acting, she played as a jazz soloist in her band Shiver in California. According to IMDB, she also appeared in the credits as a production assistant for Quincy M.E. in 1983 and appeared in O’Banion’s 2004 short, Lift.