Sunni Welles, Actress and Bill Cosby Accuser, Dies at 72

Welles was also a singer known for performing “Rio de Janeiro Blues”

sunni welles
NBC News

Sunni Welles, an actress, singer and one of the woman who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, has died. She was 72.

Welles’ passing was announced Tuesday by her son Shaun O’Banion, who referred to her as an “extraordinary woman.” She died Monday in a hospice care center in Downey, California.

Welles first got her start as a child actress, appearing on shows such as “Leave It to Beaver” and “My Three Sons,” taking her stage name from the word “Sunshine” and her surrogate father, screenwriter Halsted Welles.

Welles said in a statement through Gloria Allred in 2015 that she had met Cosby on set of “I Spy” when she was just 17 in the mid 1960s when her mother was working as a story editor at Paramount Studios. In meeting him she described her love of jazz and that she could do a good Nancy Wilson impression for him. She claimed she had been drugged after spending time with Cosby out at a jazz club and woke up the next morning naked in a sparsely furnished apartment and feeling as though she had just had sex.

Cosby was released from prison in June after a Pennsylvania judge overturned his conviction for a felony sexual assault charge in 2018 of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. Cosby was serving a three to 10 year prison sentence, and at the time of his conviction, Welles described how his actions shaped the person she is and could have been, and she said of him that “you will always be an unforgivable, disgusting, sexual deviant.”

Welles was also a singer who performed with her band Shiver, and her son shared a song called “Rio de Janeiro Blues” along with the news of her passing. Her band toured throughout California in the ’90s.

Some of Welles’ other credits include an appearance in Steven Spielberg’s “1941,” “Quincy M.E.” and “Lift.”


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