Gerard Homer Soules (Aug 3, 1936 – June 4, 1992)

Gerard Soules in a publicity portrait for the Ice Capades, 1988. From The Collection of The Soules Family; Digital colorization by Lorna Clark.

Gerard Soules in a publicity portrait for the Ice Capades, 1988. From The Collection of The Soules Family; Digital colorization by Lorna Clark.

Gerard Homer Soules (Aug 3, 1936 – June 4, 1992) was a famous trapeze artist with Ringling Bros. He performed in the center ring for five years. His last performance was for Queen Elizabeth.

His signature move was a forward somersault off the trapeze catching the bar again with his heels. Soules never missed until Belgium, 1964. A near fatal accident in front of the audience destroyed his self-confidence. He retired as a trapeze artist.

He returned to the ring with a poodle act which he performed until his death. Soules was murdered in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was 56 years old. Soules was inducted in the Circus Hall of Fame in 2005. His murder remains unsolved.

As you can read below, his case may be closed but it isn’t solved. There is biological material that as far as I know, has not been tested. Every reason to make this the Case of the Month for May 2019.

Soules’ Career

After leaving Ringling Bros., Soules performed with Billy Smart’s Circus in London and in the USA with Clyde‑Beatty‑Colex Brothers’ Circus in a plate‑spinning act. He rose to stardom again with his celebrated dog troupe “Poodles de Paree” of eighteen dogs.

For years he was the leading act traveling with Holiday on Ice, Ice Follies, and Ice Capades. He retired from the ice rink to return to the circus ring. Later, he got a long‑term contract at the Circus Casino in Las Vegas.

Soules was born in Canada but grew up in Detroit, Michigan. He loved the circus and dreamed of a career in the air as a trapeze artist. He never married. He had a brother, James, and a sister, Kathy. The fact that he was gay didn’t bother his family and they supported him in everything. He left them at age sixteen to join the circus.

At the time of his death, Soules was a heartbroken man. His partner of many decades had passed away. I have not found more information about his partner or how the man died.

Photograph Soules Family

Photograph Soules Family

Soules’ Murder

Soules’ remains were found by his boss when he didn’t show up for work. Soules was stabbed to death multiple times indicating a highly personal murder. His body was found inside his trailer.

The Circus Casino did not allow Soules to stay in their own RV park with his poodles despite the fact that he performed for them and his dogs were quiet. Soules was therefore staying in a trailer park in Silver Nugget Camperland.

The trailer was ransacked. The mattress was soaked with blood and a bloody trail led to the bathroom. The entire room was sprayed with blood. Soules’ throat had been cut and he was stabbed several dozen times.

Wrongful Conviction

Several days before he died, Soules met a man called Fred Steese. Both men were lonely and in need of companionship. Steese needed a steady income and Soules needed a new assistant. Soules’ previous assistant was Alexander Kolupaev. He was a Russian defector, short of stature, with receding red hair, and always in need of money.

Steese didn’t have an easy life. His mom left him when he was just ten years old. He was in-and-out of foster families and group homes. At age sixteen, he had stolen a truck. To work as Soules’ assistant, Steese needed a work permit for the casino. He had a parole violation in Florida on his record so he knew he would not get that permit. He left Soules and the job opportunity.

Steese was arrested and charged with the Soules murder despite the fact that there were clear indications that Steese could not have killed Soules. The evidence that Steese wasn’t even close to the state of Nevada at the time of the murder was kept from the defense.

At the police department, Steese was interrogated. With a low IQ he misspelled his own name. He repeated his innocence which angered the sceptical detectives. As a result, Steese started to tell them stories about Soules and the murder. After about five hours, he signed a confession about his sixth version of how the crime might have happened.

The trial started in January 1995. Steese ended up with a guilty verdict and was sentenced to life without parole.

On Oct 20, 2012, Judge Cadish ruled that Steese was innocent. However, the Clark County District Attorney wasn’t giving up. They threatened with lengthy appeals and even a retry or, Steese could accept an Alford Plea. Accepting the Alford Plea would mean giving up your right to sue, the conviction would stay in the books, the prosecution didn’t have to admit any misconduct and above all, it avoided any criminal sanctions and civil liability in the case. Steese accepted. He just wanted to be free.

An Alford plea (a.k.a. a Kennedy plea in West Virginia) is a guilty plea in a criminal court however, the defendant can maintain their innocence in the case while at the same time pleading guilty and accepting the status of a convicted felon. We saw this before in the Richey case.

For more on the Steese case, I refer you to the excellent ProPublica article below. As awful as Steese’s wrongful conviction is, we have forgotten that the Soules murder has not been solved.

If Steese didn’t kill Gerard Homer Soules, should we not try to find out who did?

Suspects

One of Soules’ neighbours told police that at the time of the murder he had seen a short man, balding, with red hair. Where exactly isn’t clear but this description looks more like Alexander Kolupaev than Steese. Kolupaev was convicted for jewelry theft shortly after Soules’ murder and was deported. He was never investigated in regards to Soules’ murder.

DNA

Gerard’s sister Kathy has a room in her home dedicated to her brother. It is a shrine with everything she has from him including his silver ring. That ring is stained with blood. It was sent to her by the coroner in an envelope.

Is the blood on that ring from Soules or might we find another profile if we tested the ring with modern technology? We will not know until we try and so far nobody has offered her any help. Nobody seems to care.

The Soules murder file is considered closed due to the Alford Plea so no new investigation, money or, a review will be dedicated to find out who really killed Gerard Homer Soules. And that is a shame.

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In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight old cold cases. These posts are not an in-depth analysis and of course, often more information can be found online and in newspaper archives. I have listed some articles in the resource section below.

The goal of these posts is to get the cases back in the spotlights, to get people talking again, and if anything to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are unsolved does not mean that we can forget about them.

If you have any thoughts about this case I encourage you to post them on your own social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. Every time that we mention Gerard Homer Soules’ name online we enhance his digital footprint.

We must make sure that he keeps his web presence if we ever wish to find answers in his case. You can help by linking to or sharing this post.

Thank you for remembering Gerard Homer Soules us.

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Resources:

Nevada Public Radio

Huffington Post

Vanity Fair

Death Penalty Information Center

ProPublica