David Soul’s Teen Elopement: A Journey from Early Parenthood to True Love at 66

The late British-American actor David Soul experienced five marriages throughout his life and proudly embraced his role as a father to six children. Despite early challenges, he found lasting love at the age of 66. Let’s delve into his life and family.

David Soul, best known for his iconic role in “Starsky & Hutch,” passed away at the age of 80 on January 4, 2024. His wife of 13 years, Helen Snell, announced his demise, remembering him as a “beloved husband, father, grandfather, and brother.”

In his final moments, Soul engaged in a “valiant battle for life” surrounded by his family. Despite facing financial difficulties in recent times, Soul cherished his family, once expressing, “When I’m surrounded by my six children, I feel rich.”

Born on August 28, 1943, into a family of preachers, Soul’s parents, June Johnanne and Dr. Richard W. Solberg, were deeply religious. His grandparents and brother were also part of the clergy. Soul’s multiple marriages had a profound impact on his parents, who had celebrated 64 years of marriage.

Reflecting on his marital struggles in 2012, Soul shared, “My parents were together for 64 years, and I’m on my fifth marriage, so they weren’t too happy with the situation.” Despite his regret, he acknowledged the need to move forward.

Soul’s journey with matrimony began at the age of 19 when his girlfriend, Mirriam Russeth, became pregnant. Fearing his parents’ disapproval due to their strong moral values, Soul chose to elope with Mirriam at the age of 21. The hastily decided marriage, however, lasted only 18 months, concluding when he discovered Mirriam with another man.

In 1968, Soul entered his second marriage with actress Karen Carlson, welcoming their son Jon. This union lasted nearly a decade before ending in divorce in 1977.

Soul’s third marriage was to Patti Carnel Sherman, the ex-wife of Bobby Sherman, his co-star in “Here Come the Brides.” They married in 1980, but their union faced significant challenges.

In 1982, Soul took on the role of Humphrey Bogart in the NBC miniseries “Casablanca,” hoping to revive his career amid a decline. Despite his fame from “Starsky and Hutch,” the miniseries struggled, leading Soul to cope with the stress by increasing his alcohol consumption.

His frustrations spilled over into his personal life. On October 26, 1982, Soul informed Patti that he would be home for dinner at 6 PM, but by 11 PM, he had not returned. This wasn’t the first time he had been out late, and Patti, already dealing with much, was not inclined to listen patiently.

At the time, Soul and Patti had a nine-month-old son named Brendan, named after Soul’s friend, comedian Brendan Grace. Patti also had two sons, Christopher and Tyler, from a previous marriage.

When Soul arrived home, he had been drinking, and Patti confronted him about it. Responding with harsh language, Soul’s verbal aggression often escalated to physical violence. Fearing a repeat of previous abuse, Patti, in her fear, asked him not to come home. When he insisted, she warned him that she would call the police.

Having experienced physical abuse before, Patti reported Soul to the Los Angeles police and sought protection. The police advised her to leave the house, but she couldn’t. Instead, she contacted the Bel-Air Patrol, a private security service funded by local residents.

Upon his arrival, Soul found two patrol officers with guns drawn, urging him not to enter. After promising not to harm his wife, they allowed him to enter. However, once they left, Soul confronted Patti about calling them and struck her. Recognizing the severity of the situation, he decided to leave to avoid further trouble, only to encounter Los Angeles police officers outside.

They inquired if Soul had been physically abusive, to which Patti affirmed. When asked if she wanted him arrested, she agreed.

Soul was taken aback, feeling both betrayed and abandoned, despite understanding her perspective. The incident made headlines three days later, and Patti only allowed Soul to return home after he expressed remorse.

At the court hearing ten weeks later, her friends expected her to request the dismissal of charges against Soul. To their surprise, she did not.

Instead, she told the judge, “I’m absolutely certain that violence will happen again. I want my marriage to work, and I want my children to grow up in a normal family environment, but that can’t happen as long as my husband has this emotional problem.”

Patti argued that her children couldn’t have a normal childhood while Soul’s emotional issues persisted. She insisted he needed therapy, which the judge concurred with.

The judge suspended sentencing and mandated Soul to participate in a two-year “diversion” program, which included abstaining from alcohol and not harming his wife.

At the program’s conclusion, the judge would decide whether Soul had successfully completed it. If so, the complaint would be dismissed, and his record cleared.

Failure to comply would result in the reinstatement of criminal proceedings. While Soul was surprised by Patti’s decision, he respected it, though he didn’t fully grasp her level of fear.

Later, he acknowledged her fear, given his past violence towards her. He admitted to struggling with anger management long before their relationship, never intending to hurt anyone.

Patti believed Soul’s violent tendencies stemmed from unresolved internal conflicts that required professional intervention. She felt her actions, though painful to Soul, would ultimately be beneficial.

Despite their efforts to resolve marital issues, Soul and Patti divorced in 1986. Soul reflected, “My third wife Patti and I had three kids. But I started drinking quite a bit. I got violent for a while. It was only one time, but we had another child after that.”

Soul felt Patti portrayed him negatively, a partial truth that deeply affected him. He lamented, “She ended up taking my kids 1,400 miles away from California, where we were, then got married to another guy.”

A year after divorcing Patti, Soul married actress Julia Nickson. They welcomed a daughter named China, who is now a singer/songwriter. Soul and Nickson divorced in 1993 but remained good friends for their daughter.

Nickson posted a throwback picture of her and China to mark Mother’s Day last year. In August 2020, she shared a throwback picture of herself and Soul from the Cannes Film Festival in 1990, which she attended with him and their daughter.

In the post’s caption, Nickson said she was not prepared for paparazzi calling their names as they entered the area. Soul shared a close bond with his only daughter.

In 2021, she wished him a happy birthday with sweet posts about him on Instagram. In one post, she shared a picture of him carrying her as a child and described him as the coolest guy she knows.

Soul had done well to rebuild his children’s trust following his history. He had six kids and six grandchildren, and the best thing he could do was to be there for them.

He said, “I make my trips back and forth, and I’m on the phone with them, trying to be there for them.” He added, “In the days when I was – as they used to call me – ‘one of the biggest stars in television,’ I got the balance wrong.”

He concluded his thoughts by saying, “The caring about what I looked like, what I sounded like, what I represented to other people was more important than being with my family.”

Soul maintained being optimistic about his frantic days of marriage, divorce, and broken marriages. However, he admitted remembering each one with sadness and said he dealt with each of his former wives in his own way.

The actor said he asked them to forgive him and revealed that at least three of his former wives are among his best friends, which was more important than the institution of marriage.

Fortunately, Soul found his lasting love later in life, when he married for the fifth time. He revealed he met Helen Snell while she was doing P.R. for “Deathtrap,” a play he toured in Britain.

They did not hit things off initially because of his aversion to P.R. However, as they evolved, he started seeing who she really was, and they eventually tied the knot on June 26, 2010.

He also revealed that meeting Snell made him become a British citizen. Soul described Helen: “And Helen, my wife today – I’m so in love with this woman. She’s the best.”

A few years before his passing, the actor confessed, “Helen is my life.” He candidly admitted, “She’s an incredible woman, a truly wonderful person. I’m a lucky guy.”

Despite having a few failed marriages, Soul found his “soulmate” in Helen, who stayed by him until his final breath. Besides, his last years were blessed with precious time with his beloved children and grandchildren.