Lincoln County Prosecutor Mike Wood plans on re-opening the unsolved murder case of Betsy Faria.
“We’ve got about seven boxes of evidence and legal file that we’re going to re-open, take a look at, and just take a fresh approach to the entire investigation,” Wood said. “I’m not necessarily looking at anyone in particular, I don’t want to come in with any preconceived notions as to innocence or guilt, and so with that said, just take a new look at what’s there, see if anything pops out to us and just go where the investigation leads us.”
Wood made the announcement the day after Pamela Hupp entered an Alford plea to first-degree murder charges in St. Charles County, in a separate investigation from 2016. Hupp was a central figure in the 2011 murder case of Betsy Faria, who was stabbed more than 55 times at her Troy home in the evening of Dec. 27, 2011.
Russ Faria, Betsy’s husband, had been found guilty of that crime in 2013, but later won a retrial to be acquitted. Although she was never charged as a suspect in that murder, Hupp was the last person to have seen Betsy Faria alive, and was also the sole beneficiary of Betsy’s $150,000 life insurance policy – and she’d become the beneficiary only a few days before the murder.
Wood said he waited to re-open the Betsy Faria investigation until now for several reasons. In the course of the St. Charles County investigation of Hupp, information could have been unearthed to help in the Betsy Faria case; Wood also was holding open the possibility that in a negotiation for a plea and for St. Charles County to take the death penalty off the table, that Hupp would be required to confess to the murder of Betsy Faria.
“That was a remote possibility, but still a possibility,” Wood said. “Or the fact that, if it went to trial, that she would have taken the stand and testified. Again, those were things that I kind of wanted to see how they shook out before we took any steps on the case that we’ve got, because our job would have been done if she had admitted to it.”
Some of the original officers on the Betsy Faria case have left the department, and some are still involved in area law enforcement. Upon his acquittal and after spending three years in Jail, Russ Faria sued former Lincoln County Prosecutor Leah Askey and several investigators in that case for false arrest and due process violations.
“I know that there is currently litigation involving the first trial, which may present some issues for my office moving forward, but we’ll deal with those issues when we get to that bridge,” Wood said.
While there is a deal of local awareness regarding the Betsy Faria case – especially in the wake of Hupp’s plea deal – Wood said his office is handling the re-opened murder investigation as if it were any other case.
“I think my job, and justice requires, that we take a look at any unsolved murder, do our due diligence and handle it to the best of our abilities,” Wood said. “I wouldn’t say that it [public awareness] puts any additional pressure, but certainly there’s a sentiment that I think people are looking for a resolution, or at least some answers if we can even provide them.”
On June 19, St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar held a press conference following Hupp’s plea deal in the first-degree murder case of Louis Gumpenberger, who was shot dead in 2016 in St. Charles. During the course of the Gumpenberger investigation, Russ Faria’s name came up – and evidence presented by Lohmar makes it appear Hupp intended to pull a frame-up on Russ Faria.
“We all knew in the law enforcement community the controversy and questions surrounding the Lincoln County murder case several years before this,” Lohmar said. “In which Russell Faria was charged and first convicted, and then later acquitted, of the murder of his wife. As most of us know, there were certainly questions about Pamela Hupp’s involvement in that case.
“I don’t have anything to offer you in the way of a direct connection between this case and any sort of criminal liability she may have in any other case, but I explain how these cases are just inextricably connected because of the players involved.”
In August of 2016, when Gumpenberger was killed, Hupp had told police Gumpenberger attempted to rob her at knifepoint in her car, that Gumpenberger had demanded she drive him to the bank to “get Russ’ money.” Hupp had claimed she’d struggled, knocked the knife away and fled inside her home, where she shot Gumpenberger in self-defense.
“We came to find out that that was a lie,” Lohmar said, adding that several things came up in quick succession that caused them to question the case
Inside Gumpenberger’s pockets, police found $900 in cash and a handwritten note with directions to kidnap Hupp, get “Russ’ money” from her at her bank, and then kill Hupp.
However, cellphone records show she drove to Gumpenberger’s residence shortly before the incident, and investigators say Hupp lured the developmentally-disabled man into her vehicle and drove him to her house with the promise of a cash reward.
Detectives also found that serial numbers on the cash found on Gumpenberger were sequential with the serial numbers on bills found in Hupp’s home.
Russ Faria had been interviewed in the Gumpenberger case, but was quickly eliminated as a suspect, Lohmar said.
At the June 19 press conference, Lohmar laid out the evidence against Hupp, and discussed the final result of her Alford plea, which occurs when a defendant does not admit to a crime, but admits the prosecution’s evidence would be overwhelmingly likely to persuade a jury.
Lohmar had been seeking the death penalty for Hupp, but with her plea, she was sentenced to life without parole.
“She will never spend another day of her life outside of a prison cell,” Lohmar said. “We don’t ask for the death penalty unless we believe the person deserves it. As I stand here today, I tell you I believe she deserves to be put to death.”
Lohmar said several factors – like letting Gumpenberger’s family have peace and the long, costly process of a death penalty case – led the prosecution to accept the plea and the life sentence.