Lincoln County Prosecutor Mike Wood confirmed Oct. 3 that he has requested the involvement of the Major Case Squad to re-open the Betsy Faria murder case.
“Now the call has been made to Major Case to activate for a case review,” Wood said.
Wood also said he’s made the request for St. Charles City to take possession of the evidence currently being housed at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, moving all of it to the St. Charles City Police Department.
“Just to protect the integrity of the investigation, and for the ease of investigation, since the majority of Major Case will be operating in St. Charles County,” Wood said.
“I’ve requested that as part of Major Case, no one in law enforcement from Lincoln County will be involved in that part of the investigation.”
Betsy Faria was murdered on Dec. 27, 2011, stabbed 55 times. Russ Faria, Betsy’s husband, was found guilty of that crime in 2013, but later won a retrial and was acquitted. Russ Faria filed a federal civil lawsuit against then County Prosecutor Leah Askey (though she was recently dismissed from the lawsuit by a judge) and several investigators at the Sheriff’s Office, with that suit claiming the named parties “fabricated evidence, ignored exonerating evidence and failed to prosecute the other obvious suspect in the murder.”
Another central figure in the Faria case was Pamela Hupp – the last person to see Betsy Faria alive – though Hupp was never charged as a suspect.
Wood said he respects the fact that there is a federal lawsuit going on involving the Sheriff’s Office, and said moving the evidence to St. Charles will keep the involved parties safe, and won’t bring unnecessary scrutiny to the investigation as it moves forward.
“And the other side of the coin is that just for purposes of ease for the investigation, having it held locally will help also, so I think it serves a couple of different purposes having it [the evidence] held there,” Wood said. In a separate case where a St. Charles County man was shot and killed in 2016, Hupp was sentenced to life without parole in mid-August, after entering an Alford plea in June.
After that June Alford plea, Wood had stated his intention to take another look at the Betsy Faria case.
Before Major Case is officially activated, Wood’s request will need to go through a case review – though St. Charles will still take control of the physical evidence pending that review.
“One of their sergeants is coming out tomorrow to take a look at what we have,” Wood said on Oct. 3.
Last week, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office released the Major Case Squad files from the 2011 homicide of Betsy Faria, and had planned to publish it’s own portion of the case files. Cottle had stated he wanted to be transparent, as well as to battle misinformation from “local and national media” surrounding the investigation.
“We’re just being transparent with the case,” Cottle had said on Oct. 2. “We couldn’t release it prior because there was either an ongoing investigation or there was a trial or pending lawsuits or other legal issues that prohibited us from releasing it.”
However, Wood said he stopped the Sheriff’s Office from releasing the rest of the files, because he believes it could impact the investigation moving forward.
“I met with leadership with the Sheriff’s department today and there won’t be any more information being released,” Wood said. “And that’s coming from my office.” The Major Case Squad files from 2011/2012 will stay published, but further documents will not be released.
“I believe that it could influence any further investigation moving forward if we did, and I didn’t want to run into that problem,” Wood said. “I want a thorough investigation that’s rock-solid on this. This has had national media attention from the beginning, so this one has to be air-tight.”
Activating Major Case would be a “big step” for the Faria case Wood said, and would provide assurances that “we have faith in the process, that my office is taking the case very seriously.”
“And I promise we’re investigating this as aggressively as we can,” Wood said.