Police allege Jennifer Faith created fake email accounts to make it seem like her husband was abusing her, hoping to trigger her high school boyfriend's rage
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jennifer and james faith
Jennifer and James Faith

People in Oak Cliff, Texas, pull together in good times and bad, and on October 9, 2020, something very bad happened.

Jennifer and Jamie Faith were walking their Bernese mountain dog, Maggie, at about 7:30 a.m., just like every morning. They had only made it as far as the unoccupied house next door when a stocky man wearing baggy jeans, a blue mask and a hoodie darted out of the back yard and walked up behind them. He shot Jamie seven times: three times in the head, three times in the torso and once in the groin. He then tried to take some of Jennifer's jewelry after duct-taping her hands, but he quickly gave up, jumped into a black pickup truck parked on the street and sped away. Her injuries were minimal, but Jamie died on the scene.

Almost immediately, Oak Cliff sprang into action. Jennifer Svelan, 46, had never met Jennifer Faith, but by the day after the shooting she had reached out to a Facebook group called the Oak Cliff Ladies Club to set up a GoFundMe page that soon raised more than $60,000. The Ladies Club got a meal train running too, providing two meals a day for several weeks, including a vegan Thanksgiving feast for Jennifer and her grown daughter, Amber. Many members remotely attended the funeral, which was held in Arizona, where the Faiths lived before Texas. "The community went all out. They really did," Slevan says.

A few months later, Jennifer went on the TV news to thank everyone and to plead with authorities to capture the person who was the "backbone of my family." And on Feb. 24, 2021, federal authorities did arrest someone — Jennifer herself.

They have charged her in a bizarre alleged murder-for-hire plot, claiming the man in the hoodie was actually Jennifer's old high school boyfriend, Darrin Lopez, 49. Authorities say they had rekindled their relationship via an "emotional affair" conducted largely over email. But Jennifer didn't just romance her old flame, they say. She also ignited his jealous side with emails sent from fake accounts including one — jamiefaith511@gmail.com — in which she pretended to be Jamie himself.

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In one post, "Jamie" bragged about inflicting emotional and sexual abuse on his wife, sometimes including photographs as evidence. "Good stuff. Enjoy knowing you can't do a f---ing thing about it," reads an email to Lopez from the account, which has a photograph of a bruised Jennifer attached. But authorities say that photo was actually taken in 2012, as evidence from car crash she was in.

darrin lopez
Darrin Lopez

Jennifer later allegedly created another account, this one purportedly from an unidentified man who claimed he had knowledge of Jamie's physical and sexual abuse of Jennifer, who also attached photos of injuries. Lopez, who lived in Tennessee, would write back to the unidentified man. Federal documents quote him as saying on May 20, 2020, that he said he wanted to "put a bullet" in Jamie's head but Jennifer "keeps telling me no." The next day, Jennifer allegedly wrote back from the fake man's account: "If it were up to me I would tell you to go for it with your idea—lol; I'll give you an alibi." Five months later, Jamie lay dead on his own street.

Lopez was arrested in January 2021, after authorities tracked the black pickup truck from the scene of the shooting to his home in Cumberland Furnace, Tenn. They also discovered a trove of communications between him and Jennifer in Lopez's phone, according to the charging documents, including 261 voice calls and 116,171 text messages, a few of which discuss Jamie's life insurance and retirement account. Police also allege that Jennifer spent more than $110,000 to pay the bills on two credit cards in her name that she told Lopez he could use.

Lopez, who pleaded not guilty to a gun charge after authorities found the alleged murder weapon in his house, is expected to enter a plea to the murder charge soon, says his defense attorney. Jennifer has yet to plead on murder for hire charges. She potentially faces life in prison or the death penalty.

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People who knew the Faiths says they had no inkling of trouble in their marriage. A Wisconsin native and Green Bay Packer fanatic, Jamie worked for American Airlines as a technology director. Jennifer, a speech pathologist by training, had been married before; Jamie adopted her daughter, Amber, after their marriage nine years ago.

The Faiths also loved to entertain. They lived in the biggest house on Waverly Drive, complete with a backyard pool and a huge grill. Though Jamie was something of an oenophile — "He wrote his own software to do an inventory of the wine he had," Weber says — at heart he was an easy-going Midwesterner who in his spare time mentored students at Southern Methodist University. "It was heartbreaking, telling the students he wasn't going to be involved with them anymore because he'd been murdered," says Ed Weber, Jamie's friend and former co-worker.

In retrospect, the Faiths' neighbors in Oak Cliff wonder if they should have been more suspicious. Only a few months after the shooting, Emery Wilson noticed that Jennifer's Facebook profile picture, which had originally featured her and Jamie, had been edited to remove him. "The audacity of somebody to crop out their murdered, 17-year partner after I don't know how many weeks," he said.

Still, few people in Oak Cliff regret having jumped to Jennifer Faith's aid.

"The overwhelming majority is like, 'I don't care that I spent X number of dollars or X number of hours,'" says neighbor Jenna Wilson. "I would do it again if I thought that a neighbor was in need because that's who we are, and we're not going to change because somebody was awful. If nothing else, our actions were a witness that people care."