Did This Missouri Woman Murder Her Friend and Then Try to Frame the Victim's Husband?
The family of Elizabeth "Betsy" Faria has been thrown curve after curve in the ongoing mystery of who really stabbed her to death in 2011
The family of Elizabeth “Betsy” Faria has been thrown curve after curve in the ongoing mystery of who really stabbed her to death in 2011.
The prosecutor in Lincoln County, Missouri, originally charged Russell Faria, Betsy’s husband. He was convicted of murder in 2013 and sentenced to prison, but he argued all along that investigators overlooked another person whom his lawyers deemed an “obvious suspect”: Betsy’s friend Pamela Hupp.
Hupp became the beneficiary of Betsy’s $150,000 insurance policy after Betsy’s death, the result of a change made by Betsy just days before she died. Hupp also drove Betsy home on the night she was killed, before Russell told authorities he returned from a night out with friends to find her bloodied and lifeless body.
Russell’s appeal of the verdict won him a new trial, which meant that Betsy’s relatives and friends had to sit through the testimony all over again. But at the second trial, in 2015, during which the judge called the investigation in the case “disturbing,” Russell was acquitted.
“There were a lot of police mistakes,” Betsy’s sister, Julie Swaney, tells PEOPLE. “I was really down on the justice system. How is someone supposed to get a fair trial with so many mistakes made? We never got to the bottom of what happened to her that day.”
Another twist was yet to come.
On Aug. 16, 2016, police say Hupp fatally shot a man in her home, allegedly staging the incident to make it look like the man had been hired by Russell to kidnap, rob and kill her. Her goal, authorities believe, was to divert attention back to Russell and away from herself as Betsy’s slaying received a fresh look from law enforcement.
(Police also are reviewing the death of Hupp’s 77-year-old mother, Shirley Neumann, who died in 2013 in a fall from her third-floor balcony. Hupp, 58, is the last person known to have seen her mother alive. That case originally was ruled an accident.)
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Hupp has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the shooting death of Louis Gumpenberger, 33, as her lawyer contends she has been the target of a “local barrage of innuendo.”
She sits in jail on a $2 million bond, awaiting a scheduled April 2018 trial for which the prosecutor has announced plans to seek the death penalty.
The unfolding narrative has raised more questions than answers for Betsy Faria’s family.
“Why, eight months after his [Russell’s] acquittal, is she [Hupp] all of a sudden making this desperate attempt to make it look like he was responsible?” asks Swaney. “That couldn’t have just come out of the blue.”
Swaney and Betsy’s daughters from a prior relationship, Leah and Mariah Day, remember Betsy as a spirited woman who faced a terminal breast cancer diagnosis — she had been given three years to live at the time she was killed — by continuing to play tennis almost every day.
Her daughters recall a mom who took them to their first rock concerts. In high school, at the start of a longtime side gig as a deejay, Betsy had even spun the tunes for her own senior prom.
“She just did everything her own way,” says Mariah.
“She was very positive,” says Swaney. “Everyone felt like she was their best friend when they were around her. She always wanted to hear about you, what’s going on in your life. She didn’t want to talk about herself. She tried to make other people the focus.”
Although Betsy and Russell’s marriage had its “ups and downs,” according to a lawsuit Russell filed against Lincoln County Prosecutor Leah Askey after his acquittal, the couple enjoyed a cruise with friends and were “very happy” in the weeks before Betsy was killed.
But testimony in a later civil case over the insurance money, filed by Betsy’s daughters, revealed Betsy had been weighing divorce and was looking for someone to ensure her daughters received her death benefit.
Pamela Hupp was not the only person she asked, according to testimony. The two had met when both worked in an insurance office.
“She was one of [Betsy’s] hundred of friends — definitely not her closest friend,” Swaney says. “I think in a rash decision, Betsy went to Pam.”
In the investigation into Betsy’s death, says her daughter Mariah Day, “[police] didn’t look at Pam Hupp at all.”
But the turn represented by Hupp’s current murder charge highlights the desire for Betsy’s family to seek resolution for Betsy’s death.
“I don’t ever feel there was justice after the first trial,” Mariah says. “There was just still so many unanswered questions.”
Swaney echoes that, saying, “There were more questions after the second trial than after the first.”
Still, she says, “I have faith that one day we will have all the answers.”