Pamela Hupp’s brush with murder came full circle on Tuesday, after authorities arrested the Missouri woman and charged her with the alleged fatal shooting last week of a man she claimed was an intruder in her home, PEOPLE confirms.
But in a twist, authorities said in a news conference the victim was a pawn in Hupp’s scheme to portray him as a hired hit man, and thus steer suspicion toward a second man who had questioned Hupp’s ties to the unsolved murder of the second man’s wife.
The intricate allegation stretches back to 2011. That’s when Hupp, 57, was the last person to see her friend Elizabeth “Betsy” Faria, who was stabbed to death at her Troy, Missouri, home just days after naming Hupp as the beneficiary of a $150,000 life insurance policy, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Prosecutors later charged and won a conviction against Faria’s husband, Russell, for Betsy Faria’s murder, and he served more than two years in prison.
But in a new trial last year, Russell Faria was acquitted – and his defense attorneys pointed to Hupp as an alternate suspect who never was officially named by investigators, reports KSDK.com.
Hupp did not testify in that retrial, but according to NBC News, a detective who did testify said that Hupp had told police she and Betsy Faria had been lovers.
Then, on Aug. 16, Hupp placed two 911 calls claiming she had been confronted by a man at her O’Fallon, Missouri, home who followed her inside. She initially reported a burglary in progress, and then a shooting. She allegedly killed Louis R. Gumpenberger, 33, at the scene.
Authorities now say that Hupp picked up Gumpenberger – a stranger with physical and mental impairments related to a 2005 traffic crash – then drove him to her house and staged the incident to make it look as if Gumpenbereger was a hit man hired by Russell Faria to come after her.
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Hupp is facing allegations of first-degree murder and armed criminal action, according to charging documents obtained by PEOPLE.
In Gumpenberger’s pockets, police said they found $900 cash double-bagged in plastic, along with a handwritten note with instructions to kidnap Hupp, drive her to the bank to get “Russ’s money,” then kill her to collect the balance of $10,000.
“We believe that Gumpenberger did not put those in his pockets,” St. Charles Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar said in a news conference.
“The evidence seems to indicate she hatched a plot to find an innocent victim and murder this innocent victim in an apparent effort to frame someone else,” he said.
He added: “She was very calculated and looking for somebody that fit a particular profile. This victim unfortunately fit that profile – somebody who may not be sophisticated, somebody who might be easily persuaded by a decent amount of cash.
“I don’t think she anticipated that it would turn out that he would have the physical and mental disabilities that he did have, and I think that’s part of her undoing, to be honest with you.”
Indeed, Gumpenberger’s involvement was instantly questioned by a friend who knew that he’d suffered a traumatic brain injury in the earlier car crash, did not drive, could barely stand, and would have no apparent reason to be at Hupp’s home about 13 miles from his apartment, according to the Post-Dispatch.
In the account provided by Hupp, Lohman said she claimed a silver car pulled into her driveway and Gumpenberger jumped out and into Hupp’s SUV, where he allegedly held a knife to her throat and told her to drive them to the bank.
Hupp said that after she knocked the knife away, she ran inside her home and the man followed before she shot him.
Yet investigators said they were able to place Hupp in front of Gumpenberger’s apartment complex prior to the 911 call using data on her cell phone. She later told police she had been driving in the area that morning shopping, and stopped by her daughter’s home about two miles from Gumpenberger’s apartment but no one was home.
After her arrest on Tuesday, Hupp was in a police station bathroom when she stabbed herself in the neck and wrist with a pen, O’Fallon Police Chief Roy Joachimstaler said at the news conference. She was taken to a hospital.
It could not be determined if Hupp is represented by a lawyer. Her bail was set at $2 million.