On November 5, 2015, Judge Steven Ohmer of St. Louis Circuit Court, found Russ Faria not guilty of first-degree murder in the 2011 death of his wife and called his case ‘’disturbing’’.
Faria had maintained his innocence from day one in the murder of his spouse Betsy who was found stabbed to death on December 27, 2011, at the couple’s home on Sumac Drive, northwest of Troy, Missouri.
He had been found guilty of first degree murder in 2014 after a police investigation focused solely on him as a suspect. He was sent to serve life without parole at the Jefferson City Correctional Center.
After serving more than two years in prison, Faria was granted a new trial citing new evidence not presented during his first trial that could have influenced the jurors in their deliberations, including information about a woman called Pamela Hupp who was the last person to have seen Betsy alive and unbeknownst to everyone, had been named sole beneficiary of her life insurance a few days before the murder.
During the first trial, Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer ruled against the defense and they could not introduce the details about Pamela Hupp because it was not direct evidence.
Faria’s lawyer, Joel Schwartz, presented a strong alibi for his client: four witnesses testified that he was miles away when his wife was stabbed. But he could not lay out the crucial evidence about Pamela Hupp.
Schwartz filed an appeal and on February 24, 2015, the Missouri Court of Appeals sent the Faria case back to the 45th Judicial Court Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer for a hearing on a retrial motion.
A hearing was held after a formal motion was filed by Farias, but Circuit Court Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer stated in March that she had ‘’a known conflict and must recuse’’ and asked for the case to be referred to another judge.
She did not specify the nature of the conflict and refused to comment. The Missouri Supreme Court assigned Judge Rachel L. Bringer-Shepart to preside over the motion for a new murder trial.
But in the end, judge Steven Ohmer was appointed to take over the case. He ordered the new trial set for November 2, 2015, at the chagrin of Lincoln Country prosecutor Leah Askey who argued to the Judge that “despicable” was the nicest word she could say about the defense`s motion.
It is pretty rare to send a case back to the trial court before an appeal is considered and it shows how much they had deviated from the rules of ethic in this particular case.
Since then, judge Mennemeyer has had four cases reversed by the appeals court and was suspended without pay.
On the day she died, Betsy, who had advanced liver cancer, went to her chemo treatment accompanied by a friend. She then drove to her mother’s house. Russ was supposed to pick her up but was told not to bother because she had a ride home.
Russ went to game night at a friend’s house like he did every week, between 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM. He then made his way home where he discovered Betsy dead on the floor. She was laying there with her wrists slashed and a knife planted in her neck.
He called 911 hysterical and they came to investigate right away. Click here to listen to the disturbing call.
His wife’s body was already cold and stiff when Russ found it. She had been stabbed over 50 times. All the wounds were not visible because they were hidden by the clothes she wore. It was established that several of the injuries were postmortem.
Semen cells were found inside Betsy and belonged to her husband. It matched what Russ had told cops about having sex with his wife on Sunday.
The plumbing was inspected and it was established that there was no blood in the drains.
Blood was found on a light switch where another male DNA profile was detected but it did not match Russ
Some slippers that both Russ and Betsy wore were found bloody in the master bedroom closet but the blood pattern was not consistent with someone walking in blood.
Absolutely no blood or DNA was found on Russ and he was wearing the same clothes he had on when caught on camera when he visited gas stations before going to game night and coming home.
Russ and Betsy’s marriage
Betsy and Russ did not have a perfect marriage. They had separated for a year, but reunited with the intention of working on their relationship. They joined a church and seemed to be on an even keel ever since. They both had been unfaithful, but they still seemed to love each other.
Betsy had breast cancer that went into remission a few years earlier, but the disease was back with a vengeance and was now attacking her liver. She was told in no uncertain terms that her time was counted.
According to some of Russ’ friends, he was inconsolable at the idea of losing Betsy. Because his wife did not have long to live, one has to wonder what would be the point of killing her.
During her chemo treatment, Betsy had texted Pam Hupp to tell her that she did not need a ride home. She had also emphasized that she wanted to spend more time with her present companion.
Instead of respecting Betsy’ wish, Hupp showed up at chemo anyway, and insisted to take her home later on.
According to Pam Hupp, she dropped off Betsy at home at around 7:00 PM or a little bit later.
Betsy had two daughters from a previous marriage, Leah and Mariah Day, and one of them stated that she had talked to her mother during the day and had told her she would call her back, but when she dialed her mom’s number at 7:21, 7:26 and 7:31 PM, she got no answer which was surprising, considering Betsy told her to call back.
Russ Faria’s timeline
When Russ went to join his friends for game night, he was caught on surveillance cameras at two gas stations. He stopped for gas and at another station, he stopped for cigarettes, dog food and ice teas.
He then drove 35 minutes to meet his 4 friends.
This is what Michael Corbin who was the friend who hosted game night, had to say:
‘’We’d been doing game night for about 3-4 years previous to Betsy’s murder and the rest of us still play game night to this day. Every Tuesday we would get together and play one or a couple of board games or old-fashioned pen and paper role playing games. We’ve added a few more games to the list than we had when Russ was with us, but we still all enjoy to get together and play. Betsy never came to game night…but not everyone likes sitting around playing board games. We’d have a number of other players come and go over the years, but Russ and the rest of us were the core that were always around.’’
According to his friends, he arrived at 6:00 PM or a bit before. His cell phone records showed it was pinging at the tower near Corbin’s home.
Once again, according to this crew, Russ left between 8:45 PM and 9:00 PM. He obtained a receipt from a nearby Arby’s where he stopped for a sandwich and it was stamped at 9:09 PM. He then drove directly home which was a distance of about 30 minutes and called 911 at 9:40 PM. Pretty foolproof alibi.
Pam Hupp’s timeline
Pam Hupp was a long term friend of Betsy Faria that not many people knew about. Russ had met her a couple of times and most of Betsy’s friends had never met the woman. They had worked for the same Insurance Company in the past.
On the day of the murder, Pam became very insistent when told not to pick up Betsy and even showed up at chemo uninvited. She insisted on driving her home.
According to Pam, she dropped Betsy’s home at around 7:00 PM.
She made a call to her husband at 7:04 PM that went unanswered.
She called Betsy at 7:27 PM and this one also went unanswered. She told the cops that she had called her friend to let her know she made it home, but the cell phone tower that picked up the call proved she was still near Betsy’s home and not close to her own home that was 30 minutes away.
When interviewed by police, she said she did not go into the house and at another time, she said she went in and Betsy was laying on the couch when she left. She then changed her story again and said that Betsy was in the entrance door when she left.
She kept fibbing and when asked why Betsy did not answer her daughter’s phone calls, she said they probably were in the bedroom and she did not hear anything. She then added. ‘’It all happened very fast.’’
Strangely enough, the police did not investigate Pam Hupp even when they found out that a few days before Betsy’s death, she had accompanied her to the public library to have documents signed and witnessed by a librarian called Marian Lauren Manganelli to be named sole beneficiary of her life insurance.
She said that Betsy did not trust her husband, her daughters and even her own family to manage the $150,000 insurance payout and wanted her to get it so that she could give it to her two daughters eventually.
A close friend of Betsy said that it flew in the face of what she had recently told her: She wanted her husband and children to be covered and protected and her papers were all in order. She had two insurance policies and now, only one of them went to her family and it was for $100,000. It made absolutely no sense.
There were no cameras at the library and the witness did not ask for any identification. One has to wonder if it was really Betsy signing away her life insurance or what was truly going on.
The investigators working the case zoomed right away on Russ. To them, the fact that Betsy had so many stab wounds meant a crime of passion and her husband had to be the killer.
They say he failed a polygraph test but in his condition, wasn’t it to be expected?
Instead of checking Pam Hupp, they focused on the husband which would have been normal if he did not have a rock solid alibi and Pam was not the last person to have seen Betsy alive.
When they asked Pam for the clothes she was wearing when she dropped off Betsy, she took a few days to bring them some pieces of clothing. How would they know if it was the same ones she was wearing that day?
It seems that they did not inspect her car or her house.
They did not talk to her husband or people who knew her. She was older than Betsy and some of her friends had reported that Betsy had complained that Pam was smothering her.
She kept changing her statements, but they did not mind at all. One of the detectives is even heard telling her what to do on video about setting up a trust fund for Betsy’s daughters so she does not look bad.
Pam did what she was told, but revoked the trust and kept all the money. She is now denying that she ever said the money was for Betsy’s children. She lives on a small disability pension and was never really investigated about the death of her own mother who died under mysterious circumstances 3 months later and left her some money.
Pam had told the cops it was $500,000 and later laughed it off and said it was much less.
They dismissed Russ’ alibi and accused him of killing Betsy. Because they were making it sound like a slam dunk, even his own friends doubted him. They came to believe that he killed his wife before he joined them for game night until they heard the evidence and lost faith in the system.
The same principle applies to Betsy’s family members who fell for it and are convinced to this day that Russ somehow magically killed Betsy.
The cops considered Pam such a good source of information to catch Russ that they completely dropped the ball and wore blinders when it came to her own suspicious activities.
She told them all kinds of horrible stories about Russ. She said Betsy was afraid of her husband and that she was hiding a knife for protection. She even said that Russ would play a game of suffocation with Betsy where he would put a pillow over her head and tell her this is how it feels to die. Nobody else had ever heard these creepy stories but the cops were eager to know more.
The first trial
Russ’ defense attorney was barred from using any information about Pam Hupp’s motive for killing Betsy because Judge Mennemeyer invoked a rule stating that a defendant cannot introduce circumstantial evidence of a third party’s motive for committing the crime without having some evidence to tie the third party to the actual crime.
How could they have evidence if the detectives did not investigate the matter? I strongly believe there was direct evidence to present, independently of the matter of insurance coverage, because Pam was the last one to have seen Betsy alive and her story was full of inconsistencies.
It was alleged that prosecutor Leah Askey was having an affair with one of the lead detectives on the Faria case named Michael Lang. As he happened to be one of the arresting officers, he also testified for the prosecution in court and had to answer questions from Askey. Not a good start or conducive to due process.
The state seemed to base their case on the fact that Russ was faking being upset during his 911 call and that he mentioned that Betsy had committed suicide.
They managed to get a 911 supervisor to testify that he might have been faking when in fact, the operator who took the call is on record saying it was very real and one of the toughest calls she ever had to answer. Click here to listen to her interview.
The fact that Betsy had deep cuts on her wrists and that Russ could not see all the other injuries through her clothing, made him think of suicide. It was a spur of the moment reaction, especially considering that she had allegedly expressed some dark intentions before. She was on chemo and going through a very tough road.
Askey did not believe the 4 friends who provided Russ an alibi. Instead, during closing, she insisted that they were somehow involved and had planned the murder with Russ for years. She invented a scenario where one of the friends drove to Arby’s to get a receipt and that Russ had left his phone at his friends’ house so it would ping there.
She made up the story without any evidence to support her theory. She accused perfectly lawful citizens of being his accomplices.
They were never charged as accessories to murder and had never participated in any criminal activities.
The fact that Russ had no blood on the clothes he wore on the videos and still had on when he went home, was not bothering our friendly prosecutor. She said he probably was naked and washed up. But there was no blood in the drains and nobody had showered.
A big deal was made of the bloody slippers in the master bedroom closet. But how would it have been possible for Russ to have left them there when he was not home when his wife died? And wouldn’t he have discarded them knowing full well how damaging this kind of evidence could be?
Plus, the blood was not where it should have been if someone had walked in the middle of the crime scene. The jury was served a big conspiracy theory about Russ deciding to do away with his wife because they were not getting along and he was a violent guy. They had Betsy’s daughters testify that Russ had been ‘violent’ towards their mom.
And they took the word of Pam Hupp who invented the pillow games and the fact that her good friend Betsy was afraid of Russ.
At first, the jury was split 6-6, but they came together and found Russ guilty on the word of the prosecutor’s baseless assertions.
I am shocked that they dismissed completely the 4 alibi witnesses. How is that even possible? Even without the other evidence from Pam Hupp, I do not comprehend how they could not see that Betsy was dropped off at 7:00 PM and it meant she was dead before Russ could have come home.
Askey’s initial theory was that it was a crime of passion because the victim was stabbed more than 50 times and now it had become a crime planned for a long time with the help of 4 people who were upstanding citizens?
Some of the jurors and Betsy’s family members found the friends’ testimonies too similar. According to them, they all said the same thing and were too precise. Russ was with them between 6:00PM and 9:00 PM, like every week, so what else were they supposed to say?
Russ Faria was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to serve life without parole at the Jefferson City Correctional Center.
A couple of jurors had doubts and when they heard about the information that was kept from them during the trial, they were not pleased and demanded answers. They said that the fact that he could appeal made them feel better. What?
Joel Schwartz finally had the opportunity to present all the evidence hidden during the first trial.
This time, the judge heard about Hupp’s cell phone that pinged near Betsy’s home when she had told police she was at her place at 7:27 PM. The defense forensic expert produced a map of the cell phone activity.
He also was allowed to present Hupp’s lies about telling police and Betsy’s mother that she did not go into the house after dropping off Betsy, but testifying at trial that she went into the home.
The judge finally heard about Betsy’s life insurance that was switched to Hupp’s name and that State Farm received in the mail 2 days after the murder.
Schwartz had tried to introduce these matters during the first trial and had presented the facts to the judge, in the absence of the jury, but it was not allowed.
He had declared ‘’if I was a juror, I’d be extremely offended. We were able to show where this particular person was, who stated she had already gotten home and the Judge would not allow us to get into that.’’
This time around, a crime scene technician testified that he analyzed the bloody knife and realized that what appeared as a palm print was a mark indicating the killer had covered their hand.
CSI agent Amy Buettner who was Leah Askey’s witness, testified that the bloody slippers did not appear to have stepped in blood. After looking at evidence photos while on the stand, she affirmed that the blood got on the slippers in a different manner.
Therefore, the blood was probably planted. There was no blood on Russ Faria so how could he have stepped in blood wearing slippers and managed to clean up?
She also testified that there was no evidence of a cleanup at the murder scene. She did not spray Luminol in the kitchen near where Betsy Faria was stabbed 55 times.
The blood on the light switch appeared to have been swiped with a bloody cloth.
She also said she didn’t see any blood on the Farias’ dog. During the first trial, a huge part of the prosecution’s case relied on an alleged bloody paw print.
Prosecutor Leah Askey had inferred that a bloody paw print on Betsy was evidence that Russ was the killer. But Buettner said not only was there no evidence of blood on the dog, but she was specifically ordered not to test for it.
The defense showed 132 photos that were hidden by the prosecution during the first trial.
Investigators had returned to the crime scene in January to look for blood in the kitchen and dining room and said they found evidence of a blood clean up but they had no photos.
In reality, there were several photos showing cabinets, linoleum tiles and a drain pipe. Schwartz mentioned at trial that the photos “didn’t show what you wanted them to show.”
The prosecution had no explanation for why authorities didn’t provide the photos until recently.
Askey had brought up a note found on the Faria’s laptop that was addressed to Pam Hupp and read in part, ‘’If something happens to me, please show police.’’
The problem with this other gem from Hupp is that defense expert Greg Chatten showed evidence the letter was planted and saved on a Wi-Fi called “The Club” – five days before the murder.
He said it was the only file on the computer indicating “author unknown.” He added that it was drafted in Word ‘97 format, but Word ‘97 was not on the Faria computer. Ooops!
Chatten declared unequivocally “It would be impossible for that file to be created on that computer.”
The prosecution bombshell witness who was supposed to be the pregnant mistress of Russ Faria kind of exploded in their faces also.
Carissa Barton testified that she was never pregnant with Russ’ child. She had lied to him after writing him a letter in prison. They had a brief affair one year before Betsy’s murder that lasted a month.
Barton had decided to end the affair because Russ seemed happy with his wife. The lie about being pregnant was a ploy to hurt him.
At retrial, the defense was able to establish that the police built their case against Russ Faria with all the lies Pam Hupp was feeding them. And they told her how to look good at trial by establishing a trust for Betsy’s children who are suing her for the money she allegedly stole from them.
Recently, Hupp told one of the detectives that she had been Betsy’s secret lover for almost ten years.
One has to wonder when the cops would have wised up to this woman and started doing their job properly. The same thing goes for the DA’s office. Thankfully, the judge was wise and saw the obvious: Russ Faria could not have killed his wife.
The morale of this story, if there is one, is that you cannot judge a book by its cover. Russ was described as a pig by some Church goers and the cops heard he had a temper so they jumped to conclusions and missed what was right under their nose all along.
They did not investigate Pam Hupp because they were building a case against Russ. They went along with lies, deception and made pigs really fly.
Click for Faria’s interview after his release
UPDATE: Betsy’s daughters brought a fraud suit against Pam Hupp and lost. They even had to pay for her legal fees. Hupp bought herself a house with the proceeds of the Insurance money she collected. Betsy’s daughters are appealing the civil court judge’s decision to allow Pam to keep the insurance money.
Click here to read how Hupp killed a disabled man after an alleged confrontation outside the house she purchased with blood money.
UPDATE: Hupp arrested and charged with murder in alleged frame-up.
UPDATE: Click to read an in depth article about Pamela Hupp.