When our justice system that is theoretically designed to prefer a free guilty man imprisons an innocent one, we lose faith. How can we trust our police, judges, and lawyers to deliver law and order when it not only imprisons innocent people, but aggressively pursues their conviction despite evidence to the contrary?
In 2013, a Lincoln County, Missouri jury convicted an innocent man of first-degree murder. Ross Faria, an average community man known for playing games with friends was sentenced to life plus 30 years for the brutal murder of his wife, Betsy.
On December 27th, 2011, Faria arrived home after a movie night with friends only to find his wife dead. On a frantic 911 call, Faria told the dispatcher that Betsy had killed herself.
A year earlier, Betsy had been diagnosed with breast cancer that later spread to her liver. Doctors gave her three to five years, maybe less, to live. With that in mind, it was feasible that Betsy might try to commit suicide. So, in a moment of profound grief and trauma, Faria believed that Betsy killed herself.
First responders, however, could tell immediately that this was no suicide. Betsy had been stabbed 55 times. Russ was, of course, immediately under suspicion. Since husbands are often the ones to kill their wives, it wasn’t long before police took a good look at Faria.
Police believed that they had enough evidence and charged Faria with first-degree murder.
During the trial, Lincoln County Prosecutor Leah Askey, as evidence, pointed to Faria’s slippers, stained with Betsy’s blood, found in his closet, witnesses who testified that he and Betsy’s marriage was “rocky,” and a note found on Betsy’s computer where she “expresses fear” of Faria.
Despite Faria’s cell phone records, four alibi witnesses, and security footage of him running errands when the murder was believed to have taken place, the jury still found him guilty of brutally murdering his wife.
Four years later, Faria was released. He subsequently sued the prosecutor and the investigators who handled the case. The suit claimed that Askey and police “fabricated evidence, ignored exonerating evidence and failed to investigate the other obvious suspect.”
Wait … what other “obvious suspect?”
On August 16, 2016, a woman from O’Fallon, Missouri made a 911 call at 12:08 reporting an active burglary. She is heard desperately crying for help and refusing to get inside a vehicle when shots are fired and a smoke alarm sounds.
This woman, Pamela Hupp, 57, fatally shot Louis Gumpenberger, 33, while on the phone with the 911 operator. Hupp alleged that Gumpenberger confronted her in her driveway. Scared for her life, Hupp fired her gun into his chest multiple times. She was questioned by police and released that afternoon.
But there was something wrong with Hupp’s story. Gumpenberger had apparently been severely injured in a car accident in 2005 and suffered physical and mental impairments that prevented him from driving, walking properly, gripping things with his hands, even struggling to speak. Neighbors described him as “childlike,” that he was even “too weak to hammer a nail.”
So, why would a physically and mentally impaired young man try to aggressively burglarize a middle-aged woman?
Investigators pronounced Gumpenberger dead at the scene. While no identification was found on his person, $900 cash and a note were found in his pockets. The note appeared to be orders for Gumpenberger to kidnap Hupp, take her to a bank, rob her, then kill her.
The name “Faria” was found on the note. As in, “Russ Faria.”
You see, Pam Hupp knew Russ and Betsy Faria. According to her, she was Betsy’s best friend. They were so close, in fact, Betsy made Hupp the beneficiary of a $150,000 life insurance policy. On the night of December 27, the night Betsy was murdered, Hupp drove her best friend home.
She was the last person to see Betsy alive that night.
This information was not unknown to police during their investigation of Betsy’s murder. They knew about Hupp being the beneficiary of the insurance policy, they knew she was the last person to see Betsy alive, and yet they pursued Faria.
Hupp became a central figure in the highly publicized case. She was never named as a suspect during the investigation, but was instead named a witness, giving damning testimony regarding Russ Faria’s character.
She eventually received that $150,000.
Investigators of Gumpenberger’s shooting found Hupp’s story not to be credible. His physical and mental capabilities leave him to be an unlikely aggressor in the situation. On top of that, police found an odd connection between the $900 found on Gumpenberger’s body and a $100 bill found in Hupp’s drawer.
Hupp was charged with first-degree murder in Gumpenberger’s death. Police believed she was trying to lure Gumpenberger into her home so she could frame Russ Faria in a convoluted plan. Her idea was to make it look as though Gumpenberger was hired by Faria from prison to kill Hupp for Betsy’s $150,000 insurance payout. Because of Faria’s retrial, and the review of Betsy’s murder, Hupp felt that killing another person and blaming it on another would be her ticket to freedom.
Unfortunately, she is being held on a cash-only $2 million bond.
But that’s not the only death that’s occurred around Pam Hupp. Her mother, Shirley Neumann, died in 2013 from a fall from her third-story balcony at Lakeview Park Independent Senior Living community in what was initially ruled an accidental death by police. Hupp was also the last person to see her mother alive.
After her arrest, Hupp stabbed herself in the neck and wrist with a pen in the police station bathroom. She was taken to a hospital where she recovered and was released to St. Charles County jail where she awaits trial for the murder of Gumpenberger.