Pamela Hupp, the subject of the 2019 Dateline podcast The Thing About Pam, has been charged with the 2011 murder of her friend Betsy Faria. Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Wood announced Monday that he would seek the death penalty against Hupp whom he says murdered her friend “for greed,” to claim her insurance money.
“I do not take lightly the decision to pursue the death penalty,” he told reporters. “But this case stands alone in its heinousness and depravity, such that it shocks the conscience.” He cited the aggravating factors that Hupp had mutilated the body, staged the scene to implicate Faria’s husband Russ in the crime, testified against Russ in court, and later, after Russ was acquitted, murdered someone else to try to avoid becoming a suspect herself.
Hupp is currently serving a life sentence for the 2016 murder of Louis Gumpenberger, a man with a traumatic brain injury whom authorities say Hupp lured to her home and shot in cold blood. She told police the man had held her at knifepoint, demanding she drive him to the bank to get “Russ’s money.”
The last person to see Faria alive on December 27th, 2011, Hupp drove Faria home from a chemotherapy treatment she’d been undergoing for breast cancer. Later that evening, Faria’s husband Russ arrived home to find her brutally murdered. She’d been stabbed 55 times, her wrists slashed to the bone, with the handle of a kitchen knife left sticking out from her throat. Within a few days, police had arrested Russ for the crime. Authorities questioned Hupp, but never named her as a suspect, despite the fact that she’d been named the sole beneficiary of Faria’s $150,000 life insurance policy days before the murder.
Hupp helped build the case against Faria’s husband; she told police Russ had a violent temper, and urged investigators to check Faria’s computer, where they found a document supposedly written by Faria claiming she was afraid of her husband. After Hupp testified against Russ at his trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without parole despite his alibi of having been at a game night all evening with four witnesses who vouched for him.
In 2015, the case was remanded, after defense attorneys cited new evidence that implicated a different suspect: Hupp, who had recently revoked the trust she’d set up for Faria’s children to benefit from the insurance money after Russ’ last trial. Russ was acquitted in a new trial later that year, but the Lincoln County prosecutor at the time, Leah Askey, reportedly maintained Faria was guilty and did not pursue charges against anyone else. In 2020 Faria won a settlement for $2 million against the police officers who’d investigated the case.
Prosecuting Attorney Wood, flanked by a newly elected sheriff, also announced they would conduct an investigation into prosecutorial and police misconduct in the investigation of this case. He said law enforcement made up their minds early and mismanaged the case from the beginning. He cited Russ’ alibi witnesses, the lack of blood on him, the cell phone data that put him far away from the crime scene, and referred to information that suggests prosecutors pressured witnesses to lie on the stand, and the discovery that the sheriff’s office had drafted a destruction order shortly after Russ’s acquittal that would have destroyed all the physical evidence in the case.
“To me it felt as if this was confirmation bias in its purest form,” Wood said of the investigators’ work on the case. “Once they’d made their decision, I can confidently say they weren’t interested in finding any other evidence that pointed anywhere else.” He promised to publicize the findings of the misconduct investigation and said it was possible criminal charges will be filed.