The 2011 murder of Elizabeth “Betsy” Faria near Troy, Mo., has been under review by federal prosecutors and Lincoln County investigators for “several months,” prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday.
That statement, from Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney Leah Askey, came a day after one of the major witnesses in the investigation of Faria’s death, Pamela Hupp, was herself charged with a murder — one official say may have been committed to take the “heat off” Hupp in the Faria case and cast further suspicion on Faria’s husband.
Russell Faria was convicted of his wife’s murder in 2013 after a trial that centered on Hupp’s testimony, but that conviction was overturned because Faria was not allowed to argue that Hupp was a more likely suspect.
Faria was acquitted at a bench trial last year, after which the judge criticized the original investigation.
Even after his acquittal, prosecutors in Lincoln County insisted that Russell Faria was their only suspect in his wife’s death. But Askey’s statement on Wednesday says, in part, that prosecutors and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office have been cooperating with and assisting the U.S. Attorney’s Office in a review of the Faria case for months.
“We will defer to the U.S. attorney for guidance and direction on any additional investigative efforts,” the statement says. It referred further questions to federal prosecutors.
U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan confirmed to the Post-Dispatch Wednesday that there was an ongoing review of the case and that federal agents had been in touch with Lincoln County authorities, but declined further comment on the case.
The Betsy Faria murder case and questions about Hupp’s possible role in it were the subjects of a joint Post-Dispatch-KTVI Fox 2 investigation in 2014. NBC’s “Dateline” program also did a story on the case.
Finding a ‘patsy’
On Tuesday, authorities charged Hupp, 57, with murder, saying she hatched a convoluted plot in which she scoured the streets of the St. Charles area to find a “patsy,” who she then shot to death while on the phone with a 911 operator.
The plan was for a note stuffed in that patsy’s pocket to implicate Faria in a fictional plot to kidnap Hupp and murder her after getting the money she received from Betsy Faria’s life insurance, a fabrication meant to divert attention in the Faria case away from herself, authorities speculated.
The patsy she found, according to authorities: Louis R. Gumpenberger, 33.
Officials speculated that Hupp was pretending to be a producer for “Dateline,” and had offered Gumpenberger between $900 and $1,000 to “reenact” a 911 call. Police and prosecutors based that conclusion on what they said was her attempt to do the same to a woman on Aug. 10. That woman grew suspicious and called off the deal.