Saturday, November 30, 2019

Pam Hupp, Suspected Serial Killer – Missouri, 2016


This is one of the twistiest – and most evil-permeated – FSK cases on record. Wikipedia offers a thorough summary.

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CHRONOLOGY
Oct. 10, 1958 – Pamela Marie Hupp (née Pamela Marie Neumann), born.
Dates? – Hupp held several jobs in the life insurance industry; on two occasions, she was fired for forging signatures.
Dec. 22, 2011 – 5 Days before Betsy’s murder, her life insurance policy was signed over to Hupp – she ended up getting $150,000 in proceeds from the insurance.
Dec. 27, 2011 – Elizabeth “Betsy” Faira, best friend; murdered; stabbed 55 times.
Oct. 31, 2013 – Shirley Neumann (77), mother, died from fall from balcony; suspected murder. $500,000 inheritance.
Nov. 18, 2013 – Russ Faria trial begins.
Dec. 23, 2013 – Russ Faria convicted of murder of Betsy.
Nov. 6, 2015 – Russ Faria conviction overturned.
Feb. 22, 2016 – Betsy Faria’s daughters, Leah and Mariah Day, lose lawsuit (filed 2014) against Hupp seeking $150,000.
Aug. 16, 2016 – Louis Gumpenberger (33), disabled, murdered; 2 gunshots; at PH home.
Aug. 23, 2016 – Pam Hupp (57), arrested at her home. After police arrive she stabs self in neck and on wrists with a pen.
Nov. 2016 – Dateline featured a story on the Pam Hupp case.
Jan. 2017 – Judge Chris Mennemeyer was suspended by the Supreme Court of Missouri for misconduct unrelated to the Faria case.
Aug. 2018 – Judge Mennemeyer and prosecutor Leah Chaney (formerly Leah Askey) were voted out of office, with the handling of the murder case and subsequent trial cited as a major contributor.
Jun. 19, 2019 – Pam Hupp makes Alford plea in Gumpenberger murder. Sentenced to life in prison.

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Wikipedia: Pamela Marie Hupp (née Pamela Marie Neumann, born October 10, 1958) is an American woman who in 2016 murdered Louis Gumpenberger, a crime for which she is serving a life sentence. Police believe Hupp murdered Gumpenberger as part of a plot to implicate Russ Faria in the 2011 murder of his wife Betsy Faria, a crime for which he was convicted in 2013, in part due to testimony from Hupp, and subsequently exonerated in 2015 after evidence implicating Hupp as the perpetrator of the murder was permitted to be submitted. The murder of Betsy Faria, which was featured in five Dateline NBC episodes airing from 2014 to 2019, has never been solved; the investigation was reopened in June 2019. Hupp has also been investigated in connection with the 2013 death of her mother, Shirley Neumann.

~ Early life ~

Born on October 10, 1958, Neumann grew up in Dellwood, Missouri, attending Riverview Gardens High School. Hupp held several jobs in the life insurance industry; on two occasions, she was fired for forging signatures. In 2001, Hupp and her husband began living in O'Fallon, Missouri, where she worked as an administrator for State Farm. By 2010, Hupp had stopped working and was claiming disability benefits for back, leg, and neck pain.

~ Death of Betsy Faria ~

Elizabeth "Betsy" Kay Faria (1969–2011) was a coworker of Pam Hupp at State Farm. She lived in Troy, Missouri with her husband, Russell "Russ" Scott Faria, and two daughters from a previous relationship. In 2010, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In October 2011, she learned that the cancer had metastasized to her liver and was terminal.

On December 22, 2011, unbeknownst to her family, Betsy Faria changed the sole beneficiary of her $150,000 State Farm life insurance policy from her husband to Hupp. Hupp originally claimed that Betsy Faria had asked her to give the money to her daughters when they were older, before later claiming that Betsy Faria had wanted her to keep the money for herself. Betsy Faria's daughters launched a legal challenge against Hupp and her husband to attempt to claim the life insurance policy in 2014; it was dismissed in 2016. Prosecutors speculated that her husband had been angered by her actions, giving him a motive for her murder.  Russ Faria remained the beneficiary on a separate $100,000 policy.
On December 27, 2011, Betsy Faria underwent chemotherapy at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center and then visited her mother's house, after which she was driven home by Hupp, making Hupp the last confirmed person to have seen her alive. Betsy Faria had originally been scheduled to be driven home by a family friend until Hupp had driven to her mother's house and insisted on driving her home. Hupp claimed that she had dropped Betsy Faria off at approximately 19:00. Russ Faria spent the evening at his friend Michael Corbin's home watching films until 21:00, then drove to an Arby's in Lake St. Louis before returning home. At 21:40 that evening, Russ Faria called 9-1-1 and reported that he had returned to his home to find his wife had committed suicide. Betsy Faria had been stabbed over 55 times with her arms almost entirely severed and the murder weapon, a serrated kitchen knife, left lodged in her neck. A second knife was found under a pillow on the couch she had been lying on. First responders arrived at 21:49 and concluded that Betsy Faria had been dead for at least one hour and likely longer.

~ Conviction of Russ Faria ~

Suspicion swiftly fell on Russ Faria, and he was arrested on the day following the murder. His initial assertion that Betsy Faria had killed herself was considered to be "ludicrous" by first responders who observed her body. A search of the house by police found a bloodstained pair of slippers in his closet. His volatile emotional state was regarded as "suspicious" by police. He ostensibly failed a polygraph test administered by police. When interviewed by police, Hupp claimed that Russ Faria had a "violent temper", that he was a heavy drinker, that he had threatened Betsy Faria, and that Betsy Faria had been considering leaving him. At the behest of Hupp, police searched Betsy Faria's laptop and found a document in which Betsy Faria purportedly expressed fears that her husband would murder her (it was later revealed that the document was written in Word 97, software that was not installed on the laptop, and was the only document on the laptop with "author unknown"). On January 4, 2012, the day after Betsy Faria's funeral, Russ Faria was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. As he was unable to meet the bail of $250,000, he was held in the Lincoln County jail until his trial began on November 18, 2013.

During Russ Faria's trial, his defense attorney, Joel Schwartz, argued that the testimonies of the four friends he had been visiting and evidence of him making purchases from multiple different stores over the course of the evening demonstrated that the timeline did not allow for him to commit the murder, particularly given there were no traces of blood on his body or clothes. The prosecuting attorney, Leah Askey, countered by arguing that Russ Faria's friends were providing a false alibi and that they had colluded with him to carry out the murder. The trial judge, Chris Mennemeyer, refused to allow Schwartz to present evidence implicating Hupp as an alternative suspect, including cellphone records showing that Hupp had been in the vicinity of the Faria house for up to 30 minutes after the time she had claimed to drop her off at or the fact of Hupp being named as sole beneficiary of the life insurance policy shortly before the murder. On November 21, 2013, Russ Faria was convicted on both counts.  On December 22, 2013 he was sentenced to life plus 30 years imprisonment and sent to the Jefferson City Correctional Center.  Although a central premise of the prosecution's case was that Russ Faria's four friends had been complicit in the murder, no charges were ever brought against them.

~ Retrial of Russ Faria, acquittal, and reopening of murder investigation ~

In February 2014, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an exposé revealing that the $150,000 received by Hupp had been kept by her rather than put into a trust for Betsy Faria's daughters and that Hupp had made contradictory statements during her interviews with police, initially claiming she had not entered the Faria house after driving her home and then revising this account twice. The exposé featured an interview with the 9-1-1 operator who had taken Russ Faria's call, who stated that she believed his hysterical state upon making the call was genuine. The exposé also claimed that prosecuting attorney Leah Askey had been in a relationship with Mike Lang, the then-captain of investigations for the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office and one of the investigating officers in the Betsy Faria murder case, who testified against Russ Faria in his trial. Two members of the jury in Russ Faria's trial approached the media to flag concerns that this information had been withheld.

Schwartz appealed the verdict. In February 2015, the Missouri Court of Appeals sent the case back to the 45th Circuit Court for a hearing on a retrial. After judge Chris Mennemeyer recused herself from the case, in June 2015, 22nd Circuit Court judge Steven Ohmer granted a motion by Schwartz for a new bench trial based on the evidence that had emerged, with Russ Faria released on bond pending the trial. During the retrial, Schwartz was allowed to introduce evidence implicating Hupp as the perpetrator. CSI agent Amy Buettner, who had examined the crime scene, stated that she believed the blooded slippers found in Russ Faria's closet had not stepped in blood. During the trial, police officers disclosed that Hupp - who was not called to testify in the trial - had claimed in interviews conducted in June that she and Betsy Faria had been in a sexual relationship. Hupp also stated to police that she had "remembered" seeing Russ Faria and another man in a car parked in a side street outside the Faria home as she drove Betsy Faria home.  On November 7, 2015, Faria's conviction was overturned.

In July 2016, Russ Faria lodged a civil rights lawsuit against Leah Askey and three officers of the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office on the basis that they had "fabricated evidence, ignored exonerating evidence and failed to investigate the other obvious suspect." In January 2017, Judge Chris Mennemeyer was suspended by the Supreme Court of Missouri for misconduct unrelated to the Faria case. In August 2018, both Mennemeyer and Leah Chaney (formerly Leah Askey) were voted out of office, with the handling of the murder case and subsequent trial cited as a major contributor. The decision not to investigate Pam Hupp as the potential perpetrator of the murder had been widely criticized; a former employee of the Lincoln County Prosecutor’s Office stated in November 2016, "There were several of us that kept thinking, why are we not pursuing Pam Hupp? [...] They were just locked down on Russ." In September 2019, federal judge for the Eastern District of Missouri John Andrew Ross dismissed Chaney from the lawsuit on the basis of prosecutorial immunity.

In August 2016, the Lincoln County prosecuting attorney and Lincoln County Sheriff's Office issued a press release stating that they were cooperating with the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri in a review of the Betsy Faria murder case. In January 2018, attorneys acting for Russ Faria depositioned Hupp as part of Faria's lawsuit against Lincoln County, asking her 92 questions relating to the murder of Betsy Faria. Hupp declined to answer the questions. In response to the refusal, Faria's attorneys sought a court order to force a response. In June 2018, 11th Circuit Court judge Jon Cunningham ruled that prosecutors in the trial of Hupp for the murder of Louis Gumpenberger could present evidence relating to Faria's murder. In June 2019, following Hupp's entering of an Alford guilty plea to the murder of Gumpenberger, Lincoln County prosecuting attorney Mike Wood announced that he would be reopening the Betsy Faria murder investigation. In October 2019, Wood requested a case review by the Major Case Squad.

~ Investigation in connection with the death of Shirley Neumann ~

Shirley Neumann (1935–2013) was the mother of Pam Hupp and three other children. She graduated from St. Louis Community College–Florissant Valley and the University of Missouri–St. Louis, subsequently working as a teacher in Jennings and Ferguson, Missouri. Predeceased by her husband in 2000, by 2013 she was living alone in a third-floor apartment in the Lakeview Park Independent Senior Living Community in Fenton, Missouri and suffering from dementia and arthritis.

Neumann spent the night of October 29, 2013 with Hupp following a hospital visit. At approximately 17:00 on October 30, Hupp dropped her off at her apartment, instructing staff not to expect her for dinner that evening or breakfast the following day.  A housekeeper found Neumann dead beneath the balcony of her home at 14:30 on October 31, 2013. The aluminum balcony railing was broken. Following a police investigation, assistant medical examiner Raj Nanduri concluded that she had died from blunt trauma to the chest resulting from an accidental fall. An autopsy found that she had .84 micrograms of the sedative Zolpidem in her blood; over eight times the expected concentration for someone having taken a normal dose.

In November 2013, the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office received an anonymous note that suggested Hupp had murdered her mother to receive life insurance. Hupp was the last person known to have seen her mother alive. Hupp and her siblings each received approximately $120,000 of investments held by Neumann, as well as sharing a $10,000 life insurance payout. Earlier that year, prior to her mother's death, Hupp had been videotaped saying "my mom's worth half a million that I get when she dies [...] if I really wanted money, there was an easier way than trying to combat somebody that's physically stronger than me". The police reopened their investigation but after interviewing the housekeeper who had found Neumann's body and Neumann's son Michael - both of whom stated that Neumann was "unsteady" - again concluded that her death was accidental. They did not interview Hupp.

In 2016, after Hupp was charged with the murder of Louis Gumpenberger, the St. Louis County Police Department police reopened the investigation. Neumann's son Michael reiterated that he believed his mother's death to have been accidental. Detective Matthew Levy attempted to get a subpoena for the location of Hupp's cellphone at the time of her mother's death but was unsuccessful. Levy also attempted to organize forensic tests on the balcony railing at the Missouri University of Science and Technology but the Lakeview Park Independent Senior Living Community refused to provide a railing for testing.

In November 2017, Mary Case - the chief medical examiner for St. Louis County - changed the manner of Neumann's death from "accidental" to "undetermined". Case stated, "since [Neumann's] death, many things have happened that involved the daughter. And so all of that investigation, including the one in Lincoln County and the one in St. Charles, became pertinent information [...] I was no longer willing to say it could be an accident." The investigation into Neumann's death was not reopened.

In May 2018, St. Charles County Circuit judge Jon Cunningham ruled that prosecutors in the trial of Hupp for the murder of Louis Gumpenberger could not present evidence relating to Neumann's death.

~ Death of Louis Gumpenberger and criminal investigation ~

Louis Royse Gumpenberger (1983–2016) was a resident of St. Charles, Missouri. Following a car crash in 2005, he suffered from severe mental and physical impairments.

On August 16, 2016, Gumpenberger died after being shot five times by Hupp in her home in O'Fallon, Missouri. As Hupp had called 9-1-1 shortly before shooting Gumpenberger, the audio of the incident was recorded. Hupp claimed that Gumpenberger, armed with a knife, had jumped out of a car (driven by another person) into her driveway, accosted her while she sat in her sport utility vehicle in her garage, and demanded she drive them to a bank to retrieve "Russ' money", prompting her to flee into her house and then shoot Gumpenberger in self-defence with a Ruger LCR she kept on her nightstand after he pursued her.

The St. Charles County prosecuting attorney and the O'Fallon chief of police theorized that Hupp had lured Gumpenberger to her home by presenting herself as "Cathy", a producer for the television program Dateline NBC, and offering to pay him to reenact a 9-1-1 call, then shot him in order to implicate Russ Faria in an attempt on her life (and divert suspicion from her) and planted a knife and a note on his body. The note contained instructions to "kidnap Hupp, get Russ's money from Hupp at her bank, and kill Hupp" and to "Take Hupp back to house and get rid of her. Make it look like Russ' wife.

Make sure knife sticking out of neck." in return for a reward of $10,000. Cellphone records showed that Hupp had been in Gumpenberger's neighborhood less than one hour before the shooting, contradicting her claim that she had never met him before.  On August 10, 2016, a police report had been filed with the St. Charles County police stating that a woman matching Hupp's description had approached O'Fallon resident Carol Alford posing as a Dateline NBC producer and offering her $1,000 to reenact a 9-1-1 call; security camera footage showed that the woman in question had been driving Hupp's car. A second witness, Brent Charlton, informed police that Hupp had approached him with a similar proposition. Police investigators found nine $100 bills in Gumpenberger's pocket; a tenth $100 bill found on Hupp's dresser had a sequential serial number to four of the nine bills.

Police investigators suggested that the knife found on Gumpenberger's body had been purchased at the Dollar Tree in O'Fallon alongside several other items found in Hupp's house.  A carpet swatch found by police appeared to have been positioned to protect a rug in Hupp's home from Gumpenberger's blood. Police investigators were also skeptical that Gumpenberger's severe physical and mental impairments following his accident would have allowed him to carry out the acts Hupp described him doing.

~ Conviction and imprisonment ~

On August 23, 2016, Hupp was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Upon being arrested, she asked to visit a bathroom, where she used a ballpoint pen to stab her neck and wrists in an apparent suicide attempt. Bail for Hupp was set at $2 million. On December 16, 2016, a grand jury indicted Hupp for first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Hupp appeared in court on January 31, 2017, pleading not guilty to the charges. In March 2017, prosecutors stated that they would seek the death penalty due to the apparently arbitrary choice of Gumpenberger as the victim. In August 2018, Hupp's trial date was set for June 2019.

On June 19, 2019, Hupp entered an Alford guilty plea to the charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action, waiving her right to a jury trial. As a condition of a deal struck with prosecutors, Hupp did not face the death penalty. She was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole on August 12, 2019. She is serving her sentence at the Chillicothe Correctional Center in Chillicothe, Missouri. In a phone call to her husband, Hupp claimed that she had pled guilty "so that her family wouldn't have to witness an ugly trial".

In October 2019, Gumpenberger's mother Margaret Burch filed a lawsuit for wrongful death, fraud, and misrepresentation against the incarcerated Hupp, seeking "a sum in excess of the jurisdictional limits of this court".

~ Media coverage ~

The murder of Betsy Faria was the subject of five Dateline NBC episodes: "The House on Sumac Drive" (2014), "Game Night" (2015), "Return to Game Night" (2016), "Stranger Than Fiction" (2016), and "The Thing About Pam" (2019). Faria's murder has received more coverage from Dateline NBC than any other subject aside from O. J. Simpson and JonBenét Ramsey.

In July 2019, filmmaker Daniel Blake Smith announced that he was writing and producing a feature film based on the stories of Russ Faria and his defense attorney Joel Schwartz.

In September 2019, the murder of Louis Gumpenberger was the subject of the inaugural Dateline NBC true crime podcast. The podcast spent several weeks as one of the most popular Apple podcasts.

In October 2019, the Riverfront Times dubbed Hupp St Louis' "best local girl gone bad" of 2019, stating "few stories are quite so made-for-TV" and "the tale of Pam Hupp screams for serialization".

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