Deadly Games: The Murders of Betsy Faria & Louis Gumpenberger
Just two days after Christmas in 2011, Russell Faria made a 911 call at approximately 9:40 pm to report that he just found his wife, Elizabeth “Betsy” Faria dead on the living room floor. The man sobbed as he told the dispatcher that his wife had killed herself. However, upon arrival at the home in Troy, Missouri, authorities quickly realized Betsy Faria had not committed suicide. She was stabbed several times and had a knife protruding from her neck. Betsy had been brutally murdered and police immediately suspected her husband. No one could have predicted the long winding road this case would take or the unimaginable revelations that would come to light. This is a story of deadly games.
Elizabeth “Betsy” Meyer was born March 24th, 1969, to Kenneth and Judy Meyer of Richmond Heights, Missouri. Betsy was in a long-term relationship with a man she never married and together they had two daughters, Leah and Mariah. However, the couple split when the girls were little. Betsy then married her second husband, but that relationship ended after about a year. Betsy was working at a gas station after her marriage ended when she began a mutual flirtation with a frequent customer, Russel Faria.
Betsy had her own DJ business and Russ described her as “The party starter. It didn’t matter if she was working or not, if she went to a party, or gathering or get together, she’d get everybody up playing games or getting people up dancing” (Sederstrom, 2022). Russ began to help her with the business, and they married in 2000. Russel became a father figure for Leah and Mariah. Russ and Betsy liked to go camping, play volleyball, and visit local bars. Betsy enjoyed playing board games.
When Betsy began working at an insurance office during the day, she met co-worker Pam Hupp. Betsy and Pam became friends, but after Pam was terminated from the position, the two drifted apart. However, Pam made efforts to rekindle the friendship in 2010 when Betsy was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her initial treatment included a mastectomy and chemotherapy, which seemed successful. Betsy and Russ were told the cancer was gone, but that changed by 2011. In 2011, Russ and Betsy learned that the cancer was back and had spread to her liver. Betsy was terminally ill and would not survive cancer. However, she continued to fight and was receiving chemotherapy treatments. A month before her death, Betsy and Russ went on a cruise with a group of their friends to celebrate her life.
On December 26th, Russ and Betsy attended a family Christmas party. Some of Betsy’s family stated she seemed down, but others said that the couple seemed perfectly normal. In fact, many said they were happier than they had been in quite some time. The Faria marriage was not exactly picture-perfect. Russ and Betsy had both had affairs and had split on numerous occasions. Betsy’s teenage daughters had moved out of the Faria home and in with relatives, which may have been a result of arguments between Betsy and Russ.
On December 27th, Betsy went to St. Louis for her chemotherapy treatment. Her friend, Pam Hupp, had planned to go with Betsy that day. However, a family friend Bobbie Wann was visiting Betsy’s mother from Texas. Betsy texted Pam and told her not to come to the chemotherapy appointment because she wanted to spend some time with Bobbie. Pam texted back “Bummer” (Schwartz & Bosworth). However, Pam Hupp did come to that chemotherapy session, inserting herself into Betsy’s life.
When the chemotherapy session ended, Betsy went back to her mother’s home near the hospital to rest and spend time with her family. Her daughters, mother, and family friend Bobbie enjoyed board games and just spending time together. Betsy planned to stay with her mother that night, but Pam insisted she would come back to St. Louis to get Betsy after she fed her husband and son. Pam drove to O’Fallon, Missouri, to go home and then back to St. Louis an hour or so later. It seemed out of the way and inconvenient, but Pam said Betsy needed her.
At approximately 7:04 pm, Pam and Betsy pulled into Betsy’s driveway. Pam called her husband Mark and left a message on his voicemail. Betsy even said hi to Mark on that message. Pam left Betsy a voicemail at approximately 7:27 pm telling Betsy she was home. Betsy’s daughter had told her mother she would call her at approximately 7:20 pm, which she did, but those calls went unanswered. Pam would later call Betsy’s mother, concerned about her friend. Pam said Betsy wanted her to stay and hang out, but Pam had to leave. She was fearful that her friend was upset with her. Only, her friend was dead on the living room floor.
When brought in for questioning, Russ explained that he left work that Tuesday at approximately 5 pm. He texted Betsy, who informed him Pam was bringing her home. He then went to a gas station to get two iced teas, a grocery store to get dog food, and another gas station to buy a carton of cigarettes. He called his mother to tell her he wouldn’t be at her house for their weekly dinner because he had game night. He and a small group of friends got together regularly to play a role-playing game similar to Dungeons and Dragons. Russ explained he was at his friend’s home playing games and watching movies until approximately 9 pm.
Russ had been smoking marijuana with some of his friends that night and needed to satisfy a craving. On his way home he stopped at Arby’s and ordered two junior cheddar melts, eating them on the way home. He drove approximately 25 miles to his home. When he walked inside and sat the dog food down, he spotted Betsy’s body. Hysterical, he called 911. Police believed his hysteria was over the top and possibly not sincere. Their suspicions grew when Russ stated Betsy had killed herself.
The first responders that arrived found the body of Betsy Faria with several stab wounds and a knife sticking out of her neck. There was no way she had committed suicide. Betsy had been stabbed fifty-five times. She had perforations to her lungs, liver, and spleen. There were deep punctures inflicted upon her after her death. It was a bloody crime scene and a brutal murder. First responders noted Betsy was already somewhat stiff and some of the blood had coagulated, indicating she likely had been killed a few hours before police arrived at 9:55 pm.
When police told Russ that Betsy was murdered, he became even more hysterical. He explained that Betsy had terminal cancer and a history of suicide attempts. However, the police were not buying that and thought Russ was hiding something. They questioned him for over 24 hours and gave him a polygraph. Police told him he failed his polygraph, but Russ insisted he was telling the truth. He had a time-stamped receipt still in his car from Arby’s along with one of the ice teas and his cigarette carton. Video footage at the convenience and grocery stores confirmed his whereabouts. Four friends corroborated Russ’s alibi as they had been with him from 6-9 pm on game night.
At the scene, a pair of bloody slippers were found in Russ’s closet and smeared blood on the light switch in the bedroom. Russ swore he never went to the bedroom, but police believed he was lying. Forensic evidence on the slippers determined the blood was that of Betsy Faria and skin cells with Russel’s DNA were found inside the slippers. Police also thought they figured out Russ’s motive when they spoke to Pam Hupp.
Pam Hupp said she was Betsy’s best friend. She told authorities that she didn’t know Russ well, but Betsy was afraid of Russ. According to Pam, Russ was mean and belittled Betsy all the time. The longer authorities talked to Pam, the more depraved the stories became. She told cops that Russel had placed a pillow over Betsy’s face more than once and told her he wanted her to know what it would feel like to die. Pam said Betsy told her about an email Betsy had written to her but said Betsy must not have sent it. She said Betsy was scared of her husband and was avoiding him. She said the house was only in Russ’s name and Russ was making comments about how much money he would have when Betsy died. See, Betsy had life insurance.
Betsy Faria had approximately $300,000 in life insurance policies and Russel believed he was the beneficiary on those policies. However, four days before Betsy died, she changed the beneficiary on one of her policies, totaling $150,000, to her friend Pam Hupp. According to Pam, Betsy was afraid Russ would be irresponsible with the money and wanted Pam to make sure her daughters received the money. Authorities contacted newly elected State’s Attorney Leah Askey about their suspicions and the evidence.
On January 4th, 2012, Russell Faria was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action (Cooperman, 2017). Russell retained Joel Schwartz as his defense attorney. His attorney quickly realized there were a lot of problems with this case. He couldn’t believe how little evidence the prosecution had and how weak that evidence was. Should be easy enough to acquit right? After all, Russ could easily prove the house was in Betsy's name too and Pam had as much motive as Russ to kill Betsy.
When Russ went to trial Leah Askey, in her first murder trial, led the prosecution. The judge, Christina Mennemeyer, was also new to her role and this was her first time presiding over a murder trial. Judge Mennemeyer and Prosecutor Askey had gone to high school together, but that wasn’t uncommon in the small Lincoln County community. Joel Schwartz was experienced and ready. He was prepared, but the judge made a ruling that would change everything.
In preparation for Russ’s trial, Joel Schwartz had confirmed his rock-solid alibi. Russ would have had twenty-three minutes to drive twenty miles, kill Betsy, shower, clean up the scene, and dial 911. The Arby’s receipt was stamped at 9:09 pm, indicating that is when he made the order. He called 911 at 9:41 pm. When they took Russ’s clothing, the same clothing he was wearing on video after work while running errands, they found not one speck of blood. There was no way Russ could be the killer, and that was reasonable doubt enough.
Joel had also requested the results and video of the polygraph examination but learned there was no record or recording of the examination. He also requested the photos of the crime scene as police stated that there was a positive luminol reaction in the kitchen and on the cabinet front of the drawer where the towels were kept. Leah Askey, the prosecutor, told the defense that there were no photographs because the camera had malfunctioned. The investigators would be allowed to testify that there had been a reaction to the luminol, however.
Joel then listened to the video recordings of police interviews with Pam Hupp in the nearly two years between the murder and the start of the trial. Pam first told authorities she dropped Betsy off at 7:04 when she made the call to Mark and never went in the house. She later admitted she went into the house and said Betsy was on the couch when she left. She said the call at 7:27 pm was to tell Betsy she was home, but that would have been impossible for Pam to drive from Troy to O’Fallon that quickly. She changed her story and said she was just outside of Troy when she made the call because she didn’t want Betsy to worry.
Joel had his doubts and hired an expert to track the cell phone calls made by Pam. According to his expert, Pam was within 3 miles of Betsy’s house when she made the call at 7:27 pm, proving Pam was lying. She told so many different stories and her stories became more and more incriminating to Russ as time went on. Joel realized Pam was the last person to see Betsy alive and was in the area when Betsy had been killed. He believed Russ’s best defense was to point the finger at Pam Hupp, who he truly believed to be a viable suspect.
The police had talked to Pam several times and spoke to Pam’s husband, although they conducted that interview in Pam’s presence. Pam had received the $150,000 from Betsy’s life insurance already as the police confirmed she was not a suspect in the case. Shortly before the trial began, a Lincoln County police officer told Pam to put the money in a trust for Leah and Mariah Day before the trial or it may look bad. They even suggested that she may have seen Russ the night of the murder, which Pam later said she may have. No one ever really investigated Pam Hupp’s whereabouts or clothing. After all, she was not a suspect. She even told the police that if she wanted money, she would be getting a half-million dollars when her mother dies, so why would she try to kill Betsy who was stronger than her?
Leah Askey asked Judge Christina Mennemeyer to disallow testimony about the insurance policy that Betsy had changed the beneficiary to Pam Hupp four days before her murder and to disallow a defense that pointed at Pam Hupp because she claimed there was no direct evidence. Unbelievably, the judge agreed. Joel Schwartz was not allowed to mention the insurance policy or ask any questions that suggested Pam Hupp may be the killer.
This trial was crazy! Leah Askey, the prosecutor, presented the evidence that Russel Faria would gain financially through the insurance policies if Betsy died. Schwartz objected as the insurance policies were already ruled inadmissible. The judge overruled him, stating it went to motive but continued to deny the defense from using that motive to point the finger at Pam Hupp. The biggest pieces of evidence included testimony about the luminal reactions although there were no pictures, the number of stab wounds, Russ’s suggestion that Betsy had killed herself, and finally those bloody slippers. Finally, the prosecution called Pam Hupp to the stand, and she told the jury about Russ’s abusive behavior and Betsy’s fear of Russ, including the pillow incident.
The defense claimed the luminal reactions weren’t significant because none of the samples obtained from those reactions actually contained human blood, which the pathologist confirmed. Furthermore, there weren’t any photos to even prove there was a reaction. The number of stab wounds was brutal, but the medical examiner believed several were inflicted after Betsy died and possibly to make the murder look more viscous. The defense had Betsy’s own family and daughters, who had turned against Russ, testify about Betsy’s history of suicidal behavior and diagnosis of terminal cancer.
And then those slippers... the blood on those slippers looked as if the slippers had been dipped in blood. There was no blood on the bottom of the slippers and no bloody footprints in the house. It was true that Russ’s DNA was inside the slippers, but they were Russ’s slippers and he had worn them many times. The blood on the light switch had no fingerprints or DNA other than Betsy’s and looked like a smear. There was absolutely no blood found in any of the home’s sinks, showers, or plumbing. The showers and sinks were dry, not indicative of a clean-up effort.
Pam Hupp claimed her changes to her stories were related to her disability, foot drop and balance issues, and a previous head injury. However, she claimed that she was sure that Betsy was alive when she left and sure Betsy was afraid of Russ. She said Betsy changed the life insurance to her December 23rd because she didn’t want Russ to blow the money after she died of cancer. She suggested that Russ found out and went into a rage, killing Betsy. Every time the defense tried to ask questions to show Pam Hupp was an unreliable witness, the prosecution objected, and the judge sustained, limiting the questioning.
In her closing statement, Leah Askey presented a theory that Russ Faria and his friends wanted to play the ultimate role-playing game and had been planning Betsy’s murder for months, maybe even years. She said his friends lied about his alibi and likely assisted him by carrying his phone around, explaining why the cell phone records corroborated Russ’s story and alibi. She even accused Russ of sexually assaulting his wife, for which there was no proof. The defense was disgusted. Not only had the judge barred them from presenting Pam Hupp as an alternate suspect due to “lack of evidence”, but the judge allowed Askey to point the finger at four people as co-conspirators with absolutely no evidence.
In a shocking upset, the jury in Lincoln County found Russel Faria guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of Betsy Faria. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Joel Schwarz was not done, however, and vowed to pursue an appeal based on the ridiculous rulings in this case and the unethical behavior of the prosecution. In the meantime, Russ went to prison.
Shortly after Russ’s conviction, Pam Hupp revoked the trust in Betsy’s daughters’ names and transferred all but $300 to her checking account. This would result in a civil suit between Leah and Mariah Day and Pamela Hupp. There was no proof, however, of Betsy’s intentions with the money, so Pam won the case and was not required to give any money to Betsy’s daughters. She had only set the trust up because the police suggested it would help in the case against Russel Faria.
Joel Schwartz worked hard to appeal Russ’s conviction and became convinced that Pamela Hupp was a murderer. Pam had made a comment during the first trial that her mother had recently died of Alzheimer’s disease. This is the same mother she suggested to police she would have killed if she wanted money instead of Betsy. However, Shirley Neumann did not die from Alzheimer’s disease. She fell from a third-story balcony at her assisted living home on October 31st, 2013.
By this time, Dateline producers had begun to cover this story and work with the defense to get to the bottom of this crazy story. Dateline hired an engineer to “recreate” Pam’s mother’s fall. Three of the spindles on the balcony had been completely broken out, which engineers said would have required nearly 2,000 pounds of force. It didn’t seem likely that an elderly woman fell through them to her death.
On the day before Shirley’s body was found Pam had picked her mother up and taken her to the hospital for back pain. Pam brought her mother back and upon leaving informed staff her mother would not be down for breakfast the next day, and maybe not even lunch. A housekeeper came to check on Shirley the next day and found her body lying on the ground beneath the balcony. Police ruled the death accidental. Pam’s brother initially filed a lawsuit against the facility and manufacturer of the railing, but he later dropped the suit. Pam received a large amount of money from her mother’s life insurance policies.
In 2015, Russel Faria’s conviction was overturned thanks in part to the ridiculous rulings by Judge Christina Mennemeyer. This time, Russ would have the opportunity to present a real defense and point the finger back at Pam Hupp. Leah Askey was determined to retry Russel and get another conviction, but this time she wasn’t going to call her star witness Pamela Hupp. Pam had continued to change her story, refused to give Betsy’s daughters any money, and had proven herself an unreliable witness.
However, Leah Askey found the mysterious letter Pam told her about shortly after Betsy’s death. The letter, which stated she was scared of Russ and thought he was trying to hurt her, was found in a document on Betsy’s computer. However, it was the only document on the laptop that was by an unknown author, was loaded through outlook mail which Betsey did not use, and was created by Windows 97, which was never installed on Betsy’s computer. Joel Schwarz believed that Pam Hupp wrote this email and downloaded it to Betsy’s computer four days before her death, the same day Betsy changed the insurance beneficiary. Or did she? Pam had been fired from more than one job for forgery.
Before Russ’s second trial, Pam Hupp told police that she and Betsy were lovers and that was why Betsy made her the beneficiary. Her stories grew more and more bizarre as time when on. Pam was anything but predictable. She also claimed Russ had threatened to kill her sometime before the murder. None of this came up until his original conviction was overturned.
This time, the defense also had new evidence. They had found the pictures that were taken of the luminal reactions. The police officers and Leah Askey had claimed they were not developed correctly due to a mechanical error on the camera, but they had developed. The only problem is, they didn’t show any luminal reactions at all. The investigators had committed perjury in the first trial. Leah Askey claimed not to have knowledge of this.
For his second trial, Russ opted for a bench trial. This meant no jury, but just a judge would determine his fate. Christina Mennemeyer was not to be that judge, and instead, a more experienced and unbiased judge took the stand. After days of testimony and review of all the evidence, including everything that pointed to Pamela Hupp, Russel Faria was acquitted on all charges. He was finally a free man after four years in prison for a crime he could not have committed.
On August 16th, 2016, a 911 call came in from the home of Pamela Hupp. She explained in an oddly calm manner that a man had broken into her house. She can be heard yelling at him and then five shots were fired. Upon arrival to her O’Fallon, Missouri home, the body of thirty-three-year-old Louis Gumpenberger was found lying on the floor in Pam’s hallway. Pam explained the man attacked her in the garage and tried to kidnap her. She claimed she shot him in self-defense.
Inside Louis Gumpenberger’s pocket was a handwritten note with instructions to kidnap Pam, get Russ’s money, and kill Pam. It even referenced making it look like Betsy’s death, suggesting the man was responsible for both. Pam said she thought she saw the man get dropped off by Russel Faria. Russ was called in for questioning but had a rock-solid alibi and was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Police investigated Louis Gumpenberger and learned that he was in an automobile accident in 2005 and sustained head trauma. He was left partially disabled and would not have been able to chase Pam as she told police. In fact, his left arm was paralyzed. Pam also claimed to be firing the shots with both hands, but she was holding the phone with 911 when the shots were fired. She told police she walked towards the man while she shot him, which didn’t match a self-defense shooting. Strangely enough, they also found a strip of carpet underneath Gumpenberger's body, almost as if to protect the home's regular carpet. The St. Charles police were not as trusting of Pam as the Lincoln County investigators had been in 2011.
A witness from Louis’s neighborhood came forward and said that she had been picked up by a woman matching Pam’s description a week before Louis was killed. The woman, who she positively identified as Pamela Hupp, told her she was a producer for Dateline and would pay the woman $1,000 to reenact a 911 call. That’s odd since Louis Gumpenberger had $900 in crisp $100 bills in his pocket when he was killed. Police found $100 bills in Pam’s home that had sequential serial numbers to those found on Louis Gumpenberger. Pamela Hupp was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
St. Charles prosecutors believed her motive was to frame Russel Faria, again, and take the suspicion off herself in the Betsy Faria case. They believe that Pamela Hupp, whose vehicle was recorded on the star witness’s security cameras, drove to the neighborhood to find someone who needed money. She tried to pick up Carol, the first person she approached, but Carol thought it was odd and refused to go with Pam. A week later she returned and picked up Louis Gumpenberger, promising him $1000 to reenact a 911 call for Dateline. She gave Louis $900 in bills and had the sequential bills in her home, making it very unlikely Louis got the money somewhere else. Cell phone records proved Pam Hupp picked the man up in his neighborhood and came straight back to her house just minutes before the 911 call. In what he believed to be pretend, Pamela Hupp called 911 and shot Louis Gumpenberger five times, causing his death.
While in police custody, Pam slipped a pen into her back pocket. She went to the bathroom and stabbed herself over and over in the wrists and neck. She was treated at a local hospital and sent back to jail with minor injuries only. In her mug shot, now famous, she has bulky gauze on both sides of her neck that looked like maxi-pads. St. Charles States Attorney could have sought the death penalty, but Pamela Hupp agreed to take an Alford plea in exchange for life in prison without parole.
On July 12th, 2021, Lincoln County Prosecutor Mike Wood, who defeated Leah Askey in the election following Russel’s acquittal, charged Pamela Hupp with first-degree murder and armed criminal action for the 2011 death of Betsy Faria. He also vowed to investigate Leah Askey and the Lincoln County investigators involved in the original investigation. Mike Wood is seeking the death penalty against Pamela Hupp.
Christina Mennemeyer has faced disciplinary actions and investigations related to some of her rulings in other cases. Leah Askey was voted out of office and replaced by Mike Wood as Lincoln County State’s Attorney. She denies any misconduct in the case against Russel Faria and says getting that conviction was the worst thing that ever happened to her. Russel moved on, ironically with Carol, the woman Pam Hupp tried to pick up before Louis Gumpenberger. He successfully sued Lincoln County for his wrongful conviction.
Pamela Hupp is in prison where she will remain for the rest of her life. Her life may get cut short if she is convicted of killing Betsy Faria. Mark Hupp divorced Pam after her conviction. Pamela Hupp was greedy and murdered for money. Many people believe she murdered Betsy, her own mother, and Louis Gumpenberger. These same people believe that if Lincoln County had conducted a proper investigation in 2011, Shirley Neumann and Louis Gumpenberger would likely still be alive. Instead, they let Pam remain free to play deadly games.
Dateline NBC (2021) Pam Hupp was charged with first-degree murder in the 2011 stabbing death of Betsy Faria. Pam Hupp was charged with first-degree murder in the 2011 stabbing death of Betsy Faria (nbcnews.com)
National Registry of Exonerations (n.d.) Russell Faria. Russell Faria - National Registry of Exonerations (umich.edu)
Sederstrom, J. (2022) Who was Betsy Faria, the Missouri mom killed in “The Thing About Pam”. Oxygen True Crime. Who Was Betsy Faria From 'The Thing About Pam'? | Crime News (oxygen.com)
Wikipedia (n.d.) Pam Hupp. Pam Hupp - Wikipedia
FindAGrave (n.d.) Elizabeth Kay “Betsy” Meyer Faria. Elizabeth Kay “Betsy” Meyer Faria (1969-2011) - Find a Grave Memorial
Cooperman, J. (2017) The unimaginable, infamous case of Pam Hupp. St. Louis Magazine. The unimaginable, infamous case of Pam Hupp (stlmag.com)
Dateline (2021) The Thing About Pam; Dateline Podcast
Bosworth & Schwartz (2022) Bone Deep. Citadel Press. Kensington Publishing Corp. Available at Amazon.com: Bone Deep: Untangling the Twisted True Story of the Tragic Betsy Faria Murder Case eBook : Bosworth, Charles, Schwartz, Joel: Kindle Store