LINCOLN COUNTY, Mo. — Greed was the motive for the murder of Betsy Faria, and ego was the motive for prosecutors and police to convict her innocent husband of the crime, according to Lincoln County Prosecutor Michael Wood.
“This was the poorest example of investigative work I or members of my team have ever seen,” Wood said during a press conference Monday announcing murder charges against Pam Hupp. “It was driven by ego and a prosecutor who was working toward an agenda rather than the truth.”
On Monday, Wood accused former Lincoln County prosecutors and the detectives for the sheriff’s department who investigated the Dec. 27, 2011, murder of botching the investigation, which led to the wrongful conviction of Russ Faria for his wife’s murder. Wood made the allegations against his predecessor as he announced he had charged Hupp, Betsy Faria’s friend, with first-degree murder and armed criminal action.
Detectives, the Lincoln County Sheriff and St. Charles police chief stood with Wood Monday as he announced how he plans to pursue a criminal investigation against all of those involved in the case, saying witnesses told him prosecutors asked them to lie during Russ Faria’s trial.
And Former sheriff’s deputies also ordered the evidence in the case to be destroyed following Russ Faria’s acquittal. It wasn’t, and Wood said St. Charles police agreed to house all of the evidence in the case.
“This is an extremely compelling circumstantial case, one that is very difficult to deny,” Wood said. “Yet the prosecutors and investigators denied it all the same.
“Sadly all of these facts were available to the prosecution from the beginning, even while Betsy’s husband was twice prosecuted for her death.”
Russ Faria has since won a $2 million settlement for his wrongful conviction. In that lawsuit, Russ Faria accused former Lincoln County Prosecutor Leah Askey and former Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputies Ryan McCarrick, Detective Sergeant Patrick Harney and Capt. Mike Merkel of ignoring critical evidence that could prove his innocence.
"I've constantly said that they did a very poor investigation, in fact, I've compared them to the Three Stooges and at one time to a bunch of incompetent monkeys," Russ Faria said.
Wood didn’t name the prosecutors or police officers he intended to investigate, but said the “allegations in the federal petition for violations of Mr. Faria’s civil rights were largely corroborated by our investigation.”
Wood speculated the motivation for police and prosecutors to pursue Russ Faria as the prime suspect was based on ego, which turned into fear.
“It’s clear to me the investigators made up their minds early and never once considered Hupp as a suspect despite overwhelming evidence,” he said. “And prosecutors jumped at an initial rush to judgment and came to their conclusion too early.
“That investigation was mismanaged from the beginning.”
By the time Russ Faria’s second trial came around, police and prosecutors “doubled down because they knew how far they had gotten.”
"I did win my second trial, and I was exonerated but for law enforcement to actually come out and say, 'Hey, we believe there was a shoddy investigation, and we believe that it went should have gone the other way,' for that to be publicly said means a whole lot to me," Russ Faria said.
Wood noted how Russ Faria had four alibi witnesses, no blood on his clothing despite a very bloody crime scene, cellphone towers showing he was nowhere near the scene when she died as well as video evidence of him in several businesses around the time of the murder.
Wood said he plans to produce a report about how police and prosecutors mishandled the case by the end of the year and noted there is no statute of limitations on perjury, a class A felony.
“I don’t know where this investigation will go, but I will take it where ever it leads me,” he said. “My only goal is to establish confidence and restore faith in the justice system.”