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Russ Faria and Joel Schwartz speak ahead of 'The Thing About Pam' NBC debut

The two never imagined their chance encounter 10 years ago would amount to the Hollywood spectacle it is today.

LINCOLN COUNTY, Mo. — It's been more than 10 years since the murder of Betsy Faria. Her husband Russ was wrongly convicted in 2013, but later found not guilty in a retrial. In that time, Pam Hupp killed again, and she was just convicted last summer for Betsy Faria's murder.

On March 8, a series called 'The Thing About Pam' will air on NBC starring Renee Zellweger.

Today in St. Louis’ Allie Corey sat down with Russ Faria and his attorney Joel Schwartz ahead of its debut.

Corey met with Faria and Shwartz at his law office in Downtown Clayton.

“When we first started this, neither Joel or myself thought that we would be here today or that it would go on for as long as it has," Russ said.

"It’s such a fascinating story and it’s a bit of a cautionary tale," Schwartz said.

The story is one St. Louis became familiar with: the murder of Betsy Faria in 2011 at her home in Troy, Missouri.

Betsy and Russ Faria

Her husband Russ Faria spent 3 years behind bars, before his murder conviction was overturned in 2015. Hupp, feeling the heat with Faria now a free man, lured Louis Gumpenberger to her home in O'Fallon, Missouri, where she staged a home invasion. 

Hupp shot and killed Gumpenberger while on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. Hupp even left a note on Gumpenberger to frame Faria. She told police Gumpenberger was an intruder sent by Faria to kill her and collect money from Betsy Faria's life insurance.

Authorities in St. Charles County determined Hupp’s story was an elaborate scheme and she was arrested and charged.

Credit: ksdk

"Pam is the kind of person that you can put into the same conversation as Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer," Faria said. "There’s a long list of serial killers and I believe she's one of them."

The motive in Betsy Faria’s death, argued by Defense Attorney Schwartz, was her life insurance. Hupp had convinced Betsy to transfer the $150,000 policy to her name. Schwartz said that evidence, as well as cell phone records that put Pam at the scene of the crime at the time of Betsy’s murder, were not allowed at the trial. Schwartz said the jury never heard about the insurance policy.

"The policy that we're speaking of was in Russ' name for 10 years, so almost 4,000 days. It was in Pam’s name for four and Betsy died," Schwartz said.

Once Schwartz brought Faria’s case and that evidence to the Court of Appeals, it was quickly overturned and Faria was granted a retrial in which he was exonerated in 2015.

Russ Faria and his attorney Joel Schwartz have had their story told time and time again, for numerous Dateline episodes, a podcast and crime dramas. Tuesday night you'll see it told again by Academy Award-winning actress Renee Zellweger. Both will be watching it for the first time.

Schwartz, who’s played by Josh Duhamel, said "You put your trust in these people is what it amounts to. It’s still a bit surreal. You hope you're portrayed in some sort of favorable light."

The writers and actors spent some 60 hours with Faria and Schwartz to make sure they got the details correct.

It will bring back painful memories for Faria.

“I think it’s a necessary evil. There are a lot of things that are hard, there are good days and bad days. But I’m okay with it," he said.

He’s okay with it because it helps bring awareness to issues he’s become passionate about: shedding light on wrongful convictions with the Innocence Project and getting rid of prosecutorial immunity.

"If they're using the system to put people in prison for life or put them to death and not be punished they have a license to kill," Faria said.

Schwartz has since written a book called 'Bone Deep' that details his bizarre experience with the murder trial.  

Credit: ksdk

"Pam’s M.O. is going after old, sick and disabled people," Faria said. "Betsy was sick, dying of cancer, her mom was an older woman and Mr. Louis Gumpenberger was a disabled man."

The investigation into her mother’s death, 77-year-old Shirley Neumann, is still open. Neumann was found beneath the balcony of her senior living facility in Fenton in 2013. Hupp was one of the last people to see her alive. In 2017, the St. Louis County medical examiner changed Neumann’s manner of death from accidental to undetermined.

Credit: ksdk

"I think the Pam Hupp chapter will come to a close," Schwartz said. "Whether or not she gets the death penalty. But I don’t think the story will die because I think people are going to try to attempt to figure out what we haven’t been able to, which is what went through her mind and what was she thinking."

Russ Faria said there's one positive that came from knowing Hupp. He's now engaged to the woman Hupp first tried to pick up as a victim, before finding Louis Gumpenberger.


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