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Convicted murderer Russell Faria defends his innocence

Convicted murderer Russell Faria claims innocence during an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Fox 2 in the visitors' room at the Department of Corrections' Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center in Fulton, Mo., on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

ST. CHARLES COUNTY • The daughters of Betsy Faria, a Lincoln County woman stabbed to death in her home in 2011, are suing one of their late mother’s best friends, claiming she defrauded them out of $150,000 in life insurance.

The suit, filed April 7, says that just days before her killing, Faria changed beneficiaries on the insurance policy from her husband, Russell Faria, to Pamela Hupp. Betsy Faria had terminal cancer. She wanted to make sure the money went to her adult daughters, Leah and Mariah Day, the suit says.

Russell Faria was convicted of first-degree murder in his wife’s death and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He is appealing the conviction. Questions about the case against him — and the second thoughts of some jurors — were the focus of a joint investigation by the Post-Dispatch and Fox 2 news last month.

Hupp, of O’Fallon, Mo., formed a revocable trust with some of the money, but she won’t turn over the documentation or any money to the daughters, the suit says. It claims she already used some of the money “for her own purposes.”

The lawsuit alleges fraud, unjust enrichment and a breach of Hupp’s duty as a trustee.

Hupp hung up when a reporter called Thursday. Earlier this year, she told the Post-Dispatch that she had set up a revocable trust with $100,000 of the money, and all the Days had to do was contact her for information.

She said $50,000 was earmarked to help a dying friend of hers and Faria’s, but that woman succumbed to cancer before receiving the money. Hupp had told the Post-Dispatch that the cash was in her bank account and she had not yet decided what to do with it.

David Butsch, a lawyer for the Days, said Thursday, “We intend to recover this money for the benefit of Leah and Mariah Day, and we believe our lawsuit is well-founded in fact and law.” The case was filed in court in St. Charles County, where the Days live.

Russell Faria’s lawyers and supporters have complained that prosecutors improperly introduced evidence in the murder trial, and argued their theory of the murder to jurors without introducing evidence to back it up.

In court documents and interviews, Faria’s lawyer, Joel Schwartz, said that when Hupp testified against Russell Faria, he was not allowed to cross-examine her about inconsistencies in her story and her own possible motive: the life insurance.

Hupp has denied any involvement in Betsy Faria’s death.

Some jurors complained to the Post-Dispatch about information that they never heard at trial. Schwartz could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Prosecuting Attorney Leah Askey has declined to comment on the case, as have Lincoln County investigators.