ST. CHARLES COUNTY • Objections to Pamela M. Hupp’s handling of proceeds from her murdered friend’s life insurance led a judge this week to freeze Hupp’s assets pending a hearing.
Elizabeth “Betsy” Faria, of Lincoln County, had changed her beneficiary to Hupp on a $150,000 policy three days before Faria was stabbed to death at home in 2011.
The victim’s husband, Russell Faria, is serving a life sentence without parole in the killing. A Post-Dispatch-Fox 2 investigation earlier this year highlighted doubts about the evidence used to convict him of first-degree murder.
Hupp has given contradictory statements about her intended use of the money. She told officials and reporters that Betsy Faria — who already was dying of cancer — wanted her to pass the money on to Faria’s daughters. But it appears that Hupp is now resisting that, claiming the money was meant for her.
It was a complaint by the daughters, Leah and Mariah Day, that led St. Charles Circuit Court Judge Daniel Pelikan to sign a temporary restraining order Monday afternoon. As previously reported, the Days filed a civil suit April 7, saying Hupp defrauded them out of the money.
The attorneys claimed Hupp had spent at least part of the money for a house, credit card and utility bills and other expenses. The restraining order applies to bank accounts and the Hupp residence in O’Fallon, Mo., and will remain in place at least until a hearing Aug. 18.
Since Faria was slain, Hupp has offered a series of conflicting plans for the money, according to court documents and interviews.
Hupp told police that Faria wanted her to hold the money for the daughters because she didn’t trust relatives to do it. A librarian who witnessed the change of beneficiary told police and attorneys in the Day-Hupp civil case that the money was supposed to go to the Days.
During Russell Faria’s trial, Hupp testified that she had put $100,000 of the money in a trust account and reserved $50,000 to benefit a different friend with cancer, who died before the money was used.
Hupp told the Post-Dispatch earlier this year she was holding $100,000 in a revocable trust, and that all the Days had to do to get it was to contact her. She said she had not decided what to do with the remaining $50,000.
The Days’ lawsuit says Hupp told Betsy Faria’s father that she had put the money in a trust.
In a deposition July 21 with the Days’ attorneys, however, Hupp denied ever saying that the money was supposed to go to the daughters.
She said she set up a $100,000 trust on Nov. 13, 2013, the week before the murder trial, because of pressure “from the prosecuting side and from her family.” She said she didn’t put the full $150,000 in the trust because she was concerned about medical bills for her mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Russell Faria was convicted Nov. 21. Hupp withdrew all but $300 of the money from the trust on Dec. 10, her deposition says, but she could not explain why.
Hupp said in the deposition that the insurance proceeds were “my money” and that she intended to spend it. Hupp said she rehabs houses and owns homes in Lemay and O’Fallon, Mo., and was about to close on a house in St. Peters.
Christopher E. Roberts, one of the Days’ attorneys, said in a court filing that Hupp had $2,226 in her joint checking account and about $14,000 in savings before the insurance check was deposited in February 2012. In May 2014, she had $50,000 in checking and almost $97,000 in savings.
Hupp’s attorney, Christine Alsop, did not respond to a message seeking comment. In court filings, she called the Days’ lawsuit “baseless and frivolous” and said that there was no evidence to support their claims. She also complained that she was not given adequate notice of the restraining order request, so it should be tossed out.
In interviews and depositions, Hupp has denied any involvement in Betsy Faria’s death and said she had no motive for murder. She said she didn’t even know if the beneficiary change had been processed at the time of the murder, and noted that with her friend losing a battle with cancer, she was going to collect on the insurance anyway.
Roberts and David Butsch, also attorneys for the Days, declined comment.
Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney Leah Askey did not return calls seeking comment.
Faria’s murder — and Russell Faria’s claim that he was wrongfully convicted — were the subject of a joint Post-Dispatch-Fox 2 investigation published in March. Russell Faria’s supporters said that police did not do enough to look at other potential suspects, including Hupp, and that prosecutors improperly introduced evidence during the trial.
Russell Faria’s attorney, Joel Schwartz, has said he was not allowed to cross-examine Hupp during the trial about inconsistencies in her story and her own potential motive: the life insurance.
Schwartz is planning an appeal. Asked Wednesday about the information in the restraining order, he said, “Hopefully, justice will soon be served.”