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Pamela Hupp makes her first appearance in court on new murder charge

Pamela Hupp makes her first appearance in court on new murder charge

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UPDATED at 11 a.m. Tuesday with additional details from court documents, interviews.

LINCOLN COUNTY — Pamela Hupp, who is already serving a life term in prison for another murder, made her first court appearance Tuesday on charges connected to the death of her friend, Elizabeth “Betsy” Faria, in 2011.

Hupp’s lawyers had already entered a not guilty plea in a court filing last week, and sought a waiver from Hupp’s appearance at Tuesday’s hearing but Associate Circuit Judge Gregory Allsberry rejected the waiver.

In a hearing that lasted just minutes, Allsberry said he will schedule a preliminary hearing for Hupp. Prosecuting Attorney Mike Wood told the Post-Dispatch last week that he was seeking the preliminary hearing, with witnesses and evidence, rather than take the case to the grand jury.

Stephanie Zipfel, one of Hupp’s lawyers, said Hupp was waiving a bond hearing, as she was serving the life prison term on the other murder case.

Zipfel and Wood said outside the courthouse that the next hearing, a status conference, will be held in September.

Zipfel said the defense was seeking to have a charge of armed criminal action against Hupp dismissed. The defense filing argues that prosecutors waited too long to charge Hupp with armed criminal action, which must be filed within three years of a crime.

Hupp declined to respond to reporters’ questions as she was led out of the courthouse, handcuffed and wearing orange prison garb.

Wood said it was his first time seeing Hupp in person, something he had “anticipated for quite some time.” Wood said he’d been working on the case for two-and-a-half years.

During questioning by reporters, Wood said that if there are plea negotiations, he will not accept a so-called Alford plea from Hupp, saying the Faria family deserved justice and adding that the case had given the justice system and investigators in Lincoln County a “black eye.”

Hupp had previously entered an Alford plea in St. Charles County Circuit Court, acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict her of murdering Louis Gumpenberger in 2016 without admitting that she had done so.

Hupp fatally shot Gumpenberger, a mentally and physically disabled man, in her O’Fallon, Missouri, home, later telling police that he’d tried to kidnap her to get “Russ’ money,” a reference to Russell Faria, the husband of Betsy Faria. But St. Charles County prosecutors and investigators concluded that it was an amateurish attempt to divert attention from herself in a re-investigation of Betsy Faria’s killing.

After the fatal stabbing of Faria, investigators zeroed in on Russell Faria, in part with Hupp’s help. Russell Faria was convicted of his wife’s murder in 2013, but that conviction was overturned amid accusations by Faria’s lawyers that Hupp was the real culprit. Faria was then acquitted in a re-trial.

Betsy Faria and Pam Hupp

Betsy Faria and Pam Hupp

When Wood was elected, he took a fresh look at Faria’s murder and announced charges against Hupp earlier this month. Charging documents say Hupp badgered Faria into accepting a ride home after chemotherapy treatments on Dec. 27, 2011, because she knew Faria would be “weak and lethargic.” Faria was dying of cancer. Hupp also knew Russell Faria was out with friends, the charges say.

Hupp stabbed Faria 55 times then staged the murder scene to try and implicate Russell Faria, according to the charges. She is accused of killing her friend for a $150,000 insurance policy that Betsy Faria signed over to Hupp four days before the murder. Wood said he will seek the death penalty if Hupp is convicted of first-degree murder.

Wood also said he and newly elected Sheriff Rick Harrell are investigating “misconduct and potentially criminal behavior” by the former investigators and prosecutors who worked on the case. On Tuesday, he said he anticipated that investigation would wrap up by the end of the year.

Faria’s murder has drawn national attention, with several books on the case said to be in the works, as well as a scripted TV series starring Renee Zellweger.

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