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Police: Friend of slain Lincoln County woman now claims their love affair prompted husband's threats

Police: Friend of slain Lincoln County woman now claims their love affair prompted husband's threats

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TROY, Mo. • Pamela Hupp, cast by defense lawyers at Russell Faria’s murder trial as the more likely killer of Faria’s wife, claimed to police earlier this year to have been the victim’s lover, a detective testified Thursday.

Sgt. Patrick Harney also said Hupp told police for the first time in June, 3½ years after the killing, that Russell Faria had discovered the relationship and threatened to kill her if he found her in his house again.

Even though the surprising twists involved accusations against the defendant, the prosecution did not ask Harney about them, and objected when defense lawyer Joel Schwartz brought them out in cross-examination.

It appeared to be part of a continuing defense effort to highlight contradictions or shifts in Hupp’s evolving story. Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney Leah Askey, who presented Hupp as a witness in the first trial to testify about the victim’s fear of her husband, rested the state’s case Thursday without calling her.

It was unclear whether the defense would question Hupp directly, but she was clearly under attack.

Defense lawyer Joel Schwartz asked Harney whether Hupp had said anything in a June 2015 interview about seeing someone else at the house when she dropped off the victim the night of the murder. The officer said Hupp told police, “I wish I saw someone but I didn’t.”

Then, reading from a transcript of another police interview with Hupp in October, Schwartz asked Harney whether it was true that Hupp then said she had seen Russell Faria and another man in a vehicle in the driveway of the Faria home that night.

Judge Steven Ohmer sustained an objection from Askey before Harney answered.

Neither the sexual relationship nor the possible presence of Russell Faria in the driveway has been mentioned before publicly. Hupp collected $150,000 in life insurance on Betsy Faria.

Russell Faria was convicted of first-degree murder in his first trial. But the judge’s refusal to allow evidence against an alternate suspect helped lead to the verdict being thrown out and a new trial this week. Faria chose to have Ohmer, a different judge on loan from St. Louis, decide the verdict this time, and not a jury.

Hupp previously said she got along with Russell Faria, but she painted a much different picture in last summer’s interview.

Harney said Hupp described a confrontation with Faria, who was enraged at the women’s relationship. The officer said Hupp claimed Faria warned her, “If he catches her again, he’s going to stab her and bury her in the backyard.”

Referring to Hupp’s differing accounts, Schwarz suggested they cannot both be true. Replied Harney, “I wouldn’t think so.”

On Wednesday, Sgt. Ryan McCarrick of the Major Case Squad had testified that he regarded Hupp as truthful, and said that what the defense claimed were contradictions are really just differences, not lies. He said Russell Faria was the only logical suspect.

Writing found on Betsy Faria’s computer reflected fear of her husband, a detective testified Wednesday, although he could only say that it was accessed with her password — not that she actually wrote it. A defense expert testified Thursday that the file appeared to have originated on a different computer.

Hupp’s name has been front and center at the trial. She became beneficiary of the insurance just days before Betsy Faria, 42, was stabbed to death at home, outside Troy, on Dec. 27, 2011. Hupp was the last person known to have seen the victim alive.

As in the first trial, the defense provided testimony from four friends who said that Russell Faria, then 41, was with them miles away in O’Fallon, Mo., until about 9 p.m. Paramedics responding to Russell Faria’s 911 call about 9:40 p.m. found his wife cold and stiff, suggesting death much earlier. She had been stabbed 55 times. In cross-examination, Askey suggested the four friends seemed to have selective memories.

Russell Faria’s clothes had no blood spots, but a pair of his slippers, found in a closet, were stained with his wife’s blood. Police experts gave mixed opinions about whether they might have been dipped in the blood. The defense claims the real killer planted them to frame the husband.

The defense also presented testimony Thursday that cellphone records put Russell Faria nowhere near the murder scene until later, while Hupp’s phone lingered near the Faria house after she said she dropped off her friend.

Some family and friends have testified about the Farias’ rocky marriage. And Askey, the prosecutor, said that Russell Faria’s mistress was pregnant at the time of the killing.

But that woman said Thursday the two had only dated in 2010 and that she had lied about being pregnant with his child. Defense witnesses Thursday spoke of a solid marriage, saying they never saw Russell Faria threaten or harm his wife.

The defense is expected to wrap up Friday. Judge Ohmer could render his verdict then or later.

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