Parenting

Pam Hupp Is Not Your Typical Serial Killer––And Wow, It's A Lot

Scary Mommy and FOX 2 St. Louis/Youtube

Pam Hupp had a normal childhood. She grew up in Dellwood, Missouri, firmly entrenched in the middle-class white Catholic suburbs: schoolteacher mom, union-man dad, third of three kids, according to Jeannette Cooperman. And she grew up to become an image of the white, suburban, middle-class mom you’d expect: frowsy blonde hair, red turtleneck, penny-pinching. But that penny-pinching was more than just a frugal housewife unplugging the toaster at night. As a friend said, “When it comes to money, she short-circuits.” This bland Midwesterner’s miserly ways drove her to murder — not once, not twice, but possibly three times.

Before her life of crime, Pam seemed… normal. Knocked up post-prom, according to the Criminal Broads Episode “No Drama Pam,” she had a shotgun Catholic wedding while her high school buddies went off to college. She gave birth to a daughter, but divorced her husband six years later — and would force him to appear at the courthouse with canceled checks to prove he’d paid his child support. Soon after, she married Mark Hupp, had a baby boy, and moved to Naples, Florida in 1989. She was back to Missouri after her dad’s death in 2001.

But she seemed… changed, says Cooperman. When she came back, she didn’t catch up with old buddies, and she didn’t make any new ones. Still, one acquaintance remembers that she was active in the women’s club of their Catholic church and sent her kids to the same Catholic grade school. She held “a string of low-paying insurance jobs” before filing for disability over chronic pain issues stemming from accidents she claimed to have suffered.

She was, it later came out, fired from those insurance jobs for forging signatures. And as an acquaintance told Cooperman, “If there was a risk that something would cost her money, she didn’t want anything to do with it. She was financially driven, and she was cheap.”

First Comes (Or Goes) Betsy Faria

Pam met Betsy at her first job when she returned to Missouri. Betsy fit another Midwestern stereotype: big-haired, bubbly, scatterbrained and sweet, says Cooperman. They lost touch — until Betsy developed breast cancer in 2010. Then Pam was right there. It would have seemed kind, neighborly, even loving. She took Betsy to all her cancer treatments, recalls Betsy’s dad.

But Betsy worried about something: her own money. She feared her two daughters would spend it on partying, and that her own husband would “piss it away,” according to Cooperman.

It seemed Betsy had beaten the cancer. But it came back, and Pam was, again, right there. So right there, in fact, that on December 23rd, she took Betsy to a local library, where a librarian witnessed her change-of-beneficiary form on her $150,000 life insurance policy . It disinherited both of Betsy’s daughters and her husband — and gave Pam all the cash.

Two days after Christmas, 2011, only four days after that life insurance policy changed, court documents allege that Pam watched Betsy’s every move, waiting until her friend was weak from chemo before offering her a ride home — knowing Betsy’s husband Russ had his usual game night with friends. That night, Betsy was stabbed 55 times including postmortem, and was left on her kitchen floor. Russ made the hysterical 911 call. A pair of bloody slippers in his closet seemed to point to his guilt, and police said they’d botched the photos that would have shown, with a special light, blood tracked through the house.

Russ Faria was taken to the station. Awake for thirty-six hours by then, with marijuana in his system from smoking with his buddies, he was subjected to a polygraph — and failed. Brought in as a witness, Pam said Russ had a violent temper. She’d also seen a silver Nissan Maxima in Betsy’s driveway. She was breezy and calm with the police, who seemed to hang on and believe her every word — despite the life insurance policy. Faria’s defense attorney would think, “If she says she saw a monkey go into that house, they’re gonna ask whether it was a rhesus or a baboon.”

Faria was charged and put to trial for his wife’s murder. His defense attorney, Joel Schwartz, started to see the cops’ mistakes. Pam kept changing her story — first the car was a silver Nissan. Then it was a blue SUV. She had no alibi — but Russ had been at his friends’ game night, then made a variety of stops that caught him on camera. He would have had, by Schwartz’s estimation, about nine minutes “to stab his wife 55 times, clean up the crime scene, then call 911.” His clothes had no blood splatters.

Meanwhile, Pam’s story kept changing, even beyond the type of car. First she didn’t go into the house. Then she went all the way into the bedroom. Her clothes or car were never tested for blood. All this though she was the last person to see Betsy alive. She made a doctor sign a form saying she couldn’t do a polygraph, claiming an unspecified medical condition, which later evolved in memory issues stemming either from head injuries or menopause. She claimed she set up a trust for Betsy’s daughters with the insurance money.

Schwartz was barred from any evidence that implicated Pam during Faria’s trial. Faria was convicted and sentenced to life on circumstantial evidence.

But during a civil trial, when Betsy’s daughters sued her for the insurance money, she admitted she’d revoked the trust. It was all Schwartz needed. He asked for a new trial, and he got it.

The Mysterious Death of Pam’s Mom

During Faria’s first trial, Schwartz asked Pam why it was taking her so long to create a trust for Betsy’s daughters. Pam explained that her mother had just died of Alzheimer’s.

Pam’s mother had not died of Alzheimer’s.

Pam’s mother was found one morning beneath the balcony of her assisted living home with eight times her regular Ambien dosage in her system. It appeared that she’d slipped, crashed into the railing, and that railing had broken, resulting in a fall that crushed her chest.

Pam got the insurance money: $3,589.02, designed to pay funeral expenses, and about $120,000 in investments.

Faria’s New Trial … And Pam’s New Allegations

Faria had a second trial in November of 2015. Schwartz managed to prove that he had no motive for killing his wife, and the evidence against him was circumstantial. Pam was not called to testify by either the defense or prosecution.

But.

This conservative, middle-aged, Midwestern Catholic who’d expressed homophobic views in the past was now claiming that she and Betsy had been in a lesbian affair — out of pity for Betsy, who wasn’t getting what she needed from Russ. And that Russ knew about it, and he’d violently threatened Pam. That gave Betsy a motive to change the life insurance policy, and Russ a motive to kill her. But Schwartz still wasn’t buying it.

Faria was acquitted. Now no one was officially responsible for Betsy’s death.

Enter Louis Gumpenberger

But Pam must have been nervous that they’d try to pin Betsy’s death on her. Dateline had aired several specials on her case. In July 2016, Faria filed suit with civil suit with a prosecutor and three detectives who investigated Betsy’s death. The U.S. Attorney’s Office was starting to take an interest, accumulating information about the case.

So she concocted a plot. She approached several people posing as a Dateline producer and offered each $1,000 to do a reenactment. Brent Charlton recalls a blonde woman pulling up in an SUV while he was mowing lawns. When she made her offer, he refused: it seemed weird. Another woman received the same offer — but when she didn’t see a camera crew and the woman had no Dateline business card, she backed off.

Video footage of the event clearly shows Pam’s car and license plate.

But someone did agree to help Pam. On August 26th, 2016, Louis Gumpenberger, a 33-year-old man with mental and physical injuries left over from a traffic accident, agreed to go with her. She called 911 twice that day, and on the third call, dispatchers were listening. They heard several seconds of silence before shots were fired. Pam Hupp claimed Gumpenberger had come out of nowhere to attack her with a knife and demand “Russ’s money,” so she shot him. Gumpenberger was found with $900 (consecutive in serial numbers with a hundred dollar bill Pam had) and a note telling him to kill Pam, but first, to take her to the bank to get “Russ’s money.”

But the note ordered Gumpenberger to leave the cash behind a woodpile at Faria’s house. Faria recalled his father had left some timber in his yard — and a neighbor offered to go through his security camera to see if Pam Hupp had driven by and seen them.

The tape had caught her, and she was arrested. She’d also been pinged by cell phone in Gumpenberger’s neighborhood 45 minutes before the 911 call.

After her arrest, she stabbed herself in the neck and wrists with a ballpoint pen. Her suicide attempt was unsuccessful, and in 2019, she put in an Alford plea, meaning that she recognized there was enough evidence to convict her, but did not admit guilt. This allowed her to avoid a death-penalty trial for first degree murder.

Betsy’s Murder Reopened

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors were mounting evidence against Pam for the murder of Betsy Faria. She was charged on July 12, 2021 with first-degree murder and “armed criminal action” nearly ten years after Betsy’s death. Court documents say that she “dipped Betsy’s socks in her own blood and tracked it through the house to make it seem like a domestic violence incident.” They will be seeking the death penalty.

And in light of Gumpenberger’s death, medical examiners have changed Pam Hupp’s mother’s cause of death from “accidental” to “undetermined.” However, the investigation into her death is currently “inactive.”

Did Pam kill Betsy? There seems to be no other logical suspects; her story has changed numerous times; and the death of Gumpenberger seems to practically shout that she murdered Betsy and tried to cover it up (again). Did she murder her mother? Pam would have received the money — eventually. But did she want it immediately?

With no pending investigation, we may never know.

But with formal charges announced, Pam will be going to trial for Betsy’s death sooner rather than later. And this time, she may not be able to escape the true consequences of her greed.