tv Dateline NBC NBC June 25, 2015 8:00pm-9:01pm EDT
>> he walked in the door and he broke down crying. and he kept saying how bad it hurt because he lost his betsy. he was a broken man. >> reporter: tonight, a harrowing story takes a startling turn. >> after dateline aired we had so many people step forward. >> it all began when he discovered his wife dead. >> oh my god, no! >> reporter: he was bound to be a suspect. and some said he had a motive. >> he makes comments about how much money he'll have after she's gone. >> reporter: cops found blood on his slippers and said he failed a polygraph. >> the fact of the matter is you stabbed betsy! >> reporter: thing was, this husband had an alibi. thanks to the buddies he met
every tuesday for game night. >> we knew that he could not have committed this crime. >> impossible? >> it's impossible. a man cannot be in two places at the same time. >> reporter: some said police ignored another potential suspect. >> one of the concerns that i have is you're one of the last people to see betsy. >> they wanted to blame somebody and the police were telling them that it was me and so they decided to believe that. >> reporter: an innocent man, railroaded by investigators? or a killer, protected by his tuesday night pals? now, a most unlikely twist. >> this doesn't happen, right? >> it's incredibly rare. >> reporter: may finally lead to the truth. >> it was very emotional. you almost feel like you can't breathe. >> i'm lester holt, and this is dateline. here's keith morrison with game night. >> reporter: on the 27th of december, 2011, in a small town not far from st. louis, missouri, a frigid night sank heavy and still around the house
on sumac drive. but the woman inside no longer felt the cold. she would never feel anything now. it was 9:40 p.m., all over but the call to 911. >> what is the location of your emergency? >> oh -- >> okay. i need you to take a couple deep breaths so i can see what's going on. >> i just got home from a friend's house and -- and my wife -- my wife -- >> reporter: the man on the phone was hysterical. >> god. >> what is her name? >> her name is betsy. >> betsy? >> yes. >> reporter: betsy faria. and the crying you can hear is her husband, russell. >> oh my god. no. >> russell -- she -- do you think that she's beyond help right now? >> i think she's dead. >> okay. >> oh, my god. she's gone.
>> reporter: betsy faria was dead and gone at 42. and yet? early death for betsy, as you will hear, was not a surprise. that had been preordained, sad to say. no, it was how it happened. and what happened after we first told the story about the mystery that went down a rabbit hole as you shall see. but first you need to know about betsy faria. she was one of four girls in her family. mary rodgers and julie swaney were older sisters. >> betsy was the most outgoing and the most social. >> kinda gregarious, right? >> gregarious is a great word for her. very colorful, very lively. she was an individual. you couldn't tell her no. she did what she wanted to do. and she started dj'ing at the age of -- i think she was 18, maybe even younger than that. >> wow. >> and she could start up a party. >> she was in her element when she was out there. she could get anybody on the dance floor, whether they wanted
to or not. >> reporter: betsy was a single mother of two daughters, leah and mariah, when she met russ, and he seemed just about perfect for her. funny, outgoing, big heart, said russ's cousin, mary anderson. >> he's a happy person. he was a jokester. >> yeah. >> you -- you never seen him without him laughing. >> reporter: and, said russ, she was the perfect woman for him. >> she encouraged me to go back to school and get my degree which led to a better job, more money, things like that. >> yeah. >> which i probably wouldn't have done had she not come along. >> reporter: when russ met betsy, her daughters were very young, mariah still a tiny girl. >> we really created a big bond, you know. and -- and leah, you know, bonded with me as well. >> reporter: betsy and russ got married in january 2000. and, like many couples, they had good times. and then less good times. for more than a year, they actually lived apart. >> we argued a lot and, you
know, it's always darkest before the dawn, they say. >> reporter: and then betsy told him she'd found a church that meant a lot to her. maybe he'd like to come. >> the first week we went there, they were starting a series on marriage. it was kind of -- kind of like an omen. >> reporter: and that, said russ, is when their marriage got better again. >> you know, we kinda re-fell in love with one another. >> reporter: but life will have its way with a person, like it or not. betsy found out she had breast cancer. >> christmas of 2009, she told us that she thought she had it and it was diagnosed in january 2010. that's when she had her mastectomy. >> we went through a lot of -- lotta crying, lotta heartache, you know, and just lotta hard time. but, you know, we kept our faith and we kept praying. >> and she handled it with such grace. she just amazed the -- the
millions of people that she knows. she was involved in tennis. she just continued playing tennis. you'd never know she was going through chemo. >> reporter: and maybe that helped her beat it. in the winter of 2011, betsy's doctor told her the cancer was in remission. so she and russ decided to celebrate. they organized a caribbean cruise, invited their friends and family to come along. and then -- >> she thinks, "i'm free and clear." and then this bomb gets dropped on her. >> reporter: the cancer was back, had spread to her liver. >> it was inoperable. it was too far in her liver that they couldn't take it out. >> reporter: she had, with luck, three to five years, perhaps less. so what did russ and betsy do? they went on that cruise anyway. took their whole gang with them. betsy got to swim with the dolphins, a dream she'd had for years. >> just seeing how happy she was made me happy. >> she told everybody that this was a second honeymoon for them.
she said it was the best thing that happened. they had the best sex that they could ever have while they were on this cruise. >> reporter: but then a few weeks later, betsy was dead. but it certainly wasn't the cancer that killed her. >> how did betsy die? >> reporter: the answer to that wasn't clear at all. her husband, who called 911, had one idea. >> my wife killed herself! >> reporter: but investigators had another: >> it's not typical for someone that's gonna commit suicide to do it the way she done it. and that's what concerns us.
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>> i just got home from a friend's house and -- and my wife -- my wife -- >> reporter: part way through russ faria's hysterical call to 911 the night of december 27th, 2011, were four little words that were going to become very important indeed. >> my wife killed herself. >> reporter: "my wife killed herself." >> okay. russell, i need you to calm down, honey. okay? i need you to calm down and take a couple deep breaths. we're going to get somebody on the way there, okay? >> reporter: russ said he'd returned home after a night out with friends to find his wife, betsy, dead on the living room floor.
and it looked like suicide, he told the 911 operator. >> what -- what did she do? do you know? >> she's got a knife in her neck. and she sliced her arms. >> reporter: now, much later, russ told us something clicked when he saw her lying there. >> well, she had talked about it years before and actually tried it once or twice. >> and when you came in, what do you -- >> i saw slashes on her arms, you know, and that was the first thing that just registered in my mind. >> reporter: early next morning, betsy's mother, janet meyer, got a knock on the door. officers standing there on her doorstep. >> one of them just looked right at me and said, "betsy's dead." and i said, "well, how could she be dead? she was just here last night." >> reporter: officers also went to betsy's sister julie's house. >> they said it was a possible suicide. you know, i -- i looked at her and gave her this look like, i don't think that sounds right. >> reporter: thing is, by the time police offered that suicide suggestion to betsy's family, they already knew.
the death of betsy faria was no suicide. not even possible. first responders could tell right away and the medical examiner's office found betsy's body had been pierced many, many times, including wounds most likely inflicted after she was already dead. hardly surprising then, that police might be casting around for suspects. or that russ, the husband, the man who supposedly "discovered" the body had some explaining to do. but that night, at the sheriff's department, getting him to focus was not an easy thing. >> oh god. it sucks. no. >> but i think you're the only one that can help us with this right now. >> i don't know what to do. >> reporter: but investigators had a job to do, find betsy's killer, and they thought it might be russ, who was incredibly emotional. was he acting? was this florid grief actually real?
whatever it was, russ seemed to be sticking with the suicide story. >> what do you think happened to betsy? >> it looked like she killed herself. >> reporter: but did he really not know about all those other stab wounds? and something else, betsy's body was cold and stiff when those first responders arrived. rigor mortis had already set in, the blood was drying. based on that, it had appeared xwrits had been dead for some time when russ called 911. so detectives zeroed in on betsy and russ's movements. >> reporter: russ said betsy had a chemo appointment that afternoon, planned to go to her mom's house afterwards and then russ would drive her home. or at least, that was the arrangement. but when he called betsy sometime after 5:00 p.m. -- >> i asked her if she needed a ride on my way home, and she said no. that her friend was gonna bring her home. and i said, "okay." and she said she had something to talk to me about. and i said, "well is it good or bad?" and she says, "well it's good.
don't worry." and i said, "okay, well i'll see you at home later," and "i love you." and that was the last time i talked to her. >> reporter: after that, said russ, he ran some errands, and then, at 6:00, as he almost always did tuesday evenings, he arrived at a friend's house, where a small group gathered for what they called their game night. >> we go over there on tuesday nights and usually we play games. >> but that particular night my friend had gotten a couple of movies. and, so, we decided to watch movies instead. >> reporter: he left at 9:00, he said, stopped for a couple of sandwiches at a local arby's drive-through, then drove the 30 minutes back to his house in troy, which would have put him there about 9:40 p.m. he said he walked through the unlocked front door, all unsuspecting, and then -- >> i was taking my jacket off and calling for betsy. and then i seen her there on the floor. >> will you ever forget what that was like, coming into the house and seeing that? >> i see it every time i close
my eyes. >> i fell down there by her and i looked and i saw cuts on her arm and then i saw a knife in her neck. >> reporter: and that, said russ, is all he saw. so it looked to him like she'd done it herself, deliberately. >> and if this comes back that it's not a suicide, you don't have any idea? who may have harmed betsy? >> no, everybody loved betsy. she was a positive soul. she always brought smiles to people. and she made me smile all the time. she made me so proud. >> it's not typical for someone that's going to commit suicide to do it by the way that she done it. and that's -- that's what concerns us. >> reporter: so it did. it also made russ the prime suspect. coming up -- russ and betsy's relationship. they'd recently enjoyed that romantic cruise, but a friend of
betsy's tells police things between them really weren't that sunny. >> he'd start playing this game of putting a pillow over her face. "this is what it's going to feel like when you die." and then act like he was kidding. >> reporter: when dateline continues. stop less. go more. the passat tdi clean diesel with up to 814 hwy miles per tank. hurry in and you can get 0% apr plus a one-thousand dollar volkswagen credit bonus on 2015 passat tdi clean diesel models. hurry in to kohl's! this thursday through sunday take $10 off when you spend $30 or more! just go to kohls.com
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russ faria found his wife dead, the police took him in for a long night of questions and a polygraph test the following afternoon. though, said russ, when he saw the machine: >> honestly, i don't even know if the thing was on or not. >> reporter: but after it? they told him he failed it miserably so he must have done it, they said. time for him to confess. >> the fact of the matter is -- you stabbed betsy. >> no, i did not. i wasn't even there. >> russ, you were there. >> no, i found her like that when i came home. >> reporter: "seemed obvious", said the investigators. either russ killed betsy in a sudden blind rage. or he was a cold-blooded killer who planned the crime. which was it? they demanded to know. >> i did not do this.
>> reporter: russ denied it again and again. dozens of times. but investigators didn't buy it. and much of the reason for that is they were hearing from this woman -- pamela hupp. she was the friend who drove betsy home from her mother's that evening. pam met betsy years earlier when they both worked in the insurance industry. and she had a lot of things to say about russ, including what sounded like a big fat motive: money. >> he makes comments about how much money he'll have after she's gone because he's got --. this is what she said. i don't know for sure. i've never seen their financials, but he's got life insurance on her at work. she's got life insurance. >> reporter: pam hupp told investigators she'd been with betsy the day she died and that betsy told her about a proposal she was going to make to russ -- that the two of them move into her relative's house in town, while they rented out their home in troy. they'd all save money that way and she'd be closer to friends and her chemo treatments. but pam claimed betsy was concerned about how russ would
react to that idea. >> and she goes, "okay, well, i'll tell him, but i'm telling you right now that he's going to get very angry." >> why? why? >> she said, "he's tired of moving." "he is staying in his house and that's it." >> so she had already approached him with the idea? >> she was going to approach him --. >> okay. >> when he came home. >> reporter: could that have set russ off? investigators asked him about that. >> she never mentioned that to me. >> well, that was the news that she wanted to share with you when you got home. >> i never got a chance to hear it. the first time i heard about it was when you told me. >> reporter: investigators didn't believe that. especially when they heard the bombshell pam laid on them. a disturbing game pam said russ played with betsy. >> he'd start playing this game of putting a pillow over her face to see what it would feel like. i don't know if she said, "this is what it's going to feel like when you die," or whatever.
and then act like he was kidding. >> uh-huh. >> she was very upset. >> did she sound scared? >> oh, yeah. >> reporter: so they took that accusation to russ, too. >> i never did that. >> why would her friends tell the police that you had done that, and that she was scared? >> she had no reason to be scared of me. she's never been scared of me. >> reporter: but it wasn't just the pam hupp story that made russ a key suspect. oh no. though betsy was killed in her living room, crime scene investigators found her blood on a light switch in the bedroom. and on a pair of russ's slippers, stashed in a bedroom closet. >> the fact of the matter is: it's a sloppy crime scene. there's blood on your clothes, in your residence, in your bedroom. >> i didn't even go to my bedroom. >> reporter: then they confronted russ with the horrifying fact that betsy had been stabbed over and over again many, many times. >> your wife was stabbed over 25 times, russ. >> oh, my god. no. >> over 25 times. they're still counting. >> oh, my god. >> a burglar doesn't do that, russ. a stranger doesn't do that. somebody who loves that person
does that. somebody who goes into a blind rage does that. >> reporter: "there was only one option," said the investigators. russ was going to have to come clean and confess. >> there's no one else that has any kind of motive, monetary or -- crime of passion. >> i can't tell you what i don't know. i don't know. >> and i says, you know, "i can't confess to something i didn't do." and i can't give you details for something that i wasn't present for." >> there was never a focus on anybody else. >> reporter: it was the day after the murder that russ's cousin mary heard that betsy was dead, and that russ was being questioned. and that didn't make sense to her. she'd seen betsy and russ just a few days earlier everything seemed fine then. >> betsy was laughing and happy. she was even saving him a spot on the couch. she's like, "here, babe, you can sit next to me." >> reporter: mary was so sure russ would not, could not, have killed betsy, she set out to defend him any way she could.
but by the time investigators released russ, 48 hours after he was first brought in for questioning, the story was all over the local media. >> and boy this case has really been taking a lot of turns today. >> that was hard. i mean, they showed my picture on the news and --. >> they said you were the main suspect? >> yeah, that's what it appeared. and -- while i was watching it, my family came in and turned it off. they said, "you don't need to watch that." >> reporter: some people began rethinking the man. maybe those jokes and pranks of his were really, well rather immature and crude and boorish. these church friends, sondra and marty mcclanahan, had spent a lot of time with betsy and russ. >> many people would describe him as a pig. just the things he would say. not respectful and he would do that to everybody, but he's doing it to his wife, too. >> oh, you know, "you wouldn't understand." "it doesn't matter -- you're not smart enough." you don't, like, say that in front of a group of people to your spouse. >> reporter: betsy's mother, though she said she'd been close, very close to russ, also
remembered a few things that now stuck out like a sore thumb. >> he told a friend of mine's husband that if he got into a fight with somebody, he would fight to kill. >> reporter: and betsy's sisters? they weren't aware russ ever physically hurt betsy, they said, but when they thought about it, there was rage in that man. >> i think he had a lot of built-up anger. >> reporter: "there was the time," said mary, "when russ chased one of the daughters' boyfriends with a baseball bat." >> who chases after a boyfriend with a baseball bat? >> yeah, did you see that happen? >> no. >> who told you about this? >> the girls. >> i think they were very scared by it. >> reporter: so when officers told the family about all those stab wounds? >> when they said that, i didn't have any doubt in my mind. i never thought it could be anybody else but russ when they told me that. >> reporter: that's what the investigators were thinking, too. but there were plenty of people in town who thought the idea that russ faria killed his wife was utter hogwash.
and they said they could prove it. >> coming up. what sounds like a slam-dunk alibi from russ's "game night" buddies: >> we knew that he could not have committed this crime. keith: impossible? >> it's impossible. a man cannot be in two places at the same time. new flonase allergy relief nasal spray. this changes everything. flonase is the 24 hour relief that outperforms a leading allergy pill. when we breathe in allergens our bodies react by over-producing six key inflammatory substances that cause our symptoms. most allergy pills only control one substance, flonase controls six. and 6 is greater than 1. so go ahead, inhale life, excite your senses, seize the day and the night. new flonase. 6 is greater than 1. this changes everything.
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but while police accused him of murder -- >> all of the evidence points to you. >> reporter: and betsy's family painted russ as an angry man. others in russ faria's world didn't believe a word of it. >> they were very happy. and they were planning a trip to florida and it was going to be in march. and he was like, "well, if that's what you wanna do, you plan it. we'll make it happen." >> reporter: after betsy's death, cousin mary saw russ's grief up close. >> he was heartbroken. and he kept saying how bad it hurt because he lost his betsy. that was the most heart-wrenching thing to see. >> reporter: they had a wake for betsy. and russ -- >> he broke down, just talking to her all by himself, just him at the casket. and he fell to the ground. he was a broken man. russ: 110927 it was hard, it was very hard, // but it was really nice to see how many people that she touched and that came. >> reporter: and as for that story pam hupp was telling about russ putting a pillow over betsy's face, saying that's what death feels like? >> would russ have done such a thing? >> no.
now, would russ pull a cover over her head and fart underneath it and say something like that? yes, he would. >> 'cause he was a jokester? >> that he would do, yes. but would he put a pillow over her face and do that? absolutely not. >> they were happy couple. >> reporter: one of betsy's many good friends was russ's aunt, linda hartmann. she said russ was the last person she'd suspect of killing betsy, especially given how upset he was about her terminal cancer. >> the way that he had spoken about losing betsy. you know how much he loved her and how -- how he didn't know whether he was gonna live without her. he was taking it really badly. >> reporter: but, said linda, the police didn't seem to want to hear any of that. >> they kept on asking me, you know, "do you think it could've
been russ?" >> reporter: but, of course, most of what you heard was just opinion. russ's defenders had something much stronger in their corner. an alibi. remember that game night russ said he attended between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. the night betsy was murdered? this is michael corbin, the host of game night. a few of his friends had been coming by tuesday nights for years. >> essentially, it's a way where we can all get together, be sociable and not really spend any money. >> reporter: that particular tuesday night, mike said, russ and the others watched movies together. and everyone left at 9:00 p.m. as usual. then early the next day, mike and his girlfriend, angie, got a surprise. >> we were up having our morning coffee. got a knock on the door, which is instantly odd, about 6:00 or maybe a little before. the police more or less invite themselves in and start asking us a whole lot of questions about what happened last night. "was russell here last night? was he drinking anything? was he acting strangely?" there was a little bit of marijuana that was smoked, but i don't even know whose that was. it was a really boring night, quite honestly. >> reporter: thing is, the police didn't tell them anything beyond the fact that something had happened to betsy, said mike. they just asked a lot of questions about their game night the night before.
then, three days later, there was another early morning knock at the door. >> they took angie in one car, me in another vehicle with two investigators and they questioned us separately, or interrogated us. i'll put it that way. >> reporter: the two others at mike's house that night were also picked up and questioned separately. they all said the very same thing, russ arrived around 6:00, they watched movies. >> and we were all within eight feet of each other the whole night. >> did he act the same as usual? >> oh yeah. >> and you -- >> yeah. you know, he dozed off at one point. i know that. i looked over and he was sitting in my leather chair over off to the right. i didn't think anything weird of this. >> reporter: nor was it simply the unsupported story of some friends. a surveillance camera showed russ stopped for gas just after 5:15 p.m. more videos and receipts when he stopped to buy cigarettes, dog food, a couple of iced teas on the way to game night before 6:00 p.m. russ's cell phone pinged in
those areas, too, and all evening from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. pinged away near mike's house. and the receipt from his trip to the arby's drive-thru was time- stamped 9:09 p.m. the drive back to russ's house would take, what with that stop at arby's, about 35, 40 minutes, putting him home just about the time he called 911. >> once we heard the timeline, we knew that he could not have committed this crime. >> impossible? >> it's impossible. a man cannot be in two places at the same time. >> i know how your wife died. >> reporter: but detectives not persuaded. not at all. after all, they had pam hupp's story. and what they said was russ's failed polygraph and her blood on his slippers and it wasn't long after betsy was killed that russell faria was arrested for the murder of his wife. coming up -- some say investigators may have
blown it. by focussing only on russ because of somebody else who got the pay-out from betsy's $150,000 life insurance policy. >> she got the money? >> she got the money. >> when "dateline" continues. ♪ beautiful on the tongue, ♪ delightful to the bite ♪ easy on the conscience. who said, breakfast has to wait until morning? kellogg's®. see you at breakfast, tonight.™ hurry in to kohl's! this thursday through sunday take $10 off when you spend $30 or more! just go to kohls.com to download your savings pass! plus, everyone gets kohl's cash! get to kohl's this weekend and you'll save on everything for summer fun! find your yes kohl's in the outback we let the bold flavors speak for themselves. with new wood-fire grilled flat iron steak. just $13.99 for a limited time.
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>> i think she's dead. >> reporter: that was an act, said prosecutor askey. russ telling 911 it looked like suicide? not with more than 50 stab wounds. no, she said, russ killed betsy. askey called betsy's family, who testified russ had a temper. she called pam hupp, the friend who drove betsy home that night. pam said russ was basically a bad guy. askey showed jurors the blood on russ's slippers, and on a bedroom light switch, evidence that pointed straight at russ, she said. and she told the jury that russ's alibi was a carefully orchestrated lie. so, how did he do it? russ went out of his way -- deliberately, she said -- to appear in front of surveillance cameras at multiple gas station-convenience stores, when he could have bought everything at one place. and then, she said, russ's game night buddies conspired to help him.
not just by lying for him, but also by keeping his cell phone for him when he drove home to kill betsy and then taking his phone to his house, and picking up an arby's receipt for him on the way at 9:09pm. so in her summation she told the jury that russ murdered his wife and his friends conspired to help him. an idea that was absolutely ridiculous, said russ's defense attorney, joel schwartz. >> in my opinion, an innocent man got charged with murder. >> reporter: what the prosecutor alleged simply couldn't have happened, he said. russ's friends said they were insulted by prosecutor askey's allegation. >> i thought it was beyond the pale. i mean we're innocent people. there is absolutely no evidence that we did anything wrong that night. there never will be, because it didn't happen. >> reporter: and russ? >> i thought she was making up some kinda cockamamie story. i don't know anybody that would
lie for anybody when it comes to a crime like that, you know. i wouldn't, not for my best friend, not for my mom. >> reporter: none of russ's friends were ever charged with conspiracy, nor have they ever been connected in any way to betsy's murder. at the trial, defense attorney schwartz took on the prosecutor's case. the idea that russ's 911 call was an act? >> it sounded like a man whose wife was dead and he was grieving tremendously. however, he was doing his best to answer the questions when asked in order to help the 911 operator and to help the police solve this. >> reporter: the reason russ said "she killed herself"? >> her wrist was slit deeply and the knife was in her neck. although there was 56 wounds, those were the only two visible to the naked eye. her shirt, her pants covered every other stab wound and those weren't visible to see. i think the person calling this in as a suicide is not somebody who committed the crime, but somebody who had no idea. >> reporter: crime of passion? hardly, he said. many of betsy's wounds appeared
to have been methodically and deliberately made after betsy was dead to make it look like a crime of passion. >> there's no other explanation for the lack of blood and the deep cut on her wrist. that's post-mortem. >> reporter: and the blood evidence on russ's slippers? >> there was no imprint of a shoe in the blood, nor was there any footprint anywhere on the tile floor, leading back to where the slippers were found. >> so how would the blood get on the shoes? >> somebody attempted to stage this. >> dipped it in the blood? >> dipped it in the blood and hid those back in the closet. >> reporter: all of that as well as russ's alibi, joel scwartz told the jury, meant there was simply no way russ faria could have committed the crime. which presented, he told us, some very curious unanswered questions. questions about the state's star witness, pam hupp. pam was the woman who drove betsy home, just after 7pm, just before the time betsy is thought to have died. and pam changed her story about what she did then, said attorney schwartz --
did go into betsy's house, didn't go in. said good bye at the door, didn't say goodbye at the door. >> she may have still been on the couch, but today it makes sense that she walked me to the door. >> reporter: and, attorney schwartz discovered, pam's cell phone kept pinging near betsy's house right around the time of the murder -- and not at home, a half an hour drive away -- where she claimed she was by then. but the biggest question, to schwartz was about insurance. just four days before the murder, he said, someone, supposedly betsy, made pam the beneficiary of betsy's $150,000 life insurance policy. >> and she got the money? >> she got the money. >> reporter: pam told investigators betsy wanted her to get the money to "make sure her daughters got what they needed." but to make this important change, they went to a local library and had a young librarian, not a notary or any insurance company employee, witness betsy's signature on the change of beneficiary form. the whole thing seemed very
fishy to schwartz. >> i believe that betsy was conned in some way, shape or form into signing this policy without believing it would ever actually be sent to the insurance company. which is why she never told anybody, including her own mother and her own sisters, who she was very close with. >> reporter: but the lead detective told the insurance company pam was not a suspect and so the company cut her the check. much later, that same lead detective was preparing pam to testify at russ's trial, and warned her the defense would certainly bring up the issue >> because you're one of the last people to see betsy. um, you get this money given to you. >> reporter: after all, said the detective, pam did benefit from betsy's death to the tune of $150,000. >> to me, in my world, $150,000 is not that much. >> they're going to suggest that you may have something to do with the planning or the conspiracy to commit that
murder, because of your financial windfall. >> reporter: and not only that -- >> what you're originally telling investigators is that she wanted you to do this to try to take care of -- make sure the kids are taken care of because they're afraid russ -- she's afraid russ and the kids will blow through it. however, you now have this money and have not turned any of this money over to the family or the kids. >> that's correct. >> that's a huge problem. >> reporter: to make it look like less of a problem, he said, she should set up a trust for betsy's daughters. and soon, before the trial. then the detective prepared pam for the key question he expected the defense to ask: >> did you have anything to do with betsy's murder? >> no, absolutely not. >> that's exactly what's going to be asked of you. >> reporter: at the trial, attorney schwartz told the judge that, indeed, he did intend to ask pam hupp about all those things. but the judge said no. he could not ask about any of that because, said the judge, there was no direct connection
between pam and the murder. >> a witness testifies, you can cross-examine the witness. that's a basic tenet of law. their bias, their interest, the fact that they are the last person with the victim. the fact that they just recently were given the victim's insurance under who knows what pretenses. the fact that they lied about going in the house. the fact that they lied about where they were when they called the victim after being in the house. and i couldn't get into any of that. i've never seen anything like it. >> reporter: the jury didn't hear a word of schwartz's evidence about pam. they reached their verdict about russ in four and a half hours. guilty! >> it was devastating. >> reporter: but give up? cousin mary tied up green ribbons and started a go-fund-me account to raise money for an appeal but appeals can take years and rarely succeed so, wishful thinking?
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russ faria was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife, betsy. soon after, betsy's mother and sisters expressed their relief. >> if somebody were to come to you with evidence, strong evidence that it wasn't russ, but it was some other person, is that something that you could accept? >> i would still feel it's russ, 100%. >> reporter: but to many who saw our story then, it just didn't make sense that russ wound up in a prison cell. >> what's it take to get used to the idea of being in here? >> a lotta prayer. a lotta faith. >> faith that what? >> faith in -- in god. faith in my attorney. >> reporter: that, of course, was joel schwartz, who, though shut down by the judge, just couldn't give up on that pam hupp angle. so while russ sat in prison, schwartz followed the money from betsy's life insurance payout to pam, the money she'd said was
for betsy's daughters. and what do you know -- >> miss hupp had funded a trust in the name of the kids approximately five days prior to the commencement of trial. about ten days after the trial had concluded, the trust was defunded over 99.7% of what had been placed in there. >> wow. she funded the trust so that during the trial it would look like she had given all this money to the kids. >> that's exactly correct. i never doubted that that was her motive in the first place. so nothing surprised me. however, that in and of itself is something that the court of appeals needed to hear about. >> reporter: schwartz had filed an appeal of course, a process that tends to take years, but he also filed an unusual short-cut motion for a hearing to consider and perhaps throw out the guilty verdict based on the new evidence of what pam did with the insurance money. >> we thought the likelihood of success was very small. however, we had what i know to be an innocent man sitting in prison. so i was willing to take any
shot. >> reporter: and this past february, russ got a call from his lawyer. the motion was approved. >> it's incredibly rare, having happened only three times previously in the state of missouri. >> ever? >> ever. >> reporter: and one morning earlier this month, they all assembled for a hearing before a brand new judge. arguments lasted less than an hour. they broke at 11:00. the judge said he'd make a decision by 1:30 p.m. but -- >> at 1:30, no judge. i started to get a little nervous 'cause he'd had plenty of time. and to write "motion granted" doesn't very long. however, if you're going to write a denial, that's gonna go to the court of appeals, it could take quite a while. so at 1:45 i started to get a lot nervous. finally about 2:00, i talked to one of the sheriffs. and i thought, "we're gonna lose this thing."
my confidence had faded. i asked what was going on, if he knew. and the sheriff told me that there was a printer problem. >> a printer problem. >> so at that point my spirits were lifted and i thought, "okay, we still may win this." and the judge came out moments later. >> reporter: and announced the verdict was overturned. russ faria would get a new trial. >> it was very overwhelming. you just felt like you had a huge victory. you know, the only thing we ever wanted was a fair trial. >> reporter: but russ's cousin mary heard the judge say that russ would stay in jail to await that trial unless someone could come up with bond money. >> we were supposed to come up with $50,000 plus property. >> plus property? >> plus property as collateral. >> to guarantee the -- >> correct. >> that's not so easy to do. >> no, not at all. and i didn't know if we could do it. >> reporter: but mary had been fighting for her cousin since the day he was charged and -- >> we got lucky. somebody i know set me up with a bondsman that knew the story,
didn't believe an innocent man should be sitting there. and he worked with me. >> reporter: mary put up her home as collateral. >> i'm that positive in his innocence and that he's not going anywhere. >> reporter: and last week, mary, relatives and friends all piled into a bus provided by a generous supporter and showed up unannounced at the jail where russ, who'd been behind bars for 'd y >> my mother. that was incredible. and getting to hug and k
time. i had probably cseo will never forget the day he was granted a new trial. >> it was one of the best moments of my life. it's like, finally, something good in my favor. you know, after all of this waiting and being patient. finally really see the light at the end of the tunnel at that point. >> yeah, well must've been pretty exciting that day. >> it was. >> reporter: for now, he's living with his mom. he and mary have taken down the green ribbons she used to represent what she always said was a wrongful conviction. >> long time comin'. >> reporter: and he is preparing for his new trial, set to begin november 2nd. >> i want a fair trial the way that it should've been. as painful as it is to hear some of those things in the audio recordings and see some videos
and pictures and things like that, i wanna see all the facts presented as they should've been the first time around. so that people can renew their faith in the justice system. >> reporter: betsy's family chose not to be interviewed again. they issued a statement, though, saying they're extremely sad about going through another trial, but they pray justice will prevail in the final outcome. the prosecutor did not respond to our request for a comment. pam hupp's attorney told us he's not surprised the conviction was overturned but said pam had nothing to do with the murder. and russ faria said he still loves and misses betsy. his new trial, he said, will be as much for her as it is for him. >> i got railroaded, but she never got true justice. and once the truth comes out,
it's pretty obvious where all the arrows point. i'm gonna do what i can to see that she gets justice, one way or another. >> that's all for now. i'm lester holt. . (hodiak) previously on aquarius... jimmy butano, jr. did big daddy butano intro junior to his cellmate? manson? anything's possible. i'm serious about being a great cop. as serious as you are. six months, i was assigned covert ops in cambodia. we're killing children. i'm gonna give the proof to the press. no. let me help you. - tell me anything. - just stop. will you stop? where you, where you go, what you think. who you are. this ends now. hi, mrs. karn. is emma home? you said that you would keep her safe. is there anything that you don't screw up? - we'll her. - no, you won't. you'll fail like always. just get out of my sight. - aah! - [grunting] stop, stop! get in your car and go. i'm alive.