LINCOLN COUNTY, Mo. – Lincoln County investigators are not only finding new evidence in the 2011 murder of Besty Faria but also new interviews with people who said they were ignored by investigators the first time around.
Betsy Faria’s murder was declared unsolved when the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis turned over the investigation to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office then worked a case against the victim’s husband, Russ Faria.
The new sheriff, Rick Harrell, said he’s finding those previous investigators ignored key evidence and witnesses.
Harrel, who’s just six months in as sheriff, must now unravel years of investigative focus on the wrong suspect.
“It would be what I would regard as a cultural shift,” he said. “We’re not going to approach an investigation to try to confirm something we think we already know, instead we’re allowing the information to speak for itself.”
A previous Lincoln County prosecutor took Russ Faria to trial—twice—despite mounting evidence against another possible suspect in Betsy’s murder – Pam Hupp.
Russ was exonerated in a 2015 bench trial in which the judge pointed to Hupp as a possible suspect.
Mike Wood reopened Betsy Faria’s murder investigation after he took over as Lincoln County Prosecutor in 2019.
“What I can tell you is Sheriff Harrell has made this case a priority,” he said.
Wood said Harrell’s leadership has sped up the investigation and found leads that were previously swept under the rug.
“There were leads that came in that were credible leads, that were largely ignored if they didn’t fit an investigative narrative,” Wood said.
“Investigators would go to meet with witnesses, (those witnesses) would say hey we also tried to say we had additional information and it was largely ignored by law enforcement at the time – and prosecutors.”
Despite a botched previous investigation, Wood said the case can still be solved. It’s not the only cold case in which Wood and Harrell hope to announce updates soon.