LINCOLN COUNTY, Mo. – A police corruption investigation, spurred by the Pam Hupp case, has three family members charged with felonies.
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” Lincoln County Prosecutor Mike Wood said.
According to Wood, this is just the beginning of a corruption investigation he first announced in July 2021.
“No one is above the law. Not prosecutors. Not police officers,” he said at the time.
It was a news conference in which Wood announced he was charging Pam Hupp with Betsy Faria’s 2011 murder, and that he would investigate the former officials in the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office responsible for pursuing the wrong suspect.
“I think at that point, the pressure was on and it caused people to make decisions that led to even more criminal behavior,” Wood said.
Two former sheriff’s officials are now charged with stalking & harassing an internal affairs officer. The defendants are a husband and wife who were already under investigation for their roles in the Hupp case.
“You had Mike Merkel, who we had on film coaching, suggesting testimony. He was certainly the one that had been targeted in the internal investigation regarding perjury allegations,” Wood said. “Then you’ve got his wife, Becky Merkel, who’s got her name on the destruction order. And, from our understanding, had prepared the destruction order for all the evidence surrounding that case.”
FOX 2 first uncovered that document. At the time, Wood was able to protect the file by moving it out of Lincoln County and into the St. Charles Police Department in 2019.
After Wood’s 2021 announcement, he believes potential targets were feeling the heat when, in March 2022, they happened to see Randy Lambert, who was working the corruption investigation. Lambert, who we interviewed in July 2021, was inside the St. Charles Texas Roadhouse.
“We pulled all the video surveillance and, shockingly enough, we see Becky and Mike Merkel,” Wood said. “Video evidence showed them taking pictures of the victim (officer) and the victim’s patrol car.”
Court documents say Lambert received bizarre anonymous texts such as, “I have video of you drinking and getting into your county car,” “We are watching you closely,” “Read the definition of integrity and know the wheels of justice turn slowly, but they turn in favor of those with integrity,” and “Here’s a couple of pics for starters.”
The probable cause statement says the texts came from a burner phone traced to Mike’s brother, Kevin Merkel, who works for the DEA, and is also charged. Prosecutors believe the Merkel family’s effort was to “…put pressure on the (officer) to end an investigation.”
Did the family members believe they could get away with this?
“I can’t speculate,” Wood said, “but I can certainly say there were a great number of steps taken to try to conceal their identities, and why someone would use federal government property in order to commit a crime is beyond me.”
None of the Merkels have responded to our requests for comment. FOX 2 also contacted Kevin Merkel’s employer, the DEA, which also hasn’t responded. We’ll be here in court to hear what the defendants have to say.