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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)– A Lincoln County jury convicted Russ Faria of stabbing his wife 55 times and leaving a steak knife buried in her neck.  The reason?  Prosecutors say it was the ultimate role play, drawn up years earlier by a group of gamers.  Every one of those people has now come forward challenging prosecutors to set an innocent man free or come after them.

Mike Corbin said, “I`m not going to lie to you. From reading the stories in the newspaper and from seeing the stuff online, hearing stuff on the news, it was really pretty damning.”

Since Russ Faria’s arrest in 2011, four acquaintances of Russ thought they could`ve been sitting right next to a murderer.

Corbin added, “All you`re hearing is, we were hearing from investigators, open and shut case.”

Michael Corbin, Angelia Hulion, Brandon Sweeney and Marshall Bach all told detectives they were with Russ Faria from 6-9 pm, the night Betsy was murdered.

Sweeney said, “For the longest time, I even said, I thought Russ did it before he came out and hung out with us.”

Then they learned at trial that prosecutors narrowed Betsy`s time of death to a time between ‘7:20 and 9:41 pm.’

Even convict Russ Faria`s attorney says he did not know prosecutors would suddenly accuse cooperating witnesses.

Defense attorney Joel Schwartz said, “The state alleged that four innocent people conspired in murder. If these people aren`t innocent, then why aren`t they charged? The bigger question is, why won`t the State go on record and say that to you… because there`s nothing to support it, just like there`s nothing to support that Russell Faria had anything to do with this.”

In closing arguments at trial, Lincoln County Prosecutor Leah Askey called Betsy`s murder, `the ultimate role play.` Askey told jurors that Faria brought a murder plot to his friends. She said they set up the alibi using Brandon Sweeney to play a key role.   Askey suggested Sweeney kept Faria`s phone so that it would ping in O`Fallon, MO at 8:57 pm.  Then she said Sweeney drove through the Arby`s, getting a receipt stamped 9:09 so Russ could kill his wife 30 minutes away.

Sweeney told me, “That really sickens my stomach because I tried to help them the whole time, be honest and truthful, just try to find what happened that night to be honest with you.”

Angelia Hulion said, “It made me sick, it really did. I just can`t believe it.  I didn`t think things like that happened.”

Marshall Bach said, “Faith in the justice system and authority figures… there is no faith in them anymore. You see something like this happen.. I mean, I don`t know, you almost go around town wondering who`s going to screw me over.”

Sweeney added, “…almost makes you second guess working with authorities.”

Corbin said, “If we`re guilty of something, we should be arrested.”  Then he said, “Askey probably in particular is not going to like what we`re doing here.  But we don`t want to be here. I don`t want to be having to talk to you as nice as a guy as you are Chris, but Leah Askey put us here by saying that our friend committed a crime that he could not possibly have committed.  I mean he was within eight feet of us that night. There is no way he committed this crime.”

Police report finding no blood on Russ Faria.  A crime lab report shows DNA testing revealed Betsy’s blood on the murder weapon.  The DNA lab report continues, “Russell Faria is excluded as the source of these profiles.”

I made repeated attempts to get answers from prosecutor Askey, even writing the Attorney Generals’ Office, which assisted in convicting Russ Faria.

Askey finally responded with this e-mail, “I cannot comment on anything regarding this case until all of defendant`s appeals have been exhausted.  I have stated this every way possible on numerous occasions.  I appreciate your zeal; however, this will serve as my answer to all such questions and future inquiries.”

Russ Faria`s attorney has filed an appeal.

We also asked the Attorney General’s office to comment. The Office declined and it will handle the appeal.

Keep the conversation going on Twitter #FariaMurder.

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