LINCOLN COUNTY, Mo. — People watching the national Pam Hupp TV show are searching for our groundbreaking FOX 2 reports that started it all.
One of the latest episode bombshells remains, to this day, is part of an active criminal investigation.
It involves 132 crime scene photos hidden for years by police and prosecutors. Law enforcement hid the evidence because it didn’t fit their case against the wrong suspect.
In 2013, Russ Faria was wrongfully convicted of killing his wife Betsy Faria partly based on the claim that Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputies at the time found a blood trail in the kitchen. The detectives said the blood trail led to a towel drawer, which only Faria would know about. They said they also found evidence of blood cleanup.
Former Lincoln County Detective Mike Merkel testified in Faria’s first trial that officers took pictures to prove it but that nothing developed because the police camera was broken. Defense attorney Joel Schwartz found out otherwise.
Schwartz said, “The detective who testified to this committed perjury and is in fact a liar because they all did develop and none of them showed what he testified to.”
Just before Faria’s second trial, Schwartz finally obtained the photos. They showed no blood trail. Schwartz added, “I have tried to this day to figure out who in that office specifically sent them to me and I have been unsuccessful.”
FOX 2 was in the courtroom for the dramatic moment when Schwartz revealed that he had the evidence police and prosecutors were hiding. Detective Merkel, for the second time on the stand, said the photos did not exist. Schwartz then handed the detective all 132 of them.
Schwartz explained, “He obviously didn’t know I had them, and as I got up to cross-examine him and handed him 132 photographs, (former Lincoln County Prosecutor) Leah Askey asked me, ‘Where did you get those?’”
A judge exonerated Faria after the 2015 trial and criticized law enforcement for ignoring Pam Hupp, yet investigators back then still would not investigate Hupp. She murdered a man with disabilities the next year (in 2016).
A new Lincoln County Prosecutor has charged Pam Hupp with Betsy Faria’s 2011 murder and is actively investigating law enforcement corruption.
“My office continues its efforts to investigate allegations of wrongdoing pertaining to the mishandling of the investigation and prosecution of Russell Faria,” Mike Wood said in a statement. “Gross negligence, as well as unethical and criminal behavior, erodes public confidence in our criminal justice system. And I believe it is our duty to hold those who betray the trust of the community, accountable.”
Former prosecutor Askey answered my request for an interview saying she would talk if we agreed to recant our decade of reporting about Pam Hupp. She wasn’t specific about what she meant, so I followed up with specific questions about the withheld evidence photos. She did not answer.
Former Lincoln County Sheriff’s Detective Mike Merkel hasn’t answered my calls to his cell phone.