TV & Movies

Inside The IRL Murder Case That Inspired The Thing About Pam

“Pam is evil incarnate.”

'The Thing About Pam' is based on the true story of Pam Hupp (played by Renee Zellweger).
Skip Bolen/NBC

If you loved The Act and Dirty John, you’ll want to add NBC’s The Thing About Pam to your watchlist. Premiering on March 8, the new NBC crime drama retraces the 2011 murder of Betsy Faria. Betsy’s husband, Russ, was initially convicted for his wife’s death. But investigators eventually came to believe that it was actually Betsy’s close friend, Pamela Hupp (Renée Zellweger), who killed her. (Russ was found not guilty in a 2015 retrial; Hupp pleaded not guilty to Faria’s murder).

According to St. Louis Magazine, Hupp grew up in Dellwood, Missouri and had a kid right after high school. She and her husband were cash-strapped for six years before she divorced him and married Mark Hupp. In 2001, the couple settled in O’Fallon, Missouri, where Hupp started flipping homes and working at State Farm.

Hupp’s co-workers and neighbors described her as “very level-headed,” but also described “weird things” happening after she moved to town, like cars being keyed, animal bones getting left in someone’s yard, and signatures being forged on life insurance forms at work. It’s at State Farm that Hupp befriended the “bubbly and scatterbrained” Betsy, who was 11 years younger than the then-43-year-old Hupp.

Though the two lost touch for several years, they reconnected in January 2010, when Betsy learned that she had terminal breast cancer. Suddenly, Hupp was always around, accompanying Betsy to every treatment even when Russ or Betsy’s father would have preferred to go alone with her. “The last six months to a year [of Betsy’s life], they started hanging out,” Russ later said, per St. Louis Magazine. “It just kind of gradually — once she was diagnosed with cancer, a lot of people wanted to be with her. I never had a problem with Pam personally. She was easy to talk to. But I could name half a dozen other people Betsy was closer to.”

On Dec. 23, 2011, Betsy changed the beneficiary of her $150,000 life insurance policy from her husband to Hupp. Her family was unaware of the change. Hupp later claimed in an interview that she and Betsy were lovers, and that they were planning to run away together.

Skip Bolen/NBC

Four days after Betsy made the change, Russ Faria came home around 9 p.m. to find Betsy’s body on the living room floor. Her wrists had been slashed, and she’d been brutally stabbed 55 times. Russ called the police, but detectives were suspicious of his “alternating calm and hysteria” and the blood on his house slippers. He also later failed a polygraph test. After Hupp told investigators that Russ had a violent temper, he was arrested on Jan. 4, 2012 and charged with first-degree murder.

Russ hired his cousin Joel Schwartz as his attorney. Upon taking the case, Schwartz immediately found it strange that the police hadn’t looked further into Hupp even though she was the last person to see Betsy alive, her story about what had happened that day changed every time, and she had no alibi (unlike Russ, who had been out with four people and was seen on camera at a gas station heading home). But Hupp maintained her innocence and refused to take a polygraph test because she claimed she had some unexplained “disability” and memory issues that wouldn’t allow it.

Russ Faria’s murder trial began on Nov. 18, 2013. The judge didn’t allow Schwartz to question Hupp about the insurance money because she had “no direct connection” to the case. Despite none of the evidence lining up — the prosecution claimed Russ assaulted and mutilated Betsy’s body and then showered and cleaned up all evidence in the span of nine minutes — Russ was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

But Schwartz persisted, and Russ was granted a new trial in June 2015, during which he was found not guilty. (It was clear that the prosecution had withheld evidence, and an anonymous letter even alleged that the lead prosecutor was having an affair with the police captain.) At the time, Hupp wasn’t considered a suspect in Betsy’s murder, but that changed on Aug. 16, 2016, when she shot and killed Louis Gumpenberger, a disabled man who she claimed tried to assault her in her driveway while demanding Russ’ money. Investigators later determined that Hupp had approached Gumpenberger pretending to be a Dateline producer looking for actors for a reenactment in order to kill him and further frame Russ.

Hupp was arrested a week later. She eventually filed an Alford plea, waiving her right to a trial, and was sentenced to life in prison. She has repeatedly denied having any involvement in Faria’s death, but was found guilty of first-degree murder on July 12, 2021. It was determined that she tracked Betsy’s movements on Dec. 27, 2011 and waited until she was weak from chemotherapy to stab her. Prosecutors alleged she then dipped Betsy’s socks in her own blood and spread it around the house to make it look like Russ had killed her in a domestic assault. Her motive was to get Betsy’s $150,000 life insurance.

"What she did to my wife, to me,” Russ told People in a recent interview. “Pam is evil incarnate.”