The Unbelievable True Story Behind "The Thing About Pam"

Renée Zellweger is known for her incredible acting range and versatility, playing both fictional characters and real-life people throughout her career. The actress is now back on screen as Pam Hupp in "The Thing About Pam," a true story about the criminal behind a heinous murder.

NBC's "The Thing About Pam" is based on the Dateline podcasts by the same name, which investigated the 2011 murder of Betsy Faria. Following Faria's murder, her husband, Russ Faria, was convicted of the crime in 2013 and nearly served two years in prison until his lawyer got him a retrial. With new evidence and more attention on Faria's friend, Pam Hupp, Russ was exonerated in 2015. But what did Hupp have to do with this murder?

If you're curious about the unbelievable true story behind "The Thing About Pam," here is everything to know about the case.

How Did Pam Hupp and Betsy Faria Become Friends?

Along with her husband, Mark Hupp, Pam Hupp moved to O'Fallon, Missouri, in 2001 and began working at the town's State Farm insurance office. It was at her new job that she met Faria, a kind and friendly 32-year-old who also worked at the office. The two became friendly, but it wasn't until Faria was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 that their friendship grew significantly stronger.

Hupp quickly and heavily involved herself in Faria's life, taking her to chemotherapy sessions and lending an ear to Faria's growing concerns regarding a financial inheritance she would leave behind for her family in the case that she died. Faria's father, Ken Meyer, noted that the summer she was diagnosed, she had "been worrying about her two teenage daughters' spending the money foolishly, and she was afraid that her husband, too, would 'piss it away,'" according to St. Louis Magazine.

The only other sensible option to handle Faria's finances? Pam Hupp. On Dec. 22, 2011, just five days before her murder, Faria named Hupp the sole beneficiary of her $150,000 life insurance policy.

What Happened to Betsy Faria?

Dec. 27, 2011, was a normal day for Betsy Faria. She spent time with her mother and her mother's friend Bobbi Wann before her chemotherapy treatments. By this point, the cancer had metastasized to her liver and she was terminally ill. Wann took Faria to her treatment that day instead of Hupp, which was out of their usual routine. Nonetheless, Hupp still showed up at Siteman Cancer Center where Faria was getting treated and insisted on driving her home to Troy, MO.

Faria texted her husband, Russ, about the change of plans, and that was the last he heard from her. Russ had been out with friends and was not home. Hupp dropped off Faria at approximately 7 p.m. and was the last person to see her alive. When Russ arrived home nearly two hours later, he found Faria's bloodied body on the floor in their living room and called 911.

Why Was Betsy Faria's Husband, Russ, Charged and Convicted For Her Murder?

Just minutes after discovering his wife's body, Russ Faria called 911. A frazzled and shaken Russ initially thought she had taken her own life and reflected this to dispatchers. Faria had 55 stab wounds, which made his assumption that the wounds were self-inflicted suspicious to detectives. According to NBC News, Russ's fluctuating emotions, and physical evidence including a blood-stained slipper belonging to Russ and a handwritten note (presumably penned by Faria) that noted how she was afraid of her husband, made him the prime suspect.

In addition to the physical evidence against him, Hupp painted a picture of Russ as an abusive husband to detectives, which helped prosecutors build a case against him. Using the evidence found at the scene, a failed faux polygraph test, and Hupp's testimony, Russ was found guilty of first-degree murder, along with armed criminal action, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to a report by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Getty | NBC

Image Source: Getty / NBC

How Did Pam Hupp Get Caught?

Following the conviction of Russ in 2013, defense lawyer Joel Scwartz filed a motion for a retrial following several new pieces of evidence that could implicate someone else as Faria's murderer. Pam Hupp had collected $150,000 of Faria's life insurance policy, all of which was supposed to go into a trust for her two daughters, but this never happened.

Two years after the death of Faria, Hupp finally set up a fund for the children with $100,000, and the remaining $50,000 was allegedly for a friend of Hupp who also had cancer, but she had died before Hupp had the opportunity to give it to her, per The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Hupp kept the $50,000.

Russ was exonerated in 2015 after the retrial. While there were several suspicious clues that pointed to Hupp as the murderer of Faria, she would not officially be considered a suspect until 2019, three years after she shot and killed a man named Louis Gumpenberger during an alleged attempted burglary. Hupp claimed that Gumpenberger attempted to kidnap her to obtain Russ Faria's money and get a subsequent $10,000 payment, according to People.

Problem is, Hupp's story didn't add up. Gumpenberger was physically and mentally impaired due to a brain injury, which detectives determined were factors that inhibited him from carrying out a crime of the manner Hupp alleged. They concluded that Hupp set up the elaborate scheme to kill Gumpenberger in an effort to further frame Russ and divert growing suspicions around her involvement in Faria's murder.

Where Are Russ Faria and Pam Hupp Today?

Russ Faria received a $2 million settlement from Lincoln County for the wrongful handling of the criminal trial that convicted him of his wife's murder. Pam Hupp was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of Louis Gumpenberger.

In July 2021, Hupp was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action for the death of Faria, but maintains that she had nothing to do with Faria's death, according to NBC News.