CHARLES COUNTY, MO – It’s a story you might expect to see play out on NBC’s “Dateline”: a woman pretends to be a television producer in an attempt to lure victims into her sinister scheme.
But that’s what authorities say happened in the suburbs of St. Louis last summer.
On Aug. 10, 2016, investigators say Pamela Hupp, 58, visited a neighborhood and pretended to be a television producer with the NBC program. According to the St. Louis Dispatch, Hupp approached random people, asking them to help her.
“‘Hey, I work for ‘Dateline.’ I wanted to see if you’re interested in doing a re-enactment?’” is what Brent Charlton remembers Hupp asking him.
Charlton declined Hupp’s request because he had a lot of work to do mowing lawns.
But authorities said Hupp continued on, a few minutes later asking a woman in the same neighborhood if she’d help her.
Investigators said Hupp even offered the woman $1,000 to participate in the re-enactment, but the woman because suspicious after getting into Hupp’s car and backed out at the last minute.
Detectives said both Charlton and that woman, who has not been identified for her own safety, were lucky.
But a 33-year-old man was not so lucky.
Authorities said Louis Gumpenberger, who was disabled from a car crash a decade ago, agreed to help Hupp. When exactly Hupp approached him is not clear.
Detectives said on Aug. 16, Hupp called police from her home, claiming an intruder had broken in. As she was on the phone with dispatchers, police said Hupp shot and killed the so-called intruder, who turned out to be Gumpenberger.
Police said they found a note in Gumpenberger’s pocket that was made to look like it was from the husband of Hupp’s deceased friend, Elizabeth Faria, who had been murdered in 2011. That husband, Russell Faria, was originally convicted for his wife’s stabbing death, but then re-tried and acquitted.
Hupp told police that before she killed him in self-defense Gumpenberger claimed he was at her house on behalf of Russell to get his late wife’s insurance money, $150,000, which Hupp had been given after Elizabeth’s death.
But by this point, police had been contacted by the woman who days before became suspicious of Hupp. Police matched Hupp’s license plate from surveillance video at the woman’s house.
They were also unable to connect Gumpenberger to Russell Faria.
All fingers pointed to this being a scheme, orchestrated by Hupp.
Police arrested Hupp, charging her for Gumpenberger’s murder.
She pleaded not guilty.
The St. Louis Dispatch reports Hupp’s arrest and her elaborate scheme raised new questions about whether she was involved in the death of her friend, Elizabeth Faria, in 2011, and her own mother, who mysteriously fell to her death from a balcony in 2013.
Last month, STL Magazine wrote an in-depth piece on Hupp, providing a detailed look at her life to this point.
Federal prosecutors are reviewing Faria’s murder.