All Research

The Thing About Pam: History vs. Hollywood


Renée Zellweger
Born: April 25, 1969
Katy, Texas, USA

Pam Hupp
Born: October 10, 1958
Birthplace: Dellwood, Missouri, USA

Katy Mixon
Born: March 30, 1981
Pensacola, Florida, USA

Betsy Faria
Born: March 24, 1969
Birthplace: Richmond Heights, Missouri, USA
Death: December 27, 2011, Troy, Missouri, USA (stabbed multiple times)
Bio: Pam Hupp's Friend

Glenn Fleshler
Born: September 5, 1968
Queens, New York, USA

Russ Faria
Born: February 12, 1970
Birthplace: Missouri, USA
Bio: Betsy Faria's Husband

Josh Duhamel
Born: November 14, 1972
Minot, North Dakota, USA

Joel Schwartz
Born: October 4, 1961
Birthplace: Missouri, USA
Bio: Russ Faria's Lawyer

Judy Greer
Born: July 20, 1975
Detroit, Michigan, USA

Leah Askey
Born: October 11, 1974
Birthplace: USA
Bio: Prosecutor who Tried Russ Faria Twice for his Wife's Murder

Historical Accuracy (Q&A):

How old is Pam Hupp?

Born in Missouri on October 10, 1958, Pam Hupp grew up in the middle-class St. Louis suburb of Dellwood and attended Riverview Gardens High School. By all accounts, she had a relatively normal upbringing. Hupp was 63 years old when the NBC miniseries starring Renée Zellweger premiered on March 8, 2022. She was 53 at the time of her friend Betsy Faria's death in 2011.

The real Pam Hupp as a teenager in 1977 in the Riverview Gardens High School yearbook.

Did Pam Hupp and Betsy Faria meet while working at a life insurance company?

Yes. The Thing About Pam true story reveals that Hupp met Betsy Faria while she was working as an administrator for State Farm in the early 2000s. By 2010, Hupp was no longer working and was on disability for neck, back, and leg pain. Hupp became closer to Faria after learning that Faria was battling cancer. They saw each other almost every day, and by 2011, they had been friends for approximately ten years.

Did Pam Hupp and Betsy Faria collect money for a family affected by cancer?

In 2011, Pam Hupp and her friend Betsy Faria, who was suffering from terminal cancer, collected money for another family affected by cancer without that family being made aware of the collection. Pam and Betsy went door to door passing out flyers and reportedly collected $10,000. The flyer had a picture of the Murphy Family from their Christmas card and stated that this would be James Murphy's wife Laura's last Christmas.

The real Pam Hupp (left) came up with a scam to collect money for a family battling cancer and then keep the money. Actress Renée Zellweger (right) plays Hupp in the miniseries.

In researching The Thing About Pam fact vs. fiction, we learned that Betsy was indeed thrilled to be helping another family affected by the disease that was killing her. She saw her role in the collection as a way she could be remembered after she was gone. The problem was that Pam had gone behind the Murphys' backs and exaggerated Laura Murhpy's story for her own financial gain. While Laura Murphy did have cancer, she wasn't on her deathbed (she actually survived two more Christmases). No evidence was found to suggest that Betsy had any knowledge that Pam intended to keep the money instead of giving it to the family. -FOX 2

Did Betsy Faria change the sole beneficiary of her life insurance policy to Pam Hupp?

Yes. On December 23, 2011, Betsy and Pam went to the Winghaven Library where a librarian witnessed the signing that made Pam Hupp the sole beneficiary on Betsy's State Farm life insurance policy, which was worth $150,000. Betsy Faria's husband Russ had been the previous beneficiary. The Thing About Pam fact-check confirms that Betsy told Pam to hold on to the money and use it to make sure her children were taken care of. After Betsy Faria's murder on December 27, 2011, which authorities believed was committed by Russ, Pam kept the money and didn't give any of it to Betsy's children, which detectives viewed as strange. Betsy's husband Russ had remained the beneficiary on another separate policy worth $100,000. -FOX 2

Left: The real Russ and Betsy Faria. Right: Katy Mixon and Glenn Fleshler as Betsy and Russ in the series.

Is Pam Hupp married in real life?

Yes. Pam Hupp's husband is Mark Hupp. He is portrayed by Sean Bridgers in The Thing About Pam NBC miniseries.

Did Pam initially say she didn't go into Betsy's house on the day of her murder before saying that she did?

Yes. The Thing About Pam true story confirms that this unfolded much as it does in the NBC Renée Zellweger series. On the day of Betsy Faria's murder, Pam Hupp told detectives that she had dropped Betsy off at her house after picking her up at her mother's house. She initially said that she didn't go inside, but when asked again, she said that she went inside briefly. -Dateline NBC

The real Pam Hupp (left) is questioned on the stand. Renée Zellweger (right) sits on the stand as Pam in the NBC series. Photo: File Photo/NBC

How did Betsy Faria die?

She had been stabbed 56 times on the evening of December 27, 2011 and the knife was found embedded in her neck. Betsy Faria's body was discovered by her husband, Russ Faria, inside of their home in Troy, Missouri.

Did Pam Hupp forge an email and plant it on Betsy Faria's computer?

Yes. Pretending to be Betsy Faria, Pam Hupp wrote an email to herself and planted it on Betsy's computer while Betsy was at tennis. In the email, Pam (as Betsy) says that she's scared of her husband Russ and that she woke up to him putting a pillow over her face, telling her he wanted her to know "what dying feels like." Pam Hupp's forged email is displayed in its entirety below.

Did Pam Hupp's ailments change throughout the trial?

Yes. In researching how true is The Thing About Pam, Russ Faria's lawyer, Joel Schwartz (portrayed by Josh Duhamel in the series), said that Pam Hupp's ailments changed throughout the trial. In the NBC series, Josh Duhamel's character observes Hupp enter the courtroom with a limp that she didn't previously have.

Was Russ Faria convicted of killing his wife Betsy?

Yes. Russ Faria, 42, was convicted of killing his wife Elizabeth "Betsy" Faria, 41. On December 27, 2011, Russ called 911 screaming that his wife had committed suicide. Russ immediately became the prime suspect, because it was clear from the 56 stab wounds that Betsy Faria's death was not a suicide. Detectives believed that Russ may have been upset that Betsy had just days prior changed the sole beneficiary on her $150,000 life insurance policy to her friend Pam Hupp. Police also found Russ Faria's slippers in the bedroom closet with Betsy's blood smeared on them. In addition, her blood was found on the closet's light switch.

Russ (left) is pictured in more recent years. Police had found Russ Faria's bloody slippers (right) in a bedroom closet in their home, further implicating him.

Russ told detectives that he assumed it was suicide because Betsy was dying of liver and breast cancer and had tried to take her life in the past. He also noticed that her arms were slashed when he discovered her body. Her shirt was covering the many stab wounds in her torso. Russ claimed he had been watching a movie with friends in Lake Saint Louis. The police weren't buying it. He was put on trial in November 2013 and despite Russ Faria's lawyer presenting an Arby's receipt that proved he could not have made it back in time to kill his wife, he was convicted on November 21, 2013 of his wife Betsy Faria's murder. He was sentenced to life without parole. -National Registry of Exonerations

Was Russ Faria exonerated for the murder of his wife Betsy?

Yes. Russ Faria was exonerated in 2015. In the original trial, the judge wouldn't allow the defense to present cell phone tower evidence that showed Pam Hupp had been in the area of Betsy Faria's home for as long as 30 minutes past the time she claimed she had left after dropping Betsy off. Following Russ's conviction, his daughters sued Pam Hupp. In a deposition related to that lawsuit, Hupp revealed that she had never put $100,000 of Betsy's life insurance money into a trust for Betsy's daughters, something that she had testified she had done at Russ's trial. She instead kept the money for herself.

Other aspects of the case began to unravel as well. Reporters had received an anonymous tip that the prosecutor, Leah Askey (portrayed by Judy Greer), had an intimate relationship with one of the investigators on the case. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch article pointed out Hupp's contradictory statements regarding to what degree she entered Betsy's home, initially stating not at all. The 911 dispatch operator, Tammy Vaughn, who took Russ Faria's call when he found his wife Betty Faria's body told reporters there was no way he was faking his hysteria. A new trial was granted in June 2015 based on evidence relating to Pam Hupp (no evidence was found to support that the prosecutor, Leah Askey, was having an affair with an officer on the case).

Russ Faria (left) is portrayed by actor Glenn Fleshler (right).

Prior to Russ Faria's retrial, more than 100 photos of the crime scene were discovered by the defense, which had not been provided to them at the original trial (a detective had testified the police camera had malfunctioned). The photos revealed the opposite of what the detective had claimed at the original trial, that the home had been cleaned of blood, which it had not been. On November 6, 2015, Judge Steven Ohmer acquitted Russ Faria of the two charges he had been convicted on, murder and illegal use of a weapon. After spending three-and-a-half years in prison, Russ was a free man.

Did Russ Faria sue Lincoln County over his wrongful conviction?

Yes. While investigating The Thing About Pam fact vs. fiction, we discovered that Russ indeed sued Lincoln County for his wrongful conviction. The county settled Faria's civil rights lawsuit in March 2020 for a sum of $2 million. -National Registry of Exonerations

Did Pam Hupp and Betsy Faria have a sexual relationship?

Three years after the murder, detectives testified that Pam Hupp revealed that she had been involved in a sexual relationship with Betsy Faria. Pam claimed that Betsy's husband Russ had found out about the affair prior to the murder and was angry. This was made up by Pam as part of her effort to frame Russ for his wife's murder. -National Registry of Exonerations

Why did Pam Hupp murder Louis Gumpenberger?

In August 2016, Pam Hupp told police that Louis Gumpenberger, a mentally and physically disabled man, forced his way into her car and then followed her into her home after she was able to get out of the vehicle. He then tried to assault her, forcing her to shoot him. In reality, Hupp had lured Gumpenberger into her car and drove him to her home where she killed him. She planted a note and money on his body to make it seem like Russ Faria had paid him to kill her after first forcing her to go to the bank to get Betsy's life insurance money. By then, Russ had been exonerated of murdering his wife, and detectives had begun to suspect Hupp was involved in Betsy Faria's death. Hupp believed if she convinced them Russ had tried to kill her to get Betsy's insurance money, it would put their attention back on him for Betsy's murder.

Pam Hupp targeted Louis Gumpenberger (left) before luring him into her car, driving him to her home, and killing him. Actor Jeff Ryan Baker (right) portrays Gumpenberger in The Thing About Pam NBC series.

Police quickly realized her story didn't add up. Pam's 911 call sounded staged. The $900 in bills found in Louis Gumpenberger's pocket sequentially matched a hundred-dollar bill in Pam's bedroom, despite Louis having never been in her bedroom (his body was found in the garage). Underneath his body was a piece of carpet, positioned as if it had been laid there to protect the carpet under it from bloodstains. Louis's mother told police that he had been in a car accident years earlier that left him with brain damage. She said he was mentally and physically incapable of planning such an act, let alone trying to carry it out. Investigators then discovered via the location information in Pam's phone that she had been driving around low-income areas for weeks looking for a target.

Did Pam Hupp murder Betsy Faria?

As we explored The Thing About Pam true story, we learned that in July 2021, Hupp, then 62, was officially charged with Betsy Faria's murder. After Hupp murdered Louis Gumpenberger in 2016 in an effort to again frame Betsy Faria's husband Russ, who by then had been exonerated of murdering his wife, it became evident that Hupp was likely guilty of Betsy's murder as well.

Did Pam Hupp kill her mother, Shirley Neumann?

At the time of Pam Hupp's mother's death in 2013, it was believed her mother, 77, had accidentally fallen from the balcony of her third-floor apartment in Fenton, Missouri after an aluminum railing broke. Police were tipped off by way of an anonymous note that Pam had killed her mother, Shirley Neumann, for financial gain. She was also the last person to see her mother alive. However, they had little reason to believe the accusation and the coroner ruled Shirley Neumann's death an accident, despite the fact the autopsy revealed Pam Hupp's mother had over eight times the normal dose of the sedative Zolpidem in her blood.

The broken aluminum balcony railing that police assumed caused Pam Hupp's mother, Shirley Neumann, to fall to her death.

After the charges in 2016 against Pam Hupp for the murder of Louis Gumpenberger, in addition to the suspicion around her involvement in her friend Betsy Faria's death, the chief medical examiner, Mary Case, changed Shirley Neumann's cause of death from "accidental" to "undetermined." The St. Louis County Police Department reopened the investigation into Shirley Neumann's death, but their findings were inconclusive.
Shirley Neumann (left) and her daughter Pam Hupp (right).

Does Pam Hupp have children?

Yes. The Thing About Pam fact-check corroborates that Pam Hupp has two children, a son, Travis, and a daughter, Sarah.

Where is Pam Hupp today?

Hupp is currently serving life in prison without parole for the 2016 murder of Louis Gumpenberger, a 33-year-old mentally-disabled man. As stated above, she was also charged in 2021 with the first-degree murder of Betsy Faria but has yet to be tried for that crime. She is currently incarcerated at the Chillicothe Correctional Center, a women's state prison in Livingston County, Missouri.

Pam Hupp's mugshot (left) and Renée Zellweger as Hupp in the NBC TV series.

Is The Thing About Pam based on the podcast?

Yes. The Thing About Pam NBC miniseries is based on the Dateline true story podcast of the same name, in addition to coverage from the Dateline NBC TV show.

Who narrates The Thing About Pam?

Canadian broadcast journalist Keith Morrison, who is a familiar face to Dateline NBC fans, provides the narration in The Thing About Pam miniseries. Morrison also narrated the popular podcast of the same name on which the miniseries is based. An interesting fact about Keith Morrison is that he is the stepfather of actor Matthew Perry (Friends).

Did Pam Hupp drink a Big Gulp-sized soda every day?

Yes. It seems like Renée Zellweger's character constantly has a Big Gulp-sized soda in her hand in the series. This comes straight from the Pam Hupp true story. She even had a loyalty card for the convenience store so she could earn free sodas.

Did Renée Zellweger meet Pam Hupp to prepare for the role?

No. Actress Renée Zellweger never met or spoke to her character's real-life counterpart, murderer Pam Hupp, who is currently serving life in prison without parole. "You go to the public record, whatever the IP is — the podcast and the Dateline NBC episodes," Zellweger explained during a Q&A in New York City after an advance screening, "and there was this wonderful treasure trove of footage that was out there, from testimony in trial, anything she wanted on public record when she did interviews with the police."

Is Pam Hupp a serial killer?

Likely, yes. Today, a serial killer is considered to be anyone who commits two or more homicides at different times and in separate events. In the 1970s, the FBI had originally defined a serial killer as someone who commits at least four murders, each separated by a cool-down period. Eventually, the number was reduced to three and then two. Pam Hupp is believed to have committed three homicides, including the murder of Louis Gumpenberger (2016), Betsy Faria's murder (2011), and she was likely responsible for her mother Shirley Neumann's death (2013).