Family drops lawsuit over death of Pamela Hupp’s mother, citing unrelated murder case

 

LOUIS COUNTY •A lawsuit over the death of Shirley Neumann in a fall at her retirement home has been dismissed, at least temporarily, because of an unrelated murder case pending against her daughter, Pamela Hupp.

Lawyer Daniel DeFeo, representing Neumann’s son, Michael Neumann, said his client wanted to “let the circus around this case resolve.” DeFeo said that the suit could be refiled for up to a year.

The lawyer said he still believes the balcony railing that Shirley Neumann fell through in 2013 was not properly designed — that fasteners were “flimsy” and that the design has since been been changed.

“This woman should not have fallen through the railing,” he said.

DeFeo said lawyers representing the retirement home and the makers and installers of a failed railing had been attempting to speak to Hupp since she was charged last year with the murder of Louis Gumpenberger.

“They don’t want to litigate the merits of the design. They want to depose Pam Hupp,” he said, citing public “innuendo” and media reports that raised questions about circumstances of her mother’s death.

In a two-hour report aired in November, NBC’s Dateline interviewed an engineer who tested a railing similar to the one installed at Neumann’s apartment and concluded that her death could not have been an accident. The report also suggested that Neumann had an elevated level of Ambien in her system, and questioned a lack of injuries consistent with going through the railing.

Hupp was believed to be the last person to see Neumann alive.

After Hupp’s friend, Elizabeth “Betsy” Faria, was stabbed to death in Lincoln County in 2011, police talked with her about a $150,000 life insurance policy naming Hupp as Faria’s beneficiary.

Hupp was recorded telling a detective that she didn’t need the money, explaining, in part: “And if I really — I hate to say it — wanted money, my mom’s worth half a million that I get when she dies.”

She added, “If I really wanted money, there was an easier way than trying to combat somebody that’s physically stronger than me,” an apparent reference to Faria. “I’m just saying.”

DeFeo said that if the Neumann family went forward with the suit, they would have to “litigate Pam Hupp,” which would create a “circus.”

Bradley Hansmann, one of the lawyers representing the railing manufacturer and the general contractor, declined to comment, citing the potential for a refiling of the case.

Louis Basso, another lawyer, said, “I’m very content because my client shouldn’t have been in the lawsuit in the first place.” He said that client had a name similar to the company that manufactured the railing.

The other lawyers in the case declined comment or could not be reached.

Michael Neumann filed the wrongful-death suit in St. Louis County Circuit Court in 2015.

Shirley Neumann, 77, was found dead on Oct. 31, 2013, by a housekeeper at the Lakeview Park Independent Senior Living Community, near Fenton.

Reports from police and the medical examiner’s office say that Hupp had found her mother incoherent and lying across the bed the day before and took her to a hospital. Neumann was not admitted and spent the night with Hupp.

After Hupp dropped her mother off, Hupp told staff there that Neumann had eaten and would not be down for dinner or breakfast.

Police twice classified the death as an accident, even after receiving an anonymous tip in November 2013 suggesting otherwise.

After Hupp was charged with the murder of Gumpenberger, police said they would triple-check their investigation of Neumann’s death.

Investigators say Hupp lured the physically and mentally impaired 33-year-old man to her home in August, shot him, then planted evidence to try to make it look as if Faria’s widower, Russell Faria, had sent him to retrieve the insurance money. Officials said Russell Faria had no involvement.

Russell Faria had been convicted of his wife’s murder but won a reversal in part because the judge refused to allow the defense to suggest Hupp as an alternate suspect. He was acquitted in a retrial.

Hupp was the last person to see Betsy Faria alive, and her version of the events of that evening has repeatedly changed. She has denied any role in the killing.

St. Charles County investigators suggested that by killing Gumpenberger, Hupp was attempting to divert attention from herself during a reinvestigation of the Betsy Faria murder.

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