We attended the Dateline NBC Season 28 premiere screening and Q&A yesterday evening in New York. Not only was this the first exclusive season premiere screening for Dateline, which returns to a two-hour format beginning this Friday at 9 p.m. ET, but the first suspect in this unsolved murder case was actually present inside the theater to watch the broadcast; as was one of the producers, who actually became a story within the story.
We’ll get to that shortly.
Keith Morrison is the correspondent for the Season 28 opener, which focuses on the murder of a woman named Betsy Faria, found dead on December 27, 2011, at her and her husband, Russ Faria‘s home in the St. Louis suburbs. She had been stabbed 55 times.
A woman named Pam Hupp was reportedly the last person to see Betsy Faria alive, and collected $150,000 in life insurance after Faria’s death. Hupp had become Faria’s beneficiary just days before the murder and reportedly later told investigators she was also her lover.
Prosecutors in Lincoln County, Mo. believe Hupp’s murder of a mentally challenged man named Louis Gumpenberger was part of her plan to distract from the investigation into Betsy Faria’s murder.
Here’s where the mysterious producer storyline comes into play.
Hupp was driving around her neighborhood one day looking to troll for a victim by luring them into her car, and telling them she was “Cathy from Dateline,” in hopes that they’d want to participate in a story (which of course was fake). Gumpenberger unfortunately fell for her tactic.
The mysterious “Cathy from Dateline” was actually Dateline producer Cathy Singer, who worked with Morrison on this particular broadcast and was in the theater for the screening.
How did it get to the point where Pam Hupp felt comfortable enough to impersonate a real-life Dateline producer?
“I think because I had been in St. Louis many times covering this story and we had aired our third TV show about it by then,” Singer told TVNewser. “And I am female, I was probably an easy but effective person to use in her scheme.”
It’s rarely enjoyable for the journalist to become part of the story he or she is covering, but that’s what happened here. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me before!,” Singer told us. “I was shocked when I learned that Pam did that.”
Russ Faria was initially convicted and spent two years in prison for his wife Betsy’s death before he got a new trial and his freedom.
Faria and his defense attorney were in the second row of the theater for the screening and post-show Q&A with Lester Holt and the Dateline correspondents: Morrison, Josh Mankiewicz, Andrea Canning and Dennis Murphy.
“I was a little nervous for him [Russ] knowing the audience would hear him at his most vulnerable and lowest moment of his life,” said Singer. “But I know he’s seen this part of the whole saga before, so it wasn’t going to be a complete surprise to him.”
Morrison, who had been reporting on the case for five years, acknowledged and pointed in the direction of Faria at one point during the Q&A. He received a nice round of applause from the audience. Morrison admitted that he would have been skeptical of Faria if not for his strong alibi (four of his friends said he was at their “game night” the time of the murder).
So, what did Faria think about the Season 28 premiere of Dateline?
“I spoke to him afterward and he thought the story was very well done,” said Singer.