NBC interviews Criminal Justice professor about strange murder case


Professor Larry McClain and Brian Hilke of the O’Fallon Police Department, who helped find evidence to convict Pamela Hupp, talk to “Dateline” host Keith Morrison.
Photo from Larry McClain

MATT HAMPTON | News Editor

Adjunct professor Larry McClain took part in the high-profile Pamela Hupp investigation, and was interviewed about it for an episode of the true crime show “Dateline NBC” that aired Friday.

In August 2019, Hupp was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of Louis Gumpenberger, a mentally impaired man, at Hupp’s house in O’Fallon, Missouri, in 2016.  

Hupp staged a 911 call to claim she shot him in self-defense because he tried to abduct her, but McClain and other investigators were able to determine she brought Gumpenberger to her home to kill him.  

At that time, McClain was a detective working with the St. Charles County Cybercrime Unit. Investigators looked at security camera footage and Hupp’s phone location history, which showed that she went to Gumpenberger’s apartment the day she killed him.  

“There has been so much press about the case, but the whole story was never out there until now and the digital portion of the story has never been told until [the episode aired],” McClain said.

One part of the digital investigation that the “Dateline” episode didn’t mention, is that detectives shipped Hupp’s SUV to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to analyze its entertainment unit.  For technical reasons, McClain said, no evidence came of this analysis.  

When police showed up in Hupp’s unassuming neighborhood to investigate Gumpenberger’s death, she was already well-known:  Lt. Brian Hilke of the O’Fallon Police Department says in the “Dateline” episode that her neighbors whispered to him, “You know who that is, right? That’s Pam Hupp.”

The source of her notoriety was the 2011 murder of Betsy Faria in Troy, Missouri.  Betsy’s husband, Russ, was originally convicted of the crime but was later acquitted.  

The first hour of the “Dateline” episode details why Hupp, who got a $150,000 life insurance payout after Betsy was killed, is suspected of the murder and of framing Russ for it.  

After Hupp took a plea deal to avoid the death penalty for Gumpenberger’s murder, authorities reopened an investigation into Betsy’s death.  

From right, McClain poses with Keith Morrison, a correspondent for “Dateline” and Hilke.
Photo from the Lindenwood website.

“Dateline” host Keith Morrison interviewed McClain in a studio, and the crew also shot B-roll with him on location.  McClain’s interview was also featured on the six-part NBC podcast about the case, which reached the top of the Apple Podcasts trending page.

As a trained interviewer for law enforcement, McClain praised Morrison’s interviewing technique, which encouraged him to speak honestly and off-the-cuff. 

“I walked in[…] and he said ‘sit down,’ and they put a mic on me and we had a two-and-a-half-hour conversation,” McClain said. “No prep.”

At Lindenwood, McClain teaches about how technology can be used in crimes, and how digital evidence can be used to solve them.  Today, he said, most investigations have a “digital crime scene.”

“Everybody leaves a digital trail wherever they go,” McClain said. “The question is, ‘Can that trail be used to solve crimes, and more importantly, do we have legal authority to access that information?’.”

Though technology opens up new ways for police to investigate crimes, he said it can also lead to a needle-in-a-haystack problem with finding evidence.  

“The problem is volume,” McClain said. “Think about how many devices are out there.  Think about the size of the volume that’s out there.”

Since McClain retired from a 23-year law enforcement career, he now teaches computer forensics methods to investigators in the U.S. and internationally.