The Thing About Pam on NBC explores the tragic killing of Betsy Faria and the false conviction of her husband, Russ Faria. Returning home from a night out with friends, Russ found Betsy stabbed 55 times and with a knife lodged in her neck.
Despite having a solid alibi, the prosecutor, Leah Askey, painted him as a deranged killer who snapped after learning that his wife had replaced him with Pam Hupp as the beneficiary of her life insurance policy. Askey accused the friends supporting Russ’ alibi as co-conspirators in the crime, but she didn’t press charges against them.
Leah works at a private law firm and says that her portrayal in the miniseries is inaccurate
Leah Askey, now Leah Wommack Chaney, works at a private law firm dubbed the Chaney Law Group.
KSDK recently interviewed Leah from her office about her portrayal in The Thing About Pam. Askey told the outlet that securing a conviction for Russ Faria marked the start of a nightmare that has haunted her for a decade.
“This has been my life for almost ten years,” Askey said. “It’s extremely difficult. I am always concerned about my family.”
“I have a lot of people that have supported me for a long time because they know me,” Leah said, holding back tears. Leah said that her portrayal in the NBC miniseries mirrors previous depictions in podcasts, the Dateline episodes, and social media: “It’s not at all me, and it’s not at all what happened.”
Leah said that the series alludes to a relationship between her and Pam Hupp, which she insists didn’t exist. Askey told KSDK that she first interacted with Pam Hupp, the convicted killer widely suspected of killing Betsy, after Russ’ trial.
Askey said that she met with the show’s producers via Zoom but never interacted with Judy Greer, the actress portraying her. Leah said: “100% of all the information is derived from the defense and the defense attorney.”
Greer said that meeting Askey might have affected her perception and depiction of the character. Judy said that even though the series had true-story origins, it wasn’t a documentary, giving the actors liberty to interpret the story however they deemed fit. She added:
“We are making an interpretation of a true story, so we have to be allowed to have an element of interpretation when we bring our characters to life.”
Leah lost her seat as county prosecutor due to her handling of the Betsy Faria case
Mike Wood ousted Leah Chaney from the county prosecutor position partly by promising to re-prosecute the Betsy Faria murder case. After his election, Mike said that he would push for an investigation into the conduct of police and prosecutors who handled the case.
“This was the poorest example of investigative work I or members of my team have ever seen,” Wood said. “It was driven by ego and a prosecutor who was working toward an agenda rather than the truth.”
Leah Askey was a four-year law graduate when she ran for Lincoln County prosecutor against a 20-year incumbent. “I never expected to win,” Leah told KSDK. Askey won, and less than a year into her tenure, Betsy Faria was murdered.
The evidence Leah collected convinced her that Russ murdered his wife. To cover all the bases, Chaney called on the Attorney General’s Office, which sent seasoned prosecutors to oversee the case.
Askey didn’t expect a guilty verdict during the first trial. “I was shocked,” Leah said. “I knew we had a largely circumstantial case, and they didn’t even go for the second-degree murder charge we had included.”
Russ successfully petitioned for a new trial before a different judge. Going into the new trial, she had more evidence backing her stance that Russ was guilty. The court found Russ innocent and acquitted him.
“I was devastated,” she said. “My grandfather once told me the only thing worse than a guilty person walking the streets is an innocent person going to prison.”
Russ filed a civil suit against the police handling the case, Askey and Lincoln County. A judge dismissed Leah from the lawsuit, which she sees as confirmation that she didn’t do anything illegal or unethical during the case.
However, the judge ordering her dismissal from the case said that though Leah worked closely with reckless investigators, she was entitled to ‘prosecutorial immunity,’ which isn’t exactly a declaration that Leah wasn’t at fault for the wrongful conviction.
Leah claims that people have tried to disbar her based on a series of unproven accusations
During her time as county prosecutor, Leah asked her county commissioners to investigate allegations against her, including her alleged involvement in a child sex-trafficking operation, alleged embezzlement of a non-profit, and supposed mishandling of Russ Faria’s prosecution.
“I remember they were like, ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’” Askey told KSDK. “And I said, ‘Yes, absolutely, because if I’ve done any of those things, then you, county commissioners, should have me removed because that’s not acceptable.’”
Ultimately, Chaney was only investigated for the child sex-trafficking allegation. The accusation claimed that Leah and the family court system conspired to take children away from their parents. Joe McCulloch, the special prosecutor on the case, said he found no evidence to support the claim:
“My understanding from the get-go was that it was only into the sex trafficking allegations that were made on social media. The information that was on social media was hearsay and could not be corroborated by anybody or anyone including the person that was alleged to have put on there.”
Leah told investigators that she believed her ex-husband, his partner, and a man named Roman Buddemeyer had conspired to smear her name. Investigators’ attempts to meet Roman failed: he claimed that his lawyer advised him not to attend the meeting.
By the time McCulloch suggested tracking the source of the social media posts disparaging Leah, she was already out of office. “I was already out of office so we figured it was kind of moot at that point, the damage had already been done to my reputation and it wasn’t going to preserve my position,” she said.
Liz is currently remarried, successful in private practice, and harbors no regrets about her actions. Askey says that numerous attempts to disbar her have failed. She said.
“They’ve attempted over and again to have me disbarred. They have alleged that I have done despicable things across the board. And every single time that they have done that, I have been cleared of all of that.”