LINCOLN COUNTY, Mo. – It’s a twist no one saw coming. A former investigator in the Pam Hupp case is wanted on blackmail-related charges.
Mike Merkel, who used to work as a detective in Lincoln County, is accused of using his relative’s DEA-issued cell phone to follow and bother an officer who was looking into police corruption allegedly connected to the Hupp case.
The Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office issued a felony complaint for stalking and harassing a detective investigating police corruption. That corruption investigation was triggered by the now infamous Pam Hupp-Russ Faria investigation.
We’ve previously reported on how Merkel was one of several law enforcement officials who used Hupp as a star witness against Faria. In one of Merkel’s recorded interviews with Pam Hupp, he and a fellow officer offered Hupp a theory that led to Hupp changing her story and implicating Faria.
Faria served more than three years in prison for the 2011 murder of his wife, Betsy Faria. A 2015 retrial exonerated Russ. Hupp was named by the judge as a suspect in Betsy’s murder in that trial.
Hupp then went on to lure Louis Gumpenberger to her home, where she shot him to death in 2016. St. Charles County prosecutors believe it was an attempt to take the heat off of her and frame Russ.
Hupp is now serving life in prison for Gumpenberger’s murder and new Lincoln County Prosecutor Mike Wood has charged her with Betsy’s murder. Wood has sworn to clean up the corruption connected to the years of failed Hupp investigations.
Former Captain Mike Merkel knows he’s been a target of the corruption investigation because of his courtroom testimony involving 132 crime scene photos he claimed did not exist. In a retrial, Russ Faria’s lawyer, Joel Schwartz, showed those photos to Merkel and accused him of hiding evidence that could have cleared Russ from the start.
Tuesday’s felony complaint accuses Merkel of blackmail while under investigation, saying he stalked an investigating officer at Texas Roadhouse in St. Charles, using a burner phone, anonymously texting threatening messages and photos.
The complaint says the “texts included images of the victim dining” and “pictures of the victim’s assigned patrol vehicle in the parking lot.”
One of the messages said, “We are watching you closely. You should stop throwing stones at glass houses or yours will come down first and fast.”
Also, in a stunning twist, the court record shows that the burner phone was associated with the DEA – a phone issued to Merkel’s relative.
What was Merkel’s alleged motivation? The court record says it’s believed he hoped to pressure the victim to end his investigation.
FOX 2 texted and called Merkel for comment but did not get an answer. We also reached out to the DEA to ask about Merkel’s relative and his government-issued phone. We’re still waiting for an answer.
We also contacted Lincoln County Prosecutor Mike Wood, who said he is not yet commenting.
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