TROY, Missouri — An eastern Missouri man once sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife is free after being found not guilty in a retrial.
Russell Faria was found not guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and armed criminal action Friday by Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer, of St. Louis, who heard the case without a jury in Lincoln County.
Faria's 2013 conviction in the stabbing death of his wife, Betsy Faria, was overturned after his attorneys argued the first trial judge should have allowed evidence pointing to a friend of victim as a possible suspect, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1PuN0MV ).
Prosecutors said Faria stabbed his wife at their home in Troy in December 2011. During the trial, the prosecution showed Faria's slippers, found in a closet stained with his wife's blood, as evidence, along with testimony about the couple's rocky marriage and a note on the victim's computer expressing fear of him.
The defense presented four alibi witnesses who said Faria was miles away when his wife likely died. Defense attorney Joel Schwartz said the slippers and note could have been planted to frame his client.
Ohmer said the investigation was "rather disturbing and frankly raised more questions than answers." He said the trial presented two different versions of the crime: That Russell Faria killed his wife out of "passion and rage," or that her close friend had conspired to kill her and frame him. The judge said the state did not provide enough evidence to prove Faria guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The woman who the defense said was a strong alternative suspect never took the stand. She was the last person known to have seen the victim alive and collected $150,000 in life insurance after becoming beneficiary several days before the killing.
Faria said he would try to get on with his life and may have a job lined up with a friend in Arizona. Asked what he felt, he said, "Relief. Glad it's over. Finally."
Prosecuting Attorney Leah Askey said in a statement, "My job is to seek justice for our victims and present evidence in the best way I can. My condolences go out to Betsy Faria's family."
Members of Betsy Faria's family declined to comment, the newspaper reported.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com