DALLAS — A Texas woman who last year pleaded publicly for leads in the brutal shooting death of her husband has been charged, alongside her high school boyfriend, in her husband’s slaying.
Jennifer Lynne Faith, 48, of Dallas, is charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to destroy evidence in the Oct. 9 death of 49-year-old James William Faith Jr. The criminal complaint, filed against Jennifer Faith on Monday in federal court, accuses her of deleting incriminating data from her cellphone.
Her co-defendant, Darrin Ruben Lopez, 48, of Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee, is charged with murder in Texas state court. In federal court, he is charged with transporting a firearm in interstate commerce with the intent to commit a felony offense.
Lopez is accused of crossing state lines with a .45-caliber handgun in order to kill James Faith, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.
Faith, known to his loved ones as Jamie, was shot seven times — three times in the head, three times in the chest and once in the groin, federal court documents say. He was killed the day after he and his wife celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary, according to Dallas authorities.
“This defendant allegedly gunned down an innocent man in broad daylight,” Prerak Shah, acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in a statement last month, when Lopez was charged. Lopez was arrested Jan. 11 at his home.
The charge against Jennifer Faith was announced Thursday.
“Even as she publicly claimed she was ‘desperate for answers’ regarding her husband’s murder, Jennifer Faith was communicating with the alleged killer, actively urging him to destroy evidence and attempting to delete incriminating communications from her phone,” Shah said in a news release.
‘It sounded terrible’
A probable cause affidavit written by a Dallas detective lays out the details of what allegedly took place around 7:35 a.m. Oct. 9 in Jamie and Jennifer Faith’s Oak Cliff neighborhood. Officers responding to a 911 call found Jamie Faith, a director of technology at American Airlines, lying on the ground in front of a neighboring home.
Jamie Faith was pronounced dead at the scene.
“During the investigation, it was learned that the complainant left his residence with his wife, witness Jennifer Faith, to walk their dog,” the affidavit states. “While walking their dog, a masked suspect approached them and shot the complainant, causing his death.”
Jennifer Faith told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth in December that walking their dog was “kind of (their) bonding time in the morning.” She said they were just yards from their front door when she heard frenzied footsteps.
“I heard running behind me, and I turned around and, all of a sudden, somebody just started shooting at him. And just kept shooting and shooting and shooting,” Faith told the news station.
The widow told detectives the gunman, who she said she could not identify because of he was wearing a hoodie and a blue face mask, then attacked her. After binding her hands with duct tape, she said he began beating her as she lay on the ground, according to the affidavit.
“Witness Faith stated the suspect also tried taking her jewelry but was unsuccessful as she screamed for help,” Detective Chris Walton wrote.
Watch Jennifer Faith’s interview with NBC Dallas-Fort Worth below.
Neighbor Melinda Mendoza told the NBC affiliate the day of the shooting that she “heard (Jennifer Faith) screaming for her life.”
“It sounded terrible. It sounded like a movie,” Mendoza said. “I see their dog moving, (a) big ol’ pretty dog took off running, so I knew it was my neighbors.”
Multiple witnesses from the neighborhood saw the gunman jump into a black Nissan truck and flee the scene, authorities said. A photo that detectives obtained from one witness showed an older model, extended-cab Nissan Titan pickup with a white “T” decal on the lower left-hand side of the rear window.
It appeared to be a logo sticker for the Texas Rangers baseball team, which Jennifer Faith referenced in a Dec. 2 interview with WFAA in Dallas.
“Somebody has got to know whose truck this is,” she said. “It’s a black Nissan Titan extended cab. It had a Texas Rangers sticker in the back window, so it was very distinctive from that point.”
Watch Faith’s interview with WFAA below.
The day after the WFAA interview, Faith texted Lopez a link to the article, according to federal court records.
Jennifer Faith told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth in her Dec. 4 interview that, with no arrests at that point, she feared the case was going cold. She pleaded with the public to keep an eye out for the gunman’s truck so police could track down Jamie Faith’s killer.
“My hope is that someday, perhaps the person will realize the gravity of what they’ve done and what they’ve taken from myself and my daughter,” she said. “He was just the backbone of our family. It was just devastating.”
‘A full-blown emotional affair’
Jennifer Faith had no idea that detectives were already on the trail of her husband’s alleged killer — and that they used her cellphone records to find that trail.
As part of the investigation, they had asked Jennifer Faith if she would consent to a search of her cellphone. She agreed, and they extracted the data from the device.
According to the Dallas police affidavit, detectives learned that Jamie and Jennifer Faith were having marital trouble at the time of the shooting. Jennifer Faith had also been in near-constant contact with Lopez, whom she had dated in high school and college, for months, Walton wrote.
“Detectives located text messages in which witness Faith described her relationship with Lopez as a ‘full-blown emotional affair,” the detective wrote.
In addition, Lopez had a “five-year plan of how they would be together.”
Read Darrin Lopez’s arrest affidavit from the Dallas Police Department below.
Federal court documents offer more details of Jennifer Faith’s text messages, including messages she’d sent to a friend in which she described the emotional affair and her history with Lopez.
She wrote that she and Lopez were going to get married prior to their breakup in school, but that the relationship ended because she was finishing college and Lopez, who had just finished U.S. Army basic training, was deployed to South Korea.
“He ended up going Special Forces and served 26 years,” Jennifer Faith wrote. “Just retired and found me.”
Faith also told her friend that her husband knew about her affair with Lopez, according to the federal criminal complaint. In August, two months before the homicide, she texted that she’d “put the brakes on” Lopez because of what the affair was doing to her husband.
“Jamie was so hurt and internalizing everything,” Faith wrote. “I just couldn’t do it to him.”
Cellphone records from her phone, as well as that of Lopez, would contradict those claims.
Dallas investigators began looking into Lopez and learned that he owned a black Nissan truck matching the description of the Titan seen by witnesses the day Jamie Faith was killed. They also learned that he lived in Tennessee, meaning he would have traveled from outside Texas to commit the crime.
Detectives called in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Local and federal investigators soon obtained a search warrant for the data from Lopez’s cellphone.
“During an analysis of Lopez’s cellular phone records, it was revealed that he and witness Faith had approximately 14,363 incidents of phone contact (calls and text messages) between Sept. 30, 2020, and Oct. 30, 2020,” the Dallas affidavit states.
The federal complaint indicates that Lopez and Jennifer Faith contacted one another even more frequently after the crime. In the 12-day span between Nov. 25 and Dec. 6, they shared more than 5,700 calls and texts.
“The records corroborate the text message Jennifer Faith sent to (her friend) months before the murder advising that she (Jennifer Faith) is in constant contact with ‘Darrin’ (Darrin Lopez) all day, every day,” the complaint states.
Texts and other evidence
The pair texted and called one another hundreds of times every day in the days before Jamie Faith was killed. The last text Lopez sent prior to leaving Tennessee, at 1:07 p.m. on Oct. 8, the day before the shooting, was to Jennifer Faith.
“Following that text message, however, the two phones suddenly stopped communicating with each other for a period of over 28 hours,” according to federal agents. “Records reflect Lopez’s cellphone was turned off during a substantial portion of that time.”
Lopez was spotted on security camera footage at multiple stops along the way, including a Pilot truck stop in West Memphis, Arkansas. Wearing clothing matching the description given by witnesses to the shooting, including the blue face mask Jennifer Faith told police about, he bought gas, food and Red Bull energy drinks.
The next time Lopez texted Jennifer Faith was more than nine hours after her husband’s death. Data shows that by that time, Lopez was back in Tennessee, about 62 miles from his home, the federal complaint states.
The timeline is consistent with Lopez making the 650-mile drive from Cumberland Furnace to Dallas and back, if he left Dallas shortly after killing Jamie Faith.
“Cellphone records also show that in the days following James Faith murder (Oct. 9, 2020, to Nov. 25, 2020), Jennifer Faith’s cellphone sent 13,644 text messages (SMS) to Lopez’s cellphone,” the complaint states. “Jennifer Faith’s cellphone and Lopez’s cellphone were in contact almost 24,000 times — an average of over 500 times per day.”
Investigators found that Jennifer Faith had attempted to erase evidence of her relationship with Lopez from her cellphone, which had been examined by Dallas detectives.
“Despite Lopez’s cellphone records showing thousands of communications between the two phones in the months before James Faith’s murder, most of those communications were not present on the phone,” according to the complaint. “Your affiant believes that the communications with Lopez’s cellphone were intentionally deleted from Jennifer Faith’s cellphone prior to the phone being given to detectives.”
Read the federal complaint against Jennifer Faith below.
On Nov. 20, ATF agents conducted aerial surveillance of Lopez’s home in Cumberland Furnace, the Dallas affidavit states. There, they spotted a black Nissan Titan with a large white “T” decal on the rear window, Walton wrote.
Over several days in early December, ATF agents kept an eye on Lopez in and around Cumberland Furnace. Photos that agents took show that someone had placed a white decal of some kind on the tailgate of his truck, an apparent attempt to disguise the vehicle.
That was Jennifer Faith’s idea, according to texts.
“So I woke up in a little bit of a panic,” a Dec. 3 text read, according to federal court records. “Something is eating away at me, telling me you need to take the sticker out of the back window of the truck.”
Lopez responded that he was working on the sticker a little at a time, making it appear that the adhesive was wearing down. He said he didn’t want to take it off all at once because his daughter had given it to him, and the family would notice it was missing.
“Oh, OK, good,” Faith wrote back. “Thank you.”
The new decal on Lopez’s tailgate appeared the next day. He texted her on Dec. 6 to say the “T” sticker was gone.
ATF agents conducting surveillance of Lopez noted the sticker was gone a couple of days later.
When Lopez was arrested Dec. 11, the outline of the decal remained on the window, the court documents state. Jennifer Faith had worried that it would, but Lopez assured her the truck would gather dust, which would obscure the outline after a few days.
A search of Lopez’s home the day of his arrest also turned up a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun. Ballistics experts matched the gun to the bullets that killed Jamie Faith.
Through GPS evidence, detectives were able to place Lopez on the Faiths’ street, within a block of the couple’s home, hours before the homicide.
The Faiths’ own Ring doorbell camera, located at their back door, also captured footage of a man matching Lopez’s description in the backyard of the vacant house next door. The man, who was in the yard around 2:30 a.m. the morning Jamie Faith died, wore clothes matching those Lopez wore when he was seen at the West Memphis truck stop a few hours earlier.
Love was not the only motive that authorities believe prompted Lopez’s alleged actions. Federal agents wrote that an examination of his finances showed he was having money problems.
He was more than $38,000 past due on his mortgage payments, and the water to his home had been shut off in October.
In November, Jennifer Faith began trying to collect more than $600,000 from a life insurance policy that Jamie Faith had. A GoFundMe campaign established for the widow the day after the homicide had also raised more than $60,000 in donations.
By Dec. 3, she had drained the account of those funds, authorities said.