SALIDA, Colo. — A Chaffee County judge did not make a ruling Tuesday on whether there was sufficient evidence for Barry Morphew to stand trial in the murder of his wife, Suzanne.
At the end of the four-day preliminary hearing and about 20 hours of testimony at the courthouse in Salida, Judge Patrick Murphy said he would rather make his decision "correctly" rather than quickly.
The next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 17, when Murphy will make his ruling.
Suzanne Morphew, 49, of Maysville in Chaffee County, was last seen May 10, 2020. Despite an exhaustive search, her body has not been found.
Earlier Tuesday, Barry Morphew's attorneys called Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Agent Joseph Cahill as a witness to question him about a DNA sample taken from the glove box of Suzanne Morphew's vehicle after she went missing.
The sample resulted in three unknown matches in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national DNA database used by law enforcement. The matches were connected to sexual assault cases in Arizona and Chicago, according to testimony.
According to the defense, Cahill was listed as the CBI contact in letters sent to law enforcement agencies in Tempe, Ariz., Phoenix and Chicago, notifying them of DNA matches between a swabbed sample taken from the glove box of Suzanne Morphew’s vehicle and unsolved sexual assault cases in those cities.
Barry Morphew’s DNA was excluded from the glove box sample, according to defense attorneys.
Cahill testified that he was not aware of those letters at the time they were sent, between October and April. He testified that he became aware of them when the district attorney’s office gave the letters to him later on.
Cahill testified that he didn’t follow up on those matches. In the Chicago case, a detective in that city told Cahill that he would follow up on the match, Cahill testified, and then said he did not check whether the detective did so.
Under cross-examination from the prosecution, Cahill testified that a DNA match from CODIS should be treated as an investigative lead that law enforcement should follow up on.
The defense also called Chaffee County Sheriff's Office Deputy Scott Himshoot, who testified that a tranquilizer gun owned by Barry Morphew appeared not to have been fired in a long time.
The prosecution wrapped its case earlier Tuesday. Over three and a half days of testimony, the prosecution questioned several witnesses and submitted dozens of pieces of photo and video evidence without laying out a specific narrative for what they think happened to Suzanne Morphew.
According to testimony for the prosecution:
- Suzanne was having a two-year affair with Jeff Libler, a Michigan man who was told he was not a target of the investigation. Suzanne suspected that Barry was having an affair, but investigators have not found evidence of that. (The defense focused on interview transcripts in which Barry acted surprised and disbelieving that his wife would have an affair.)
- Suzanne sent Barry a text on May 6, four days before she was reported missing, that said, “I’m done.”
- Suzanne and Libler regularly communicated through LinkedIn, but no messages came from Suzanne after the afternoon of May 9, the day before she was reported missing.
- Barry owned a tranquilizer gun that investigators suspected he might have used on Suzanne, and also a 16-inch gun with a scope that Barry told investigators he used to shoot chipmunks. He told investigators he was using the gun on May 9 to shoot chipmunks on his property.
- Days after Suzanne’s disappearance, law enforcement found a needle sheath in the dryer in the Morphews’ residence. The sheath would fit a needle used to inject serum into a tranquilizer dart. Barry told investigators he had no idea how it got there. He also told investigators that he might have had tranquilizer serum on his work bench before he left May 10 for Broomfield on a presumed business trip.
- Barry had injuries to both of his hands and scratch marks on one of his arms on May 13, three days after Suzanne went missing. He told investigators he got the injuries from a tree while searching for Suzanne.
- Barry visited a business, Stove & Spa, in Poncha Springs in the late afternoon on May 9, the last day Suzanne was seen alive. The owner of the store told investigators that Barry inquired about getting his hot tub fixed and didn’t make any purchases.
- Barry’s phone was in airplane mode for several hours on two occasions: on May 9, the last day Suzanne was seen alive, and May 10, when Barry was in Broomfield.
- When Barry left his home early May 10 to drive to Broomfield, he turned left instead of right, which would be the direction to go to head toward Broomfield. Barry told investigators he saw a bull elk and followed it to see where it would drop its antlers. One witness testified that elk don’t drop antlers that time of year.
- In Broomfield, Barry made five stops at various businesses and disposed of items in trash receptacles. He told investigators that the items were clutter from his truck. One witness testified that his theory is Barry was disposing of murder evidence.
- Barry left his hotel room in Broomfield in late afternoon on May 10. One of his employees, who was staying at the same hotel, told investigators that when she went into that room hours later, it smelled strongly of chlorine and wet towels were strewn on the floor.
- On March 5, 2021, 10 months after Suzanne’s disappearance and after many interviews with investigators, Barry asked two FBI agents: "What about immunity? Can you give me immunity if I just sit and open my life to you?" (FBI Agent John Grusing later said under defense questioning that Morphew said he was asking the question in case he was falsely convicted.)
Barry Morphew is being held without bail.
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