CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. — The man accused of killing his wife after she disappeared in 2020 is set to stand trial in Chaffee County.
Barry Morphew is charged with the following in connection with the disappearance and presumed death of Suzanne Morphew:
- First-degree murder
- Tampering with a deceased human body
- Tampering with physical evidence
- Possession of a dangerous weapon
- Attempt to influence a public servant
Preliminary hearings began Monday in Salida, and investigators already announced a big development in the case.
Suzanne Morphew had a two-year long affair before she disappeared from Salida in May of 2020, according to Cmdr. Alex Walker of the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Department.
Walker, who led the investigation into Morphew’s disappearance, was the first witness in Barry Morphew’s preliminary hearing.
According to Walker, Suzanne Morphew "met up" at least six times with her boyfriend in New Orleans, Texas, Indiana and Florida. Walker testified that when the boyfriend met with the FBI in November, six months after Suzanne disappeared, he was told that he was not a target of the investigation.
Walker also testified that Suzanne suspected that Barry was having an affair but, in fact, there is no evidence that he was.
The preliminary hearing, which is being held to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial, is the public’s first look at some of the evidence in the case.
Suzanne Morphew disappeared on May 10, 2020 – Mother’s Day.
During his testimony, Walker said Barry Morphew claimed Suzanne was asleep when he left early that morning for a business trip to Broomfield. Walker testified that, later that day, Barry sent his wife a “Happy Mother’s Day” text, but she didn’t respond.
When Suzanne didn’t return another text and a phone call, Walker testified that Barry told him he became concerned and then returned home when a neighbor called to say that Suzanne was missing.
Suzanne’s bicycle was found around 7 p.m. the same day, not far from the Morphews' house. Her bike helmet was found four days later less than a mile away just off Route 50. It was undamaged.
Walker said when deputies found Suzanne's bicycle, they found no damage to the bike, no skid marks leading to the bike, no signs of a struggle, no blood and no torn clothes.
In the courtroom, they played body camera video of a deputy finding the mountain bike. The deputy could be heard on camera calling out Suzanne's name while searching through a wooded area.
Another body camera video played showed Barry returning home that evening. He appeared to be in tears and hugging others. He asked deputies questions about what they've found and where they've looked.
According to Walker, immediately after Suzanne’s disappearance, Barry told investigators that he wanted to “help out any way he could.”
Walker said Barry also told them that he feared that Suzanne had either been attacked by a mountain lion while bike riding or had been “picked up” by someone, or that “something bad” had happened at a nearby recreational vehicle park.
Walker said Barry told investigators that he said Suzanne had been “his angel” since she was 17, that “they loved each other to death,” and that they had a “very good relationship.” Walker also testified that Barry claimed that he and Suzanne had a great night together the night before she disappeared.
But another witness, FBI Agent Ken Harris, testified that Suzanne texted a friend that she and Barry hadn’t had “a perfect night in a year and half.”
The investigation into her disappearance revealed that Suzanne had a “spy pen” because she suspected Barry was having affair, according to testimony. Investigators have not found that Barry was having an affair. They said she put the "spy pen" in Barry's truck.
Harris also testified that Suzanne texted that same friend that Barry “isn’t stable,” and she worried about the effect her marriage was having on her health. Harris testified that Suzanne had been diagnosed with cancer.
Suzanne Morphew’s body has not yet been found, despite a search that continues to this day. A search that has included hundreds of people on the ground, as well as dive teams, search dogs and aerial drones. More than 100 search warrants have been executed, including one of the Morphew house, and law enforcement agencies have received more than 1,400 tips.
Barry Morphew was arrested in May and is being held without bond in the Chaffee County Jail.
Authorities have not said what details prompted them to make an arrest nearly a year after Suzanne Morphew disappeared, citing the ongoing investigation and legal process.
The arrest affidavit in the case is currently sealed, which means the information that lead to Barry Morphew's arrest is not publicly available.
He also faces charges in a separate case where he's accused of submitting a presidential ballot for Suzanne Morphew in November 2020.
>Tweet thread below: 9NEWS' Marc Sallinger was in the court room live tweeting proceedings.
It's been 15 months since Suzanne disappeared, and her body hasn't been found. Investigators say they no longer believe she is alive but won't say what evidence they have that ties Barry Morphew to her death.
Late in the day on Monday's preliminary hearing, Harris continued to testify.
During the cross-examination from Barry's lawyer, Harris said Suzanne and her boyfriend, Jeff, had both talked about marrying each other one day and moving to Ecuador, hoping for a simpler, and less expensive, life. According to Harris, Suzanne told Jeff she “would wait for him,” at which point Barry's lawyer seemed to suggest that Suzanne might, in fact, be in Ecuador right now.
The preliminary hearing is scheduled to last four days. It continues Tuesday and then resumes on Aug. 23.
Barry is currently being held without bond.
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