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Photos, texts made public in Barry Morphew case

Photos released show scratches on Barry Morphew's arms and hands and show him carrying items to a dumpster at a hotel, prosecutors said.

CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. — Evidence including photos and text messages that were presented during a preliminary hearing for Barry Morphew who is charged in the death of his wife Suzanne Morphew were made public by the court this week.

A Chaffee County judge in September found probable cause that Barry Morphew may have killed his wife, Suzanne, and set a May 2022 date for the trial. 

RELATED: Judge orders prosecution to release documents in Barry Morphew murder case

Suzanne Morphew, 49, of Maysville, was last seen on May 10, 2020. Despite an exhaustive search, her body has not been found. Her husband was charged in May 2021 with: 

  • First-degree murder
  • Tampering with a deceased human body
  • Tampering with physical evidence
  • Possession of a dangerous weapon
  • Attempt to influence a public servant

RELATED: Judge rules there is probable cause for Barry Morphew to stand trial

Chaffee County Judge Patrick Murphy, who has since recused himself from the case, held a four-day preliminary hearing in August 2021, with a total of about 20 hours of testimony, to determine whether there was sufficient evidence for Barry Morphew to stand trial.

RELATED: Judge in Morphew case recuses himself

Morphew pleaded not guilty and waived his right to a speedy trial and it's currently set for May 3 through June 1, 2022.

Credit: KUSA
Suzanne Morphew

During his testimony at the preliminary hearing, Cmdr. Alex Walker of the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Department said Barry Morphew claimed Suzanne was asleep when he left early on May 10, 2020, 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.

Photos of her bicycle were among those presented at the hearing and released publicly.

Credit: Chaffee County Court
Suzanne Morphew's bike

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. 

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.

The investigation into her disappearance revealed that Suzanne had a “spy pen” because she suspected Barry was having affair, according to testimony. They said she put the "spy pen" in Barry's truck.

Photos of that "spy pen" were also released this week.

Credit: Chaffee County Court
A spy pen presented as evidence in Barry Morphew case.

While in Broomfield, presumably for his business trip, Barry Morphew made five trips to a dumpster, where video showed him throwing away numerous bags. FBI Special Agent John Grusing said he has never been able to explain what was in some of those bags. Various still images of those videos were made public this week.

Credit: Chaffee County Court
A photo showing Barry Morphew carrying various items down a hallway at a Broomfield hotel.

During the preliminary hearing, prosecutors with the Chaffee County DA's Office said that on the afternoon of May 9, Barry Morphew loaded a syringe for a tranquilizer dart, put his phone on airplane mode and then shot his wife with the dart. He then chased her around the house until the tranquilizer took effect, prosecutors said.

Photos released this week include various photos of the tranquilizer and darts.

Credit: Chaffee County Court

Barry Morphew had told investigators that he owned the tranquilizer gun because he had used it when he was in Indiana to sedate white tail deer to medicate them, according to testimony.

During the preliminary hearing, Chaffee County Undersheriff Andy Rohrich testified that Morphew had injuries to both of his hands and scratch marks on one of his arms a few days after his wife Suzanne went missing last year. 

Photos of his hands and arms were among the evidence made public. Barry Morphew told investigators that he got the injuries from a tree while searching for his wife. 

Credit: Chaffee County Court
Scratches appear on Morphew's hands and arm.

Other photos released include items that were burned in a fireplace. In that fireplace, investigators found partially burned wood, the remains of paper that resembled wrapping paper, two long pieces of metal like those of hanging folders from a filing cabinet and strand material similar to that from bookbinding.  

>> Additional items that were released can be seen in the document below


9NEWS Legal Expert Scott Robinson said typically, evidence in this detail and in color isn't seen until it's admitted at trial. 

"Doesn't mean it isn't done. Doesn't mean to say anything wrong. But it is unusual to have this much of the physical evidence, the exhibits from the preliminary hearing provided to the public to to see," Robinson said. 

He said that the visceral impact people get from actually seeing the photos, text messages and more instead of just hearing about it won't help the defense in the case. 

"Certainly, potential jurors will be far more likely to remember the details if they've seen the photos, if they have read the texts, particularly because the physical evidence released pretty much all points to suspicious circumstances, a suspicious conduct by Barry Morphew," he said. 

Speaking of potential jurors, he said that while high-profile cases always pose difficulty for a judge to find jurors, he believes there are enough people based on his experience who don't know about the case. 

"I have no doubt the judge is going to be able to seat a jury because a lot of people really do not pay attention to what's happening in the world of criminal justice," he said. 

As of right now, even with the release of the evidence, he believes the evidence in the case overall is well balanced, partly because Suzanne's body has not been found. 

"The evidence is surprisingly well balanced, after all, the prosecution has no murder weapon. They have no mode or method of murder. They have no body," he said. 

As for why the court would release it, he believes that the judge may have felt that it was in the public interest to put out the existing evidence. 

"It also is better timed than having it happen two weeks before trial or the day that the jurors are getting their jury summons. So it's a respectable interval between now and trial, and that's likely why the judge felt at least compelled to do it now as opposed to some other time," he said. 

On Feb 1., the new judge in the case is set to rule on the defense's request to move the trial out of Chaffee County. 

Robinson said that while a different venue may make finding a jury easier, it may not have a significant impact because of all its attention. 

"It may make jury selection a little more easy, but an awful lot of people know an awful lot about this case, including national media attention," he said. 

9NEWS reached out to the Chaffee County Court as to why the evidence was released. The Court Clerk, Dana Petri, responded via email and said the court had no comment.

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: The disappearance of Suzanne Morphew 


 

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