Does it seem like a lot of crime cases come out of Colorado?
Chris Watts, Jon Benet Ramsey, Ted Bundy, and the Columbine shooting, are all cases that come out of that state. But if we’re talking specifically about murder and statistics, Colorado actually does not have an excessive amount of murders - A 2022 study showed that Louisiana actually had the highest murder rate in the United States with 14.4 murders per 100,000 residents. So maybe it’s just that Colorado gets a bad rap for no reason...
This is an unsolved case that has intrigued me from the onset. A 20+ year marriage, a secluded house in the woods, no blood evidence, and no body was ever found. This case is going to leave you with a very unsettled feeling...and it'll leave you wondering, what really did happen to Suzanne Morphew??
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Transcribed Episode / S3 EP27: The Disappearance of Suzanne Morphew
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The case I’ll be discussing in this episode also comes out of Colorado. It’s been requested quite a few times and now that there are some recent developments, there’s a much more complete and interesting story to tell. And for those that need that extra forewarning, this is not a solved case, it’s also not a cold case. It’s a case that involves a whole lot of digital forensic technology, a nice sprinkling of politics and yeah, even some chipmunks - so buckle up, and let’s get into the case of Suzanne Morphew.
Barry Morphew was a star baseball player in high school in Alexandria, Indiana in 1988 when he met Suzanne Moorman. She was a natural beauty who’d competed for homecoming queen, was well liked in school, and was described as being kind, sweet and soft spoken. She was known by her friends as always being an encouraging friend who was very devoted to her Christian faith.
As a teenager, Suzanne suffered from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer that begins in the lymphatic system and effects your immune system. She was given harsh treatments for the cancer and was able to overcome it and heal from it, but doctors told her that she probably wouldn't be able to bear children. She did overcome the cancer, but ended up battling it again later on in her life, where she had to continue treatments.
With Barry’s love of baseball, he dreamt of joining the major leagues, and was eventually drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, but that dream quickly faded when he got injured. Barry and Suzanne became high school sweethearts and they continued dating when they both went on to attend Purdue University in Indiana. They got married in 1994 and settled in a town just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Barry got into the landscaping business and Suzanne went into teaching middle school. Against the odds, Suzanne did in fact get pregnant, and in 1999 they had their first child, Mallory, followed by their second child, Macy in 2003. Once the girls were born, Suzanne stopped working to care for them full time. In 2012 she started a non-profit organization called the Suzanne R. Morphew Hope Foundation, which, according to their mission statement: “Address needs of Children in Various Global Locations by Showing the Love of Jesus Christ in Tangible Ways to Address Recognized Needs.”
In 2018 Mallory had gone off to Colorado to attend college, and Suzanne and Barry thought it would be a good idea to move closer to her, so they sold their house in Indiana and decided to move 1000 miles west to Salida, Colorado.
Salida is a small mountain community with a population of about 5600 people, that is known to the locals as the “Heart of the Rockies” as it’s surrounded by the Rocky Mountains on the east and west, and lies about 150 miles southwest from Denver. Salida is part of Chaffee County, which consists of 5 cities and has a total population of about 20,000 people - so we’re talking a very small community overall.
The Morphews weren’t moving out of their home state solely to be close to their daughter. Barry and Suzanne had been going through a rough patch in their marriage, and they thought that the fresh air and the amazing scenery would be a good respite for both of them, and would give their marriage a fresh start and strengthen their family.
In April 2018 they bought a 3 bedroom, 4 bath, 3,200 square foot sprawling residence on slightly over 7 acres of land and just adjacent to a river, in Maysville, a community about 20 minutes from downtown Salida. The residences in the community were spaced quite a ways apart, so each house was nestled into its own private wooded sanctuary.
But according to Suzanne’s sister Melinda Moorman, the move sadly did not change things for the better. In fact, things only seemed to get worse over the next couple of years. Suzanne confided in her sister, and complained about the state of her marriage, and in May 2020 told her something that shocked Melinda, that Barry had “been abusive emotionally and physically…I feel more angry now. Anger at what I've allowed."
Melinda described her brother-in-law as being very dominant in the relationship, and Suzanne as being passive and gentle. He had a tendency to overpower her and intimate people to get what he wanted.
It was May 2020, Mother’s Day weekend, and both Mallory and Macy were gone for the weekend attending a camp in Idaho. On Saturday May 9th, Barry had a couple jobs to attend to and he left for work at around 11am. He came back home for a quick lunch with Suzanne around 11:30, then left again to check on another project.
At 2:26pm he texted his wife telling her he was headed back home, but she didn’t respond so he sent her another text asking, “Did you leave?” She didn’t respond again.
A few minutes later, he arrived home and found Suzanne in their backyard sunbathing. As they settled in for the evening, she told him that she was going to do some mountain biking in the morning. This was a hobby that she’d picked up within the past couple months, and she tried to ride at least once a day. Barry went to bed around 8pm, setting his alarm for 4:30am. He had a job in Broomfield near Denver the next morning, which was about a 3 hour drive, and needed to leave early. He was planning on staying overnight in Denver and coming back the next day. When he got up that morning, Mother’s Day, Suzanne was fast asleep and he left for work around 5am.
He sent a text to his mother “Happy Mother’s Day” before texting his wife at 6:10am writing “You up? Happy Mother’s Day. I love you.”
He then texted Suzanne again at 8:41am letting her know he’d just arrived in Broomfield.
Sometime in the late afternoon, around 5pm, Mallory and Macy called their mother to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, but got no response.
The girls knew their mom was supposed to go bike riding that morning, so when they couldn’t get in touch with her, Mallory called her dad to let him know. He told her to call their neighbor, 70 year old Jeanne Ritter, to ask her if she could go to their house to check on their mom and to see if her mountain bike was at the house. Mallory called Jeanne and she went over to the house but found no sign of Suzanne. Knowing that she should’ve been back from her ride by now, the girls told her to call police as they believed Suzanne was missing. Jeanne called 911 at 5:46pm and was connected to the Chaffee County Communications Center. Suzanne was then officially reported missing and the Chaffee County Sheriff initiated a search.
Barry and the girls were now headed back to their house. Before heading home, Barry made a stop on the way, dropping off a shovel and some other tools for his co-workers at a hotel where he had booked some rooms for the night, telling them that he had to leave as he had a family emergency. He gave his hotel room to one of his employees to use and it was just after 6pm.
By Sunday night, Mallory and Macy were back home. On his way home Barry spoke to sheriff deputies who told him that they’d found a bike. He met officers at the ravine where the bike was found at around 8:40pm.
Not long after Chaffee County Sheriff’s had begun a search, Suzanne’s bike was located on a hillside in rough terrain just off of Chaffee County Road, not far from the Morphew home. It was in perfect condition, not broken or bent in any way. Officers shouted for Suzanne in the area of the bike, but didn’t find her, and found no other evidence, no clothing and no blood anywhere around that location.
That evening, deputies entered the Morphew home with Barry, looked around briefly and collected items of Suzanne’s clothing for the search and rescue dogs.
The next day, May 11th, an investigation began with a two week extensive search for Suzanne. Local and state authorities along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and civilian volunteers searched across the large rural areas of Salida with drones and scent-tracking dogs and investigators also dug in construction sites where Barry had done landscaping work, but found no evidence.
An initial search of Suzanne’s Range Rover was done, and her sunglasses and hydration backpack were found inside the car, which was odd, since those were items that she would usually take with her riding. Her drivers license and credit cards were also in her car, but her cell phone was missing.
As is standard procedure, photos of Barry’s hands and arms were taken by authorities and showed a few scratch marks or scraping injuries. He explained this by saying that he’d gotten them from tree branches during the search for his wife.
Flyers were passed out around town and a few days after Suzanne’s disappearance, Barry knocked on the window of a local store and handed the manager a note that contained a description of his wife: "Baby blue bike helmet. Biker’s clothing,” and asked him to keep an eye out for her. The note, however, didn’t contain any type of physical description of Suzanne or any contact information.
On May 14th, the Morphew family offered a reward with Barry putting up the first $100,000 and a family friend matching that amount, totaling $200,000.
Five days after finding her bike, Suzanne’s blue bike helmet was recovered by investigators about a mile away from her home off the side of highway 50. Again, no clothes or blood or any evidence of a struggle was found near the helmet.
On May 17th, Barry did a recorded video that was released to the media, where he begged for Suzanne to come home:
[Barry Morphew: Media Spot]
"Oh Suzanne, if anyone is out there that can hear this, that has you. Please, we'll do whatever it takes to bring you back. We love you, we miss you, your girls need you."
Also on that same day, the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office Dive Rescue Team searched water sites and residents were asked to preserve video footage from May 8 - May 12.
On September 24th 2020, four months after Suzanne went missing, her brother Andrew Moorman, organized a six-day citizen's search. Barry didn’t participate in the searches with her brother. The searches resulted in no further evidence.
Investigators began the process of digging into the Morphew’s digital footprints. They acquired Barry’s cell phone, confiscated his Ford truck, which included a GPS tracking system and computer that could tell a very detailed story of when the truck was moved and which locations it was driven to, and pulled Suzanne’s phone records.
On May 19th, CSI and plain clothes detectives searched the Morphew’s home, carrying out evidence bags and equipment. The home was cordoned-off and Barry or the girls weren't allowed back in the home for several days.
As investigators did a thorough search of the home, they found several interesting items. One of their daughter’s bed’s had been stripped of its sheets. The door frame to the primary bedroom had a long split crack in the frame. Authorities contacted the prior owners of the house, and they confirmed that the crack was NOT present when they owned the house and sold it to the Morphews. Barry was asked about the crack and asked if it was the result of an argument or him being locked out of the bedroom and he replied: “I have no idea what that’s from.” Also found on the floor inside the couple’s bedroom was an unspent shell casing next to their bed.
Inside of the family’s clothes dryer, a clear plastic needle cap was located that was found to belong to a tranquilizer syringe. It was later found that Suzanne’s DNA was on the cap.
When asked about the cap, Barry said he didn’t know how it got into the dryer, but admitted that he was an experienced tranquilizer dart gun shooter, telling them "...The first thing I thought of when I came here and saw deer in my yard with big horns, I'm like, 'I'm getting them horns...And I'll tell you exactly what I did...I shoot 'em. They go to sleep, I cut their horns off....It's totally illegal…But you're gonna find tranq darts around my property because I've done that.”
Then, inside of a walk-in closet in the primary bedroom, a “spy pen” was found. What’s a “spy pen” you ask? Apparently it’s a device that looks like a pen, but can record conversations in the near vicinity. Investigators came to learn that Suzanne got the voice-activated pen, hoping to catch her husband in an affair by placing the pen in his car. The pen did in fact record two conversations, one between Suzanne and Barry fighting about money, and another one that shocked authorities. It was a five hour conversation between Suzanne and another man. In that conversation, she was heard saying: “Your heart, that’s what I crave. I love how you love me. You’re the sweetest thing I’ve ever known.” But who was this “mystery man?” Could he be the one responsible for Suzanne’s disappearance?
Suzanne had apparently hidden the relationship with this man so well that it took investigators six months to uncover his identity. His name was Jeff Libler. He lived in Michigan, was married with six children, and had a whole lot of explaining to do.
Authorities contacted Jeff and questioned him. He knew Suzanne from high school in Alexandria Indiana and they had a one-time fling after high school. When the Morphews moved to Colorado in 2018, she’d reached out to Jeff with a message saying “Howdy Stranger.” From that moment on, they talked almost every single day and first became physical in February 2019, then maintained an almost 2-year affair.
Agents discovered the couple had seen each other six times over the past 2 years - meeting up in different states ranging from Louisiana to Florida. They’d send intimate photos to each other and talked about moving to Ecuador together. Ecuador had low living costs and good healthcare, and Suzanne had even looked up language schools there.
Jeff learned that she’d disappeared on May 12th after someone had sent him a link. When asked why he hadn’t come forward to admit to the affair - particularly since Suzanne was missing - he told them he didn’t want to hurt his family, didn’t want that to be Suzanne’s legacy and because he was worried that they might think he was a suspect. He even asked the agents “Am I a target?”
Thinking his affair would be discovered, Jeff panicked and deleted all of the social media apps that he used with Suzanne - they preferred the app “WhatsApp” to secretly communicate. He cooperated fully with police, providing them with his DNA, phone records and passwords for all his deleted accounts.
So the fact that he didn’t tell authorities from the onset that he was involved is frustrating to say the least. I get it - you don’t want the truth to come out, it’ll be bad, it’ll be hurtful for everyone involved. But here’s some advice: if you’re ever involved with someone who is married, and they go missing, tell the authorities you were involved so that they can pinpoint a suspect and eliminate you!
Jeff also provided an alibi, saying that he was in Michigan on Mother’s Day weekend. His alibi checked out, and he was cleared as a suspect. He told them that Barry had learned about some of the messages being sent between him and Suzanne. But when investigators informed Barry about the affair, he denied knowing anything about it.
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Based on Suzanne and Barry’s cell phone records, Jeff Libler’s cell phone records, the truck’s computer data, and interviews with those who interacted with the Morphews during those days, here’s the detailed timeline investigators had laid out about what occurred in the hours surrounding Suzanne’s disappearance:
On May 9th, while Suzanne was at home and her husband was out working, she communicated with Jeff a total of 59 times that day.
If you recall, in the morning and afternoon Barry had left for his two jobs, coming home in between them for a bite to eat.
At 2:03pm, Suzanne sent her lover a message that said “Guess who is alone again?” "I'm just in love with you. Whatcha up to?"
Jeff responded a minute later with: "Want to strip down and get naked? LOL??"
She tells him that she’ll "load up" her WhatsApp account, and then 5 minutes later she writes "Okay I'm on WA".
She then took a photo of herself in her bikini and sent it to Jeff. Investigators dubbed this photo her last “proof of life” photo. This would be the last communication that she’d send to Jeff and the last direct communication from her phone to anyone. On a separate note, investigators showed this photo to Barry during an interview, and he responded that it appeared as if “she was drunk.”
At 2:26pm Barry texted his wife saying he was headed home, and because she didn’t respond he sent her another text asking, “Did you leave?” which she didn’t respond to again.
It’s believed that shortly following this, he arrived home.
At 2:44pm, within a 21 second period of time, cell records appear to show Barry’s phone pinging at different locations inside and outside the house. When asked about this, he said that he was running around shooting at chipmunks, which were a constant nuisance around their property. Okay I don’t know if anyone else can relate to this thought I’m having, but if I had that many chipmunks running around my house all day, I’d make a chipmunk hotel and maybe an obstacle course and set that outside where I could sit there and watch those fur babies all day long - I don’t know, maybe that’s just me, I digress…
Then from 2:47pm until 10:17pm that day, slightly under 8 hours, he put his phone in airplane mode. It was taken back off airplane mode at 10:17pm.
This is very strange to me, how many times are we all on our phone, and how many times have you actually put your phone on airplane mode? I can tell you the exact times I have…when I’m on a plane, or the one time I thought my calls weren't connecting right, so I tried putting my phone on airplane mode to fix it. That’s it. I don’t do it regularly but if I’m missing something and someone else out there regularly does this, please let me know.
At 4:44pm, his truck door opened and closed. He then allegedly visited the Salida Stove and Spa between 4 and 5:30pm and spoke with two employees at the store.
He said he went to bed around 8pm that night. So for investigators to piece together what happened in the 8 hours when he put his cell on airplane mode, they had to use digital vehicle forensics to pull the digital data from Barry’s Ford truck. They used a Berla report to tap into the truck’s computer to track its movements. The computer tracked not only GPS - where the truck was driven to - but also tracked when the doors of the truck were open and closed.
The data showed that the truck was put in reverse and moved some 96 feet closer to his house around 9:30pm, even though Barry said he went to bed around 8.
At 2:53am there is an outgoing call from Suzanne’s phone.
Barry told police he set his alarm for 4:30am on Mother’s Day and left the house by 5am to drive to the job site in Broomfield, but the truck's computers showed that the truck doors were opening and closing between 3:25am and 3:51am.
Suzanne’s cellphone, which has still not been found, last pinged at 4:23am.
At 4:31am he puts his phone back in airplane mode. His phone then came back online and he traveled towards Broomfield. GPS can still be tracked when it’s in airplane mode.
Then from 4am until 8am, no activity is recorded by the truck’s computer. This could be for a number of reasons, but basically the vehicle’s computer only holds data for so long before it’s no longer available - authorities have not provided any other explanation for the missing timeframe. But he did tell authorities that when he left the house that morning, he took a left turn instead of a right because, even though it was dark out, he remembered seeing some elk - he’s a hunter so he was interested in getting a closer look. This route also put him in the proximity of where her bike was later recovered.
He sends the Happy Mother’s Day texts to his mother and wife at 6:10am.
At 8:10am on Mother's Day morning, the truck's computers began recording data again. He made his first stop at a RTD bus stop in Broomfield at. His passenger door opened, and video footage from the location showed that it took him about two minutes to throw something away in a garbage can that was a few feet from his truck.
He texts Suzanne to let her know he’s arrived in Broomfield at 8:41am.
He then heads to the Holiday Inn Express in Broomfield, a $92 a night budget hotel, where he makes another trash run. At 8:25am he checks into his hotel and enters his room at 8:38am, carrying several items, including hiking boots, a teal-covered piece of clothing, a darker piece of clothes and a light blue bag.
Barry leaves his hotel at 9:21am and dumps more trash at a McDonald’s trash can. Surveillance shows him pushing down trash in a trash can with both hands. He gets his truck washed then goes to a Men’s Wearhouse Parking lot and is there for 40 minutes where he dumps more trash. He told authorities he dumped tranquilizer material there. He explained the trash dumps by saying that he was simply being cheap, he’d often dropped trash off in bins to avoid paying to have it disposed of at a landfill. Investigators, however, believed that during these "trash runs," he was disposing of evidence.
In the CCTV footage of the trash dumps, investigators could not make out what exactly he was throwing away.
He then goes back to his hotel room, changes his shirt, and heads to his work site to work on a retaining wall for 15 minutes. He then went back to his hotel room. He called his daughter Mallory at 12:06pm. At 12:27pm he was seen in hotel video throwing away two bags into a dumpster, then walking away with his head down and hands in his pockets. He sent a text to Suzanne to call him at 3:30pm. He stayed in the hotel from 12:42pm until 5:55pm when he’d spoken to Mallory and found out she couldn’t get in touch with her mother.
He changed his shirt again and left the hotel, but before heading home, dropped the shovel and other items off at the work site. He told an employee, Jeff Puckett, that he could have his hotel room, saying that he had a family emergency and had to leave.
When Jeff Puckett was interviewed by authorities, he said that the room had a strong smell of chlorine or bleach and there were wet towels lying on the floor. There was also a pile of mail in the room, including a letter about property insurance, which Puckett handed to the FBI.
When asked about the chlorine or bleach smell, Barry explained it by admitting he smelled chlorine but didn’t know what it was from - he assumed it was from them cleaning for Covid, but the manager at the hotel confirmed that they didn’t use bleach to clean the rooms. The indoor pool was directly under his room, so it’s possible the chlorine smell emanated from there. Puckett said that Barry told him he needed to stay in Broomfield in order to complete the “urgent job” but when he got to the hotel room, there were no tools in the room and he waited around for two days but was never sent to do any work.
It was just after 6pm that Barry started driving back to Salida. On the way, he spoke to the sheriff deputies about them finding the bike and arrived at the bike location at 8:40pm.
At the time the bike was found, one of the daughter’s boyfriends, 16 year old Miles, spoke to officers and told them in his opinion it was unusual for Suzanne to ride up towards the location where her bike was found because she wasn’t that good of a rider. Officer’s body cam picked up that conversation:
[Officer Body Cam: Conversation with Miles (Last Name Unknown)]
So you haven't seen the mom at all have you?
Yep so the two daughters are gone right now at the moment, the dad is in Denver for a job, and they texted her cause of mother's day and the text never went through, like it never delivered, since this morning. She's a big mountain biker, she normally takes her car. And her bike's normally in the back of that, and it's gone.
Was this open when you came here?
The neighbor was here that opened it, and then she shut it and she went back to her house, her house is right over there. And then I came back and I opened it to come into the house.
Okay what time did you get here?
6, 6:00 and then I went all the way up Fooses cause she rode up there, and then I just drove the main road, couldn't find her, and then there's a couple spots I could check like trails and stuff, but I wanted to come back here to just like check back in and stuff.
Has she ever gone up 225?
The Colorado trail right there?
You know the big hill once you come up the highway?
She hasn't, and I haven't checked there yet because that climb at the beginning is really hard and I think it would be out of characteristic [sic] for her to do that, but someone needs to go there I think.
Why would you say that, that it's uncharacteristic?
Because it's kind of a crazy climb to get up there, it's not really rideable, you got to push a bike before even riding.
An officer greeted Barry when he arrived at the scene. He explained how Suzanne was new to mountain biking and said she was going to bike when she got up, and he offered the suggestion that it could’ve been a mountain lion:
[Officer Body Cam: Conversation with Barry Morphew]
Where, where is it? Where's the bike?
Oh, it's right there.
Where was it ?
It was like right down here, down this little embankment.
Is it a crash?
The bike was, the way it was laying, it kind of looked like it, but there's not really that much damage to the bike, that's the thing.
Lion? Was it, lion, was it a mountain lion?
I didn't see anything that would indicate...
Where'd you find the bike, right here?
Just right down in here...search and rescue's on their way.
Barry I'll probably need your help to kind of tell me some of the trails that she frequents so we can backtrack some of that stuff, you know what i mean. She's an avid mountain biking right?
She just started...
And just for confirmation, you left this morning around 5?
She was sound asleep
And she told you she was going to go bike riding?
She bikes every day, she said she was going to bike when she gets up.
So she was asleep in the bed when you left, did you say bye to her or anything?
No she was sound asleep, always... (inaudible)
So the last time you probably actually saw her was this morning, that was it right?
Yeah, I've been in Broomfield I've got a big job up there, I've been there all day.
No it's all good man, we're doing the...
Did they check the house, did they, did you look through the house?
Yeah they go to the house. What we're doing is we're keeping people out of the house, because if the dog comes they want to get a scent from the house, so they don't want to pollute that scent, so that way we can start track...and I walked up this, like I said I didn't see anything out of the ordinary, nothing looked like...
I wonder is she was hurt she could climb up the hill?
But that's the thing, when we came here still it was daylight right, so if she was right here, somebody would've easily you know what I mean, just...cause it was like what was it, right down, if we saw it coming in, somebody would've definitely seen it too you know.
Authorities don’t believe the lion theory, as there was no blood, no torn clothing, nothing to indicate an animal attack. Barry continued to cooperate with authorities and spoke to them almost every day during the investigation.
Suzanne’s friend’s were interviewed and they’d received texts from her leading up to her disappearance, where she talked about how she struggled in her marriage. In one text to her friend Sheila Oliver, she wrote, "I feel no peace when he's here" and "I wouldn’t feel safe alone with him." On March 25, 2020 she texted a friend saying that “He won't speak of divorce.” She also told Sheila that when she would bring up divorce to Barry, he would threaten her with “How would you pay for things, like your medical bills for cancer?" Yet another time Sheila said that Suzanne told her that Barry pushed her into a closet and put a gun to his head, asking her if that’s what she wanted — presuming it was for him to die.
On Barry’s phone, authorities found a deleted text message that Suzanne had sent to him dated May 6, 2020 just days before she vanished, saying "I'm done. I could care less what you're up to and have been for years. We just need to figure this out civilly."
On April 22, 2021 Barry was questioned by the FBI and told them that he “looks guilty from the evidence” and suggested that his wife’s murder “was a form of God’s judgment” for the alleged affair with Jeff Libler.
With a long-term affair now in the mix, the cell phone and GPS truck data, the disturbing texts Suzanne sent to her friends and sister, and Barry’s trash runs, the events of May 9th and 10th started to come into view and authorities began to believe they had a possible motive. They took the circumstantial evidence they gathered and brought the case to the prosecutors office for review.
Prosecutors and investigators have a theory about what happened the afternoon of May 9th. They believe that when Barry got home after receiving no response from his wife, that they had a confrontation when he shot Suzanne with a tranquilizer gun and she ran around the house - as confirmed by the cellphone data - trying to get away from him, ultimately locking herself in the bedroom. He was not in fact, according to prosecutors, hunting chipmunks, but was chasing Suzanne. They believe the damage to the door frame happened when he tried to get her out of the room after shooting her. He knew that his daughters would be away on their camping trip that Saturday afternoon and took advantage of that opportunity to kill Suzanne and clean up the crime scene.
In regards to the tranquilizer theory, experts said it can take between 4 and 20 minutes for an animal the size of a deer to drop after being shot with a tranquilizer dart; a human would take much less time. The tranquilizer cap was found in the dryer because they believed that when Barry got home the afternoon of May 9th, he went into the garage, took that cap off a syringe used to load a tranquilizer dart, injected the dart with a chemical, and shot Suzanne.
Bolstering the theory that they’d had a confrontation were the apparent scratches on Barry’s arm.
On May 5, 2021 Barry was arrested for the first degree murder of his wife, for tampering with evidence and for attempting to influence a public servant.
[Chaffee County Arrest Announcement]
[Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze]
Today marks a major milestone in this investigation in Suzanne Morphew's disappearance. We are announcing that at 09:15 hours this morning, the Chaffee County Sheriff's office arrested Suzanne Morphew's husband, Barry Morphew. He was taken into custody near his home in Poncha Springs, he was alone at the time of his arrest, and he was arrested without incident.
I'd now like to introduce District Attorney Linda Stanley.
You're not releasing the affidavit, you don't have a body, how can you prove to the members of the public that you have a strong case.
[District Attorney Linda Stanley]
For those that didn't hear the question, he said 'we're not releasing the affidavit and we don't have a body, so how can I convince the public that we have a strong case?' That's my job, I'm the one that considers how strong my case is before I bring charges, and I wouldn't bring charges unless I was confident.
According to their arrest affidavit, Prosecutors believed Barry discovered that he couldn’t control his wife’s insistence on leaving him, and he resorted to something that he’d done his entire life - he hunted and controlled Suzanne like he had hunted and controlled animals.
After spending four months in jail, Barry pled not guilty to all charges and was released from jail on bond on September 20, 2021.
A preliminary hearing was conducted to determine if there was enough evidence in the case to go to trial.
Barry’s high-profile defense team tried to weaken the prosecution's case. They stated that the plastic tranquilizer cap that was found in the dryer didn’t mean anything, because no one could say how long it had even been there, and because it was Suzanne’s DNA on the cap, not Barry’s. That piece of evidence was really the prosecution's smoking gun - but even if it belonged to Barry, authorities could not find a working tranquilizer gun or any tranquilizer chemicals in the Morphew’s home.
And there was one more crucial issue the prosecution had to deal with — one that its own forensic team uncovered. The most shocking piece of evidence was found inside of Suzanne’s Range Rover. Investigators found DNA on the Range Rover’s glovebox, that when tested, revealed a partial match to an unnamed man connected to three unsolved sexual assault cases in Tempe, Phoenix and Chicago. Whether investigators have interviewed this individual is unknown.
The partial DNA profile supports the idea that she could’ve been abducted by someone, a serial killer or another person who had the opportunity, or it could be innocently explained by possibly someone working on her car, like a mechanic. But it does leave a HUGE question mark in terms of Barry’s culpability.
After all the evidence was presented to the judge, but before making a decision whether or not to go to trial, Judge Patrick Murphy stated three different likely scenarios: "Suzanne Morphew left willingly, Barry Morphew could’ve killed his wife, or someone else abducted Suzanne and killed her."
He said it wasn’t likely she’d run off on her own, even though her and lover talked about that, because of how loving she was towards her family, particularly her daughters.
He ruled that there was probable cause for the case to go to trial, but he basically said that he was looking at the evidence that was most favorable to the prosecution - and they didn’t have a strong case.
On October 18, 2021 Barry’s law firm filed a lawsuit against prosecutors and investigators for what they claimed was unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution, and defamation. The firm claimed that investigators omitted crucial evidence in the case, including the DNA evidence from an alleged sex offender, and engaged in “extreme and outrageous conduct.” They intend to file against 26 individuals associated with the Chaffee Police Department, the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
And in another odd twist, in late 2020 Barry began seeing 51 year old single mother of one, Shoshona Darke. He ended up moving in with her in preparation for his upcoming trial. Then on September 28, 2021, Shoshona was charged and arrested with trespassing after she attempted to pick up a package from the Morphew’s Salida home porch. Charges were dropped in December 2021 and it's unknown if the two are still dating.
Barry’s trial was due to begin on April 28, 2022 and was expected to last five weeks. Judge Murphy, who had presided over the case, recused himself from the case and was replaced by Judge Ramsey Lama. Defense attorney Iris Eytan reiterated to the court that there was DNA on the bike, the bike helmet, in the house, and in the car — that was linked to unknown males.
The problem with the case isn’t just with the DNA - but also the fact that there isn’t a body, there is no blood virtually anywhere and no evidence of foul play and of course no eyewitnesses that saw Suzanne riding her bike that morning, or saw anything else.
Because of the prosecution not divulging the crucial DNA evidence found in Suzanne’s vehicle, Barry’s lawyers asked Judge Lama to impose severe sanctions on the prosecution.
According to a pre-trial motion hearing to dismiss the case, the defense lawyers presented evidence that one of the two lead investigators in the case told “many law enforcement witnesses in this case that arresting Mr. Morphew was premature and the 'worst' decision that could be made.” The wrote that former Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Agent Joseph Cahill “stated the case was not remotely ready for anybody to move the case forward.” The comments were made during a Dec. 2, 2021, Internal Affairs interview conducted by CBI after Cahill accidentally fired his weapon and struck his own hand while at home and off duty.
In early April 2022, Judge Ramsey Lama ruled that prosecutors repeatedly had missed deadlines and had failed to turn over important information in the discovery phase - particularly the DNA found in Suzanne’s vehicle. The judge wrote that while he did not find those actions "willful … the court does find this pattern to be negligent, bordering on, reckless." The judge's penalty was to knock out 14 prosecution witnesses — including experts in DNA and cell phone and vehicle data recovery - and they would not be allowed to testify.
The prosecution then had two options: either go to trial and risk a certain acquittal, or drop all charges with the intention of re-charging Barry at a later date. If Barry would be acquitted, they could not recharge him due to double jeopardy laws.
Then on April 19, 2022, immediately before a pre-trial hearing, District Attorney Linda Stanley filed a motion to dismiss the murder charges against Barry Morphew without prejudice, meaning that charges could be refiled at a later date. In her motion, she pointed to the court's decision to bar "several key witnesses … and without this crucial evidence and without the victim's body, the People cannot move forward at this time in good faith."
Iris Eytan, Barry’s attorney, had this to say after the dismissal of the charges:
"They had unknown male DNA with hits from unsolved sex offenses around the country related to DNA found in this case, and they actually concealed it from the judge who bound the case over after finding probable cause. The case was transferred to another judge, and in April, he issued an order basically inferring that if the original judge had known about this DNA, they might not have signed an arrest warrant. That's how premature this arrest was, and why the arrest was basically a political move by Linda Stanley and her office."
[Iris Eytan Press Appearance]
"Prosecutors need to be held responsible and they need to pay for the damage they've caused to Barry, which is, frankly, nearly irreparable at this point, because it's hard for anybody to believe that Barry is not who they claim he was.”
In the same motion for dismissal, the District Attorney told the judge that officials believe they are close to discovering the location of Suzanne’s body. They’re narrowing in on a location in a remote and mountainous region near the Morphew home that will be excavated after five feet of snow melts. Attorney Eytan has stated that the information the DA’s office has put out about snow being in the area is untrue - that the area they’re looking at is completely bone dry and has serious doubts that investigators will find anything. More than 1300 tips have come into law enforcement, but as of the date of this podcast, Suzanne’s body has not been found.
That remains one of the biggest questions in this case…why hasn’t her body been found. The location they are scouring is in the San Isabel National Forest - which comprises 1.1 million acres - so we’re talking a very large piece of land.
On May 6, 2022 Barry and his two daughters spoke exclusively to ABC News’ Good Morning America for the first time since the charges had been dropped, saying that they’d been silent for a long time and finally wanted to break the silence:
[ABC News Good Morning America]
We've been silent for a long time, and we've decided that we finally want to break the silence. It's been an emotional rollercoaster, but we feel that we can finally take our first steps in healing, which is a blessing. We just know our dad better than anyone else, and we know he was not involved in our mom's disappearance.
We want to heal, we feel like we haven't been able to heal these past two years.
I just hope that Linda will step up to the plate and do everything she can to find our mom, because what they've done is not fair, and we're never going to stop looking for our mom.
Barry also spoke during the media appearance:
I just love my girls, and I love my wife and I just want her to be found.
Everyone in our country is certainly innocent until proven guilty, it’s the way it goes and it's the way it should be. What I will say, is this is my opinion only, is that I do believe that Suzanne was murdered, and I also believe that the prosecutor's office completely dropped the ball on this one and made critical mistakes. Why they did that is speculation, but Morphew's attorneys believe it was because of the intense media pressure surrounding the case.
Here’s where some sketchy politics come into play. Republican candidate Linda Stanley had fairly recently been elected as District Attorney for the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Chaffee County, winning against Democratic incumbent Kaitlin Turner. Stanley’s passion was cold cases and talked about that passion extensively in the Profiling Evil Podcast with Mike King in April 2021. She was so focused on cold cases that she wanted to put together a cold case unit in her office. It leans towards a theory that Stanley was trying to “prove herself” and show that she could get a quick conviction and avoid the case becoming a cold case. Stanley charged Morphew prior to the investigation being complete or before all the DNA and the labs had even been completed.
So as of today, 54-year-old Barry Morphew is a free man and authorities have named no other suspect. Andrew Moorman, Suzanne’s brother, has publicly stated that he believes his sister was murdered at home, and it was possible Barry was involved based on his behavior and things that happened, but he hoped and prayed he wasn’t.
A bench in Suzanne’s honor was dedicated at the Community Garden in Alexandria, Indiana, where she grew up. Alexandria residents have held vigils and circulated media posts using the hashtag #shinebrightforsuzanne and they had hung teal and yellow ribbons around the city in hopes that she would be found alive.
5 months after Suzanne went missing, Barry put their Salida home up for sale. It sold in March 2021 for 1.6 million dollars.