CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. — Barry Morphew, the husband of missing Colorado mother Suzanne Morphew, has been arrested in Chaffee County on multiple charges, including first-degree murder, almost a year after Suzanne was first reported missing, according to court documents.
Barry, 53, was arrested Wednesday on charges of first-degree murder after deliberation, tampering with physical evidence, and an attempt to influence a public servant, according to the documents. The offense date for these charges is listed as May 10, 2020.
The Chaffee County Jail confirmed he is an inmate. He was taken into custody without incident around 9:15 a.m. near his home in Poncha Springs, according to Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze. Authorities do not expect anymore arrests in the case.
During an afternoon press conference, Spezze said investigators executed more than 135 search warrants, interviewed more than 400 people in different states, and looked into more than 1,400 tips during the course of the investigation.
"We believe that she is not alive. We've filed first-degree murder charges — or are in the process of filing first-degree murder charges — so our belief is that Suzanne is not alive at this time," Spezze said during Wednesday's press briefing.
Evidence gathered over the past 12 months was presented to the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in early April. District Attorney Linda Stanley decided to move forward with charges despite not locating Suzanne's body.
“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,” Stanley said when asked if a lack of a body will hurt the prosecution's case.
She said Wednesday's arrest is just the first step in what will be a lengthy process.
“For me, today is a good day. But for my office, this is where the work begins. There is more work to be done. However, this is an important and incredibly crucial step. And today is a good day for Suzanne. As far as I’m concerned, today is all about Suzanne. And it’s about her family. And it’s about all the individuals that knew her and loved her and cared about her. That’s what this day is about. And it’s a good day,” Stanley said.
Barry, who has retained counsel, is scheduled to make his first court appearance Thursday morning.
No additional details surrounding the case have been released as the affidavit remains sealed. Spezze said the case remains an open and ongoing investigation.
Suzanne, 49, has been missing since May 10, 2020 — Mother’s Day — from the Maysville area in Chaffee County. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Federal Bureau of Investigation quickly joined search and investigation efforts.
That Mother's Day, a neighbor called 911 to report that she had gone for a bike ride and never returned that day, the sheriff's office said.
On May 15, Spezze said investigators had discovered an item on May 14 that could possibly belong to Suzanne while searching the area west of County Road 225 and U.S. Highway 50 outside of Maysville. Spezze said the rest of the search on May 14 and the following search on May 15 did not yield any other leads.
On May 17, a week after her disappearance, Barry Morphew posted a video on a Facebook page set up to share updates on the search for Suzanne, pleading for her safe return.
"Suzanne, if anyone is out there that can hear this that has you, please, we'll do whatever it takes to bring you back," Barry said as he held back tears in the video. "We love you. We miss you. Your girls need you."
He continued, saying "I'll do whatever it takes to get you back. Honey, I love you.”
Barry and a family friend said they were offering $200,000 for her safe return.
Trevor Noel, Suzanne’s nephew who also lives in Colorado, encouraged anybody who wanted to help to share Suzanne’s story and picture, the "Find Suzanne Morphew" Facebook page, the GoFundMe page, and tip line, 719-312-7530, with friends and family.
On May 17, the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office said members of the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office Dive Rescue Team searched water sites in the area where Suzanne went missing. Authorities also put a call out to residents in the area asking them to preserve any video footage from doorbell video cameras, security cameras or game cameras between May 8 and May 12.
On May 19, Susan Medina, a spokeswoman with the CBI, told Denver7 that they could not confirm that the Morphews' house was being searched, but said it is being held as part of the active investigation. The search warrant has been sealed by the court.
On May 22, the CBI confirmed that authorities were searching an area east of Salida off Highway 50. The Chaffee County Sheriff's Office said the area is a residential property and that the property owner is "fully cooperative" and is "not connected" to Suzanne's disappearance. The property is not the Morphew home. A white tent was spotted on the property, but the reason for it remains unknown.
At 5:08 p.m. that day, the sheriff's office confirmed that despite online rumors, they had concluded the search for the day and had not located Suzanne or made any arrests.
Two days later, on May 24, the Chaffee County Sheriff's Office said it had completed its three-day search of the property in Salida. Investigators “were unable to make any connection to Suzanne Morphew’s case at this time," the sheriff's office said that afternoon.
Months later, on July 9, investigators at the local, state, and federal level returned to the Morphew property west of Salida to search for any new information. The sheriff's office said more than 600 tips had been called into the tip line as of then.
“This case remains very active, as more than a dozen investigators are aggressively working this case on a daily basis," Spezze said. "And until we determine what happened to Suzanne, we can’t discount any scenario or formally eliminate anyone from suspicion.”
The case then went quiet for several months, with very few updates.
In mid-September, when Andy Moorman, Suzanne's brother, announced he was going to initiate his own independent volunteer-run search in the area, the sheriff's office wrote on Facebook that they weren't able to lead the search due to liability issues, but wanted to support it.
"As with any major undertaking it takes many different resources to complete a task and we once again appreciate the Moorman search effort and its many volunteers," Spezze said in the press release.
"My sister was murdered," Moorman told Denver7 before the search began. "And she was hidden within a three-and-a-half-hour window. So that — I can draw a circle on that and tell you she's within that circle. And that's what I know happened."
He said he just wanted to find his sister.
"I'm literally just there to search — I need to find her, need to bring her home, give her a proper burial and closure for my family," he said. "And that's my point. I'm not about finding somebody guilty or trying to inflict punishment on anyone. That's not my job. That's the law enforcement's job."
Moorman said he doesn't believe she ever got on a bike the day she went missing. He said the bike was found without damage at the bottom of a hill and there wasn't any indication of a struggle. He added that dogs didn't pick up her scent there.
"You couldn't have ridden off that cliff without being severely hurt," he said. "There certainly would have been evidence of injury at the bottom of that hill and there was none. So I believe the bike was picked up and thrown over the hill by human hands."
He said he's also ruled out wildlife since Morphew's body wouldn't have been moved too far from the area, there would have been physical evidence, and the dogs would have picked up another animal's scent.
Prior to the start of the search, he said he's prepared for it to end without success. But he wants closure, he said.
"That's all I'm asking for," he said.
Anybody with information on this case is encouraged to call the tip line at 719-312-7530.
Stephanie Butzer at KMGH first reported this story.