Law enforcement found a live .22-caliber round next to Suzanne Morphew’s bed and a needle cap used with a tranquilizer gun in the dryer of the home she shared with her husband in the days after she disappeared, investigators testified in a court hearing in her husband’s murder case Monday morning.
Prosecutors during the hearing also played body camera footage that showed Barry Morphew inside the family’s home on May 10, 2020 — the evening his wife was reported missing. Sheriff’s deputies escorted Morphew inside so they could get an item of his wife’s clothing for tracking dogs. Undersheriff Andy Rohrich said Monday that Morphew acted oddly while they were in the house that evening. It was the first time Barry Morphew had been inside the home since his wife’s reported disappearance and he did not try to look around.
“He’s not even trying to call her phone,” Rohrich said. “This is the last place, according to his testimony, that he’s seen his wife alive and he’s not asking any questions.”
Morphew, 53, faces five felony charges in connection to the disappearance of his wife, including first-degree murder, tampering with evidence and attempting to influence public servant. The third day of Morphew’s four-day preliminary hearing began Monday in the Chaffee County courthouse. Morphew sat next to his defense attorneys dressed in a grey suit and cowboy boots.
Testimony in the preliminary hearing has offered the first glimpse at the evidence against Morphew because 11th Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Murphy sealed Morphew’s arrest affidavit. Murphy said he will unseal the affidavit seven days after the preliminary hearing, which is scheduled to end Tuesday. At the end of the preliminary hearing, Murphy will decide whether there is enough evidence against Morphew for the case to proceed to trial.
Prosecutors charged Morphew with murder in May, a year after his 49-year-old wife’s May 2020 disappearance. A neighbor reported Suzanne Morphew’s disappearance on May 10, 2020, which led to extensive searches of the Salida area. Her body has not been found.
Previous testimony in the hearing outlined a troubled marriage between Suzanne and Barry Morphew and that Suzanne had discussed divorce with friends and told them she didn’t feel safe with him. Suzanne also had an affair with a man in Michigan beginning in late 2018 that continued until the day she disappeared.
Prosecutors’ theory, outlined through questioning of the lead investigators on the case, is that Barry Morphew killed Suzanne Morphew sometime in the evening of May 9, 2020, before leaving for work in Broomfield early the following morning.
Barry Morphew’s phone was placed on airplane mode from 10:17 p.m. May 9 to 4:30 a.m. May 10, retired FBI agent Jonathan Grusing testified.
Eleventh Judicial Senior Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lindsey asked Grusing whether he believed that was enough time to dispose of a body.
“It is,” Grusing said.
Investigators recovered empty darts, a needle used to inject tranquilizer chemical into the darts, and a dart gun in the house and Barry Morphew’s gun safe, Grusing testified Monday. Investigators found a cap used to cover the injecting needle in the dryer at the Morphew’s house along with clothes and bedsheets from one of the couple’s daughters.
During cross-examination by Morphew’s attorney, Dru Nielsen, Grusing also said they found no tranquilizer chemical in the house and that there was no way to know how long the cap had been in the dryer.
Barry Morphew told investigators that he used the tranquilizer to shoot deer so he could harvest their horns. He said he didn’t know how the cap got into the dryer, Grusing said.
Chaffee County Undersheriff Andy Rohrich testified that investigators found the live .22-caliber round near Suzanne Morphew’s side of the bed. He did not elaborate further on how the investigators think the round factors into the alleged crime.
Investigators searched for Suzanne’s journal — which a friend said she kept — but it was never found. Rohrich said investigators found what appeared to be the remnants of a book’s binding in the home’s fireplace, along with fragments of paper.
After Suzanne disappeared, investigators photographed injuries on Barry Morphew’s hands and scratches on his left arm that appeared to be injuries from fingernails, Rohrich said.
One of Morphew’s defense attorneys, Iris Eytan, pushed back on Rohrich’s description of Morphew’s behavior on May 10, 2020, as odd. She said Morphew had been directed to only lead them to his wife’s clothing, not start investigating.
“He followed the task as directed by law enforcement,” she said.
Authorities found Morphew’s mountain bike at the bottom of a steep ditch off County Road 225 on the day she went missing and her helmet was found less than a mile away a few days later.
CBI Agent Derek Graham testified that the helmet had minor scratches, but no damage consistent with a major crash. Graham also said investigators found Suzanne’s wallet and the Camelbak backpack she often used while mountain biking in Suzanne’s car.
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