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. He will appear in court Thursday at 10:30 a.m.
The Chaffee County Jail confirmed he is an inmate and is being held without bond. 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 any more 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 an incredible 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 and authorities didn't announce an alleged cause of death. Spezze said the case remains an open and ongoing investigation.
Following the announcement, several friends of Suzanne expressed their relief, sadness and hope.
Tisha Leewaye said she had been praying that authorities would find somebody allegedly responsible for her friend's disappearance. She said when Suzanne went missing, she went back and forth about whether or not she suspected Barry.
"We had invited him to a lot of the activities that we put together and they declined every time," Leewaye said. "When I got the news this morning, it was a good feeling that he was put behind bars. But it is still not over. We have got to go through the case, through the trial, through everything, But we still need to find her. She still needs to be brought to her resting place and she is not there yet."
And many questions remain, she said.
"What happened to her? Where is she? Why would you do this to someone you have been with for so many years?" Leewaye said.
Another friend, Deetta Wilson, said she lost her sister on Mother's Day 2019. It was difficult to hear that her friend had disappeared one year later, she said.
"She was not here long enough to make many friends," Wilson said of Suzanne. "But she has made a lot since she disappeared. They had a few friends and stuff — their church friends. Other than that, they didn’t have much outside of that."
Suzanne is from the Alexandria area in Indiana. Wilson said Suzanne had just overcome cancer and was ready to start her life again when she disappeared.
Wilson said she didn't want to take sides after she was reported missing.
"I didn’t even want to — for the first three months — think that he did it," Wilson said. "The more we got into this, I kinda leaned that way."
She said she feels sorry for the Morphew daughters who lost their mom and, if Barry is convicted of the charges against him, would lose their father.
"I really hope that we do get some closure here and that we can find her — that he said where her body is and we can bring her home," Wilson said. "We may not get her back but we will get justice."
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 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, 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."
Andrew Moorman instructing volunteer searchers at the visitor’s center in Poncha Springs. They will break up into groups and begin searching for His sister, Suzanne Morphew, who has been missing since Mother’s Day. pic.twitter.com/2dUbXLMg3o— Lance Hernandez (@lancehernandez7) September 24, 2020
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 this case is encouraged to call the tip line at 719-312-7530.