Suzanne and Barry Morphew's marriage was at the center of testimony during the second day of the 53-year-old father's preliminary hearing in Salida, Colorado, Tuesday. Prosecutors said that the couple was feuding two days before Suzanne, a 49-year-old mother of two, went missing.
“I’m done I could care what you’ve been up to for years. We just need to figure this out civilly," she texted her husband on the morning of May 8. Later on that afternoon, they were fighting about money, according to cellphone records, and investigators described Barry Morphew as suicidal. "I promise you are wrong about all the crazy thoughts about me," he texted at around 3:52 p.m. that day. "Only a fool would stray from an angel like you. When I”m dead, which won’t be long, you guys will be taken care of.”
Suzanne Morphew had been exchanging texts, selfies and audio messages with an alleged lover before she vanished last year, prosecutors said Monday. They allege that her husband discovered the communications and killed her in a rage. Suzanne Morpheew was at home sunbathing on Saturday, May 9, when prosecutors said she sent her last text, which was a photo of herself to her alleged boyfriend. After that, he texted back asking about the weather, but she never responded again.
Barry Morphew has maintained his innocence throughout countless unsuccessful searches for Suzanne Morphew and issued a $100,000 reward for her return. In a home video, he theorized that she may have been abducted. He has also speculated in interviews with reporters that his wife may have been killed by a mountain lion. Since his arrest in May 2021, law enforcement says Barry Morphew has not agreed to an interview with them. In court Tuesday, his attorneys reminded prosecutors that he spoke with them at least 23 times in the year leading up to his arrest.
Suzanne Morphew, mother of two daughters, reportedly went for a bike ride on Sunday, May 10, 2020, which was Mother’s Day, and never returned home, the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office said at the time. Sheriff’s deputies said they found her blue bike with colorful pedals tumbled down a mountain slope near their home.
Investigators say they were paying close attention to Barry Morphew’s statements early on. He told law enforcement that he left for work that Mother’s Day morning at 5 a.m. But the arrest affidavit states that based on Barry Morphew's Telematics report on his truck, law enforcement alleges "from 2:47 p.m. May 9 until 5:37 a.m. May 10, he took steps to dispose of evidence of Suzanne’s disappearance and death."
Former FBI Special Agent Jonathan Grusing testified Tuesday that data from Barry Morphew’s phone shows that he drove home at 2:44 p.m. on Saturday, May 9 and was moving around the outside of the house for several minutes until the phone went on airplane mode. It was 7 more hours until the phone came out of airplane mode at 10:17 p.m, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors said cellphone records show that the next morning, at 5:37 a.m., Barry Morphew drove nearly 3 hours to Broomfield, Colorado, he told investigators, to work on a construction landscape project.
Once there, authorities said surveillance video and Google Map photos show that he made five stops to dispose of trash: first at his worksite, then near the Holiday Inn where he checked in and changed shirts, at a Men's Wearhouse store, at a McDonald’s restaurant and then at another dumpster.
At one of the sites, prosecutors said, Morphew can be seen carrying a camouflage jacket and an empty tree or bush container to a dumpster. At another, authorities said he's seen pushing trash into a bin with both hands. When investigators asked him what he was throwing out, he said that at one of the trash sites, he was getting rid of wrappers, according to prosecutors. At other times, they said he told them he couldn't remember what he threw out.
Almost a year to the day that she went missing, May 5, 2021, her husband was arrested on charges of first-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence and attempt to influence a public servant, the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office said.
Barry Morphew appeared in court in a grey suit and tie and mouthed “I love you” to the couple’s two grown daughters during breaks. Mallory and Macy Morphew pulled their masks down so that their father could see them smiling. Barry Morphew’s mother and sister were also present both days, at times consoling one another during the testimony.
Since Morphew’s phone has never been found, FBI Special Agent Ken Harris interpreted Suzanne Morphew’s text messages to her close friend, Susan Oliver from interviews he did with Oliver. According to Harris, when Suzanne wrote “I can’t handle the pain,” Harris told the court that from talking with Oliver, Suzanne’s short message referred to the pain she would feel over how a divorce would adversely affect her two daughters.”
Authorities say in early interviews, Barry Morphew told police Suzanne Morphew was his “angel” since she was 17 years old -- that they’d been together for 32 years and said they “love each other to death.”
In court Monday, investigators said Morphew told them he left at 5 a.m. that Sunday while his wife was asleep, and texted her “Happy Mother’s Day.” According to investigators, he said her lack of reply wasn’t unusual with spotty reception in their house. Authorities say, once he spoke to his daughters, who also said they hadn’t heard from their mom, he began to worry.
Sheriff’s officers said they found the missing mother’s bike in the early evening Sunday. They say the bike was deep in the brush on a steep hill, apparently thrown from the side of the road. However, they say they did not find any damage on the bike, skid or brake marks on the road, or blood anywhere.
On body camera video, Barry Morphew is heard telling investigators that he feared “someone picking her up.” He also seemed to suggest that a mountain lion may have attacked her, when he asked deputies if they’d seen any “cats” in the area.
The temperatures that day were barely above freezing. Authorities said they found her undamaged turquoise helmet a few days later, nearly a mile away from the bike.
Barry Morphew didn’t protest when authorities searched his house and picked up his truck, former District Attorney Investigator Alex Walker said.
The sheriff’s office said 70 law enforcement officers spent thousands of hours using drones, aircraft, scuba divers and canines to find Suzanne Morphew. A geologist conducted a ground-penetrating radar survey, and authorities carried out multiple excavations, but no grave or human remains were found. Investigators busted concrete, searched abandoned mountain mines and even looked in an Xcel Energy pipe.
Authorities received more than a thousand tips. Still, the missing mom has not been found.
Authorities: Mom’s spy pen reveals her own affair
Though authorities said they have no evidence of Barry Morphew having an affair, they found that his wife suspected him of having one and she had planted a “secret spy pen” in his truck. Ironically, authorities say Suzanne Morphew’s spy pen recorded conversations revealing her own alleged affair with a man named Jeff Libler.
Harris said Morphew and Libler had been carrying on an affair for one and a half to two years and had amassed hundreds of hours of secret phone calls, WhatsApp and Linkedin communications.
He told the court they secretly met up on trips away from home at least six times.
Libler, a married father of six, did not come forward voluntarily after her disappearance, Harris said. Investigators did not interview him until November 2020, six months after Suzanne Morphew went missing. Investigators say he told them that he didn’t want Suzanne Morphew’s legacy to be that she was having an affair with “that guy,” and that he was worried about losing his job and his family if the secret relationship got out.
Defense attorneys alleged in court Tuesday that Suzanne Morphew also had a secret bank account, which received money on April 23, 2020, at 4:31 a.m.
Libler said he “carried a torch” for Suzanne Morphew and cared for her through the years before they reconnected. The last messages he sent were on Mother’s Day and the day after, when she was supposed to have a cancer treatment. She did not respond.
Barry Morphew had listed several firearms with deputies and told investigators who came to his house in those first few days that he keeps ammunition locked in a gun safe at home.
Suzanne Morphew often confided in her friend, Susan Oliver. Prosecutors on Monday presented texts they said were exchanged between the two friends, showing Suzanne’s strife in her marriage.
Suzanne Morphew said that her husband was “not stable” and didn’t know when he would be mad. When they were arguing, he brought their daughters in and blamed her, the texts said.
According to testimony by Harris, Suzanne Morphew told Oliver in the texts that he put a gun to his head and said, “Is this what you want?” In the year before she went missing, Harris said Suzanne also told Oliver that he pinned her on the bed and wouldn’t let her up. She threatened to involve law enforcement, Harris said.
It was a matter of timing when she could get out of the marriage, she said in the texts, according to Harris. Suzanne Morphew compared herself to her mom and how her mom divorced. “Once she made a decision, it was firm,” she told Oliver in a text shown at the hearing.
On cross-examination, Barry Morphew’s attorneys said that unknown male DNA, that did not match Barry, was found on the glove box of Suzanne’s Range Rover, which was similar to the DNA of one male with three sexual assaults when it was put into CODIS, the national prison database.
Tuesday was a long day of cross-examination from Morphew's attorneys over whether Barry Morphew could have had time to dispose of a body on May 9, bringing up a visit he made to a spa store to fix the couple's hot tub. Defense Attorney Dru Nielsen also questioned GPS equipment on Barry Morphew's car, which showed when the doors opened, and the time the truck's lights were turning on and off.
The preliminary hearing adjured Tuesday and a second two-day hearing is scheduled for Aug. 23 and 24.