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Preliminary hearing for Barry Morphew continues into Day 3

Morphew discussed immunity in interview with investigators
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Posted at 11:32 AM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2024-02-05 19:28:40-05

CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. — Much of the morning discussions on the morning of day three of Barry Morphew's four-day preliminary hearing centered around a needle sheath for a dart and a live bullet, which was found inside the Morpew's home.

But afternoon testimony brought to light that Barry Morphew allegedly asked investigators about immunity during an interview this spring.

Barry was arrested on May 5, 2021 in Chaffee County on multiple charges, including first-degree murder, almost a year after his wife, Suzanne Morphew, was first reported missing.

He was also charged with tampering with physical evidence, attempting to influence a public servant, tampering with a deceased human body, and possession of a dangerous weapon. In a separate case, he was charged with forgery after he allegedly submitted a mail ballot in Suzanne's name in last year's election.

Suzanne went missing on May 10, 2020 from the Maysville area in Chaffee County. Her disappearance sparked many searches in the following months, including more than 135 search warrants executed by investigators. They also interviewed more than 400 people in different states and looked into more than 1,400 tips during the course of the investigation. Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze said in early May that authorities do not believe Suzanne is alive and are not searching for any other suspects.

Below is a round-up of day three of the multi-day preliminary hearing. Read about day one here and day two here.

Court started shortly after 8 a.m. with a continuation of the cross-examination of retired FBI Agent Jonny Grusing by Defense Attorney Dru Nielsen.

The hearing started with detailing the five trash runs Barry allegedly made on May 10, 2020. Prosecutors had mentioned this in previous days of the preliminary hearing. He stopped at a RTD bus stop in Broomfield, a hotel where he checked in, a McDonald’s, a Men’s Warehouse and a Holiday Inn where he checked into.

The first stop was at a bus stop in Broomfield, where there are visible cameras. Grusing confirmed hat Barry threw away "junk" here. There were no photos or videos of Barry at his location.

The second stop was a hotel. Barry told Grusing in an interview that he had been waiting for somebody to let him in so he could get a free breakfast. The entrance to the hotel has a trash can, Grusing said, but Barry said he never threw trash away here.

The third stop was a McDonald's. Grusing said Barry claimed he put garbage from his truck into a trash can at the restaurant, but didn't eat there. He was seen on surveillance footage throwing away trash. When asked about this, Grusing said Barry called himself a "tightwad" and didn't want to pay to throw trash away.

The fourth stop was a Men's Warehouse. Grusing said that Barry did not recall dropping trash off there. There is no surveillance camera footage of him at the store. As previously mentioned in the hearing, Grusing previously said Barry spent 40 minutes in that parking lot.

The fifth stop was the Holiday Inn. Surveillance footage captured him walking across the parking lot and past several visible cameras and signs about surveillance. Enhanced photos showed that he throw out some items include a plastic tree pot, as shown in court.

Nielsen asks if Grusing's theory is that Barry drove from Salida to Broomfield carrying evidence of a murder. Grusing responded, "Yes."

Nielsen then asked about a tranquilizer dart cap that was found in a dryer at the Morphew home on May 19. Barry said he was not sure how long it had been there and that he had nothing to do with it, Grusing said.

There was discussion in the court if "cap" was the correct word for the item and the judge said it was not totally accurate. DA Jeff Lindsey would later call it a needle sheath. However, it was referenced as "cap" later in the hearing Monday.

Grusing confirmed that it was not clear how long it had been inside the dryer.

The cap was tested for DNA and Barry's DNA was not a match, he confirmed.

During a search of the home, investigators also found a tranquilizer gun that did not work and some empty vessels of the darts, both in the garage. No other darts were found around the home.

The defense also went over some texts, calls and messages between Suzanne and Barry, and Suzanne and Jeff Libler, from May 7-9. Libler is the man Suzanne had been having an affair with for about two years, an investigator said during the preliminary hearing Aug. 9.

The last LinkedIn message from Suzanne to Libler came at 2:07 p.m. May 9, Nielsen said. About 35 min later, Barry arrived home.

In a redirect, DA Jeff Lindsey confirmed with Grusing that on the morning of May 10, Barry turned left on Highway 50, the opposite direction of Salida and Broomfield. Suzanne's helmet was found farther up the road on the left, Grusing said. Barry later told Grusing that he saw an elk herd up the road that way and wanted to see if they were shedding their antlers so he went up that way a bit before turning around in Garfield and going to Salida. Grusing said Barry estimated this happened around 4:30 a.m.

Lindsey said the drive from Salida to Broomfield is about three hours each way and noted that Barry's cell phone was on airplane mode from 10:17 p.m. May 9 to 4:30 a.m. May 10. Lindsey asked Grusing if that was enough time to leave the Morphew home, drive several hours and dispose of a body.

"It is," Grusing replied.

Lindsey then moved to discussing the needle sheath — or "cap" — found in the Morphew's dryer. Grusing said Barry said that he shoots deer with the tranquilizer gun from his garage, but hadn't used it since April 2020.

According to Grusing, Barry said, "It could have been in the wash but it's got nothing to do with me... But see, I hate that because you know that makes me look bad. But if it's leaking from Chaffee County, it's no wonder people in this town hate me."

There was also a brief discussion about deleted messages on Barry's cell phone, including one sen from Suzanne that read, "I'm done." This one was recovered, but others were lost, Grusing said.

Grusing confirms that it is possible Barry was tracking Suzanne. There was an objection to this in court, but the judge overruled.

Grusing was then excused from the stand.

CBI Agent Derek Graham was the next witness called up. He was the fourth person to testify in the preliminary hearing.

The prosecution brought up photos of Suzanne's helmet, which was found westbound on Highway 50 half a mile west of County Road 225 on the south side of highway. Graham confirmed, as discussed previously in the multi-day hearing, that the helmet had just minor scratches on it, and didn't have evidence of a crash. It had Barry's phone number inside of it as an emergency contact, Graham said.

The prosecution then brought up photos of Suzanne's vehicle in the home's garage. The photos show two tubs of hot tub chemicals and a Camelbak water bladder, similar to the one she would have brought with her while riding. The photos also showed her purse in the car, which had her ID inside.

Photos from the inside of the house were then shown, including one of the daughter's bedrooms. The bed was stripped and the sheets were in the dryer, where the "cap" was found.

The prosecution also showed a photo of the spy pen, which was given to Suzanne by her friend because she suspected Barry may have been having an affair. It ended up revealing in November 2020 she had been in a two-year affair with Jeff Libler. The two had gone to high school in Indiana together.

In a cross-examination with defense attorney Iris Eytan, Graham confirmed that the tire track casings found near where Suzanne's helmet was located did not match Barry's truck or two Range Rovers. DNA collected from the helmet also did not match Barry's DNA.

In a redirect, DA Mark Hurlbert confirmed with Graham that men's khaki shorts and other clothing — all of which was consistent with that Barry had been seen wearing May 9 on surveillance footage — was found in the dryer.

Graham discussed three places in the Morphew home which were searched by law enforcement – one of the daughters’ bedroom, where sheets had been taken off the bed and were found in the dryer, the laundry room where the dart sheath was found, and the garage, where the tranquilizer darts were being kept.

Court took a break around 10:20 a.m.

After the break, Chaffee County Undersheriff Andy Rohrich described going to the Morphew home after receiving the missing persons report on May 10. He arrived five minutes after Barry Morphew and seized Morphew’s truck immediately.

Rohrich said investigators found an unspent .22-caliber shell on Suzanne’s side of her bed, along with a Bible and other books. He said her journal was missing but materials similar to the journal were found in the home’s fireplace.

Rohrich mentioned that he felt it was suspicious that Barry Morphew was not asking any questions that first night and not trying to call his wife’s phone. He said Morphew didn’t even look at the bed, which according to interviews, was the last place he saw Suzanne.

He also talked about Barry Morphew’s hands and arms showing injuries in various stages of healing when he was photographed on May 13.

Morphew’s attorney Iris Eytan mentioned that a selfie Suzanne took and sent to Libler on the afternoon of May 9 did not show blood or tears on her bikini at the time, and none were found on it when investigators found it in the bedroom closet the next night.

After a lunch break, Eytan continued to cross-examine Rohrich about DNA found on Suzanne’s bike, and the defense and prosecutors argued back and forth about whether Barry Morphew touched the bike and about his alleged injuries to his hands and arms.

Discussing why Suzanne’s ID was left behind, along with clothes, Rohrich told the defense that sometimes people who want to get out of marriages and run off will sometimes take their belongings with them and at other times leave them behind.

Later in the afternoon, prosecutors walked through Barry Morphew’s trip to Broomfield and work at the job site, which was discussed earlier in the hearing. Regarding the overwhelming smell of chlorine coming from the room he originally rented, the hotel manager wrote in a letter that the particular room was directly above the indoor pool at the hotel. But it was unclear whether or not the pool was filled at that time because of COVID-19 precautions.

The defense noted that though investigators suspected Barry Morphew was having an affair with a coworker, they determined that was not the case. Barry Morphew called the coworker on his way back to Denver on May 10 saying his wife was missing and that he suspected a mountain lion or cougar had attacked her.

“Still searching having a hard time,” he would text her a couple days later, according to the hearing.

According to testimony, Barry Morphew told the CBI investigators he and Suzanne had steaks and had sex on Saturday – the day before she went missing. But later during testimony, Grusing said investigators found only one plate and knife. Morphew said perhaps they shared the steaks.

After another break, with Grusing, the retired FBI agent, still on the stand, the court learned that Barry Morphew had asked Grusing during an interview about immunity, asking him, “Can you give me immunity if I sit and just open up my life to you?”

Grusing said he believed that meant Morphew believed investigators could help him out if he told them about Suzanne’s disappearance and death.

During an April 2021 interview with Barry Morphew, they asked him if he’d ever been violent with his wife. He said he “never constricted her” with his arms but would brush against them. Investigators also asked him who the last person to see her alive would have been, and he agreed it would have been him. Investigators told Barry that Libler and Morphew would exchange good night and good morning messages, but those stopped after the afternoon of the 9th.

Morphew asked during the interview if there was any evidence of anyone getting into his house after he left and was told there was not.

He told the investigators that had Suzanne come to talk to him about getting a divorce, he would have written her a check, given her half the money and “let her go on her own way.”

Barry Morphew also said he heard Suzanne snoring lightly when he left their bedroom. A Colorado Parks and Wildlife veterinarian told the court that if a person shot with a tranquilizer dart is on their back, it would sound like they were snoring and said it would likely take 2-3 minutes for the dart to take effect on a person.

When Barry Morphew was arrested in May, Grusing was in the back of the patrol car with him. Grusing said Morphew asked him how I could do this to him and said he trusted me.

Grusing was questioned late Monday afternoon by Nielsen, who told the court that in numerous interviews in 2020, Barry said repeatedly he did not know about his wife’s affair. Prosecutors have worked to paint the picture that he caught Suzanne texting with Libler the afternoon of the 9th and killed her.

Another FBI agent, Ken Harris, is expected to testify Tuesday. Tuesday’s hearing begins at 9:30 a.m.