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Suzanne Morphew case: Judge rules Barry Morphew will head to trial

The arrest affidavit will be released by noon on Monday, judge says
Suzanne and Barry Morphew in doorway
Posted at 3:14 PM, Sep 17, 2021
and last updated 2024-02-05 18:41:48-05

CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. — Enough evidence was presented in Barry Morphew's preliminary hearings for the murder case to go to trial, a judge ruled Friday afternoon.

Around 3 p.m., Chaffee County Judge Patrick Murphy ruled that he found probable cause for the charges of murder and tampering with a body. He said he can do this even if the body of Suzanne Morphew — Barry Morphew's wife, whom he is accused of killing — has not been found.

"This is not a trial," Murphy said. "It does not serve as a mini trial. Only to see if there is probable cause that there was a murder and that the defendant might have caused that. We have to entertain a reasonable belief that the defendant may have caused this. The court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the people. Evidence to support a conviction is not necessary at this stage."

The judge also set a cash-only bond for $500,000. In addition, he said the arrest affidavit will be released by noon Monday. He said he expects the trial to last at least four weeks in May 2022. Morphew entered a plea of not guilty and also waived his right to a speedy trial.

Much of the beginning of the hearing Friday recalled various aspects of the case that were discussed in the preliminary hearings.

District attorneys argued that there was sufficient evidence in the case and that bond should be denied based on standard of proof.

District Attorney Jeff Lindsey said it was clear that the crime scene had been staged since there was no blood, no body, no damage to Suzanne Morphew's bike or helmet, and the fact that her Camelbak and sunglasses, which she brought on every run, were left at home. He also called a tranquilizer cap, which was found in a dryer in the Morphew home, "a pivotal piece of evidence."

Representing Barry Morphew, Attorney Sean Connelly said the case was based on supposition and there was no physical evidence or eyewitnesses.

"This case can't go forward," he said.

He listed out several reasons, ranging from a changing narrative regarding a visit to a spa, to a lack of evidence tying the tranquilizer cap to Barry Morphew, to him helping search for Suzanne Morphew on his own, to the alleged murder weapon not working properly, Connelly said.

"In their affidavit, they admit this is supposition," he said. "Those are their words — and we agree. It’s all supposition. This is not clear and strong. It is muddy and weak. We ask to end this now or let this man have his constitutional right to bail."

After both sides wrapped up, Judge Murphy reviewed some facts from the case, and said, regarding Barry Morphew, there was "evidence of untruthfulness."

After ruling that the case would go on to trial, Judge Murphy said the trial will come to one of three conclusions: Barry Morphew murdered his wife, somebody else murdered her, or she left.

The prosecution asked for a $10 million bond. In response, the defense asked for "an amount that is reasonable" — a $50,000 cash bond.

Judge Murphy said $10 million was too high and $50,000 was too low. He set the bond for $500,000, cash only. Bond cannot be posted until noon on Monday, he said.

This decision came three weeks after a four-day preliminary hearing concluded for Barry Morphew. He is suspected of murdering his wife Suzanne Morphew in May 2020.

Almost a year after Suzanne Morphew was first reported missing in Chaffee County, Barry Morphew was arrested on May 5, 2021 on multiple charges, including first-degree murder. He also faces charges of 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 his wife's name in last year's election.

At the time of Barry Morphew's arrest, Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze also announced that authorities did not believe Suzanne Morphew was alive and were not searching for any other suspects. To date, her body has not been found.

Denver7 covered each day of Barry Morphew's preliminary hearing. To learn about the court discussions in depth, click to read day one here, day two here, day three here, and day four here.

In total, the preliminary hearing included 20 hours of testimony, Judge Murphy said, adding that he had 25 pages of notes. Defense attorney Dru Nielsen asked for the court to rule on the proof evident on the fourth day so Barry Morphew wouldn't have to continue sitting in jail, but Judge Murphy said he wanted to make the correct decision, not the fastest one.