Barry Morphew, who was accused of killing his wife in Chaffee County before the case was dismissed in 2022, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Tuesday seeking $15 million over his arrest and first-degree murder charge in 2021.
In the 185-page suit, Barry Morphew, who was arrested on charges of killing his wife Suzanne Morphew in 2020 before the prosecution asked to dismiss the case in April 2022, claims his Constitutional rights were violated by the defendants. He claims that his arrest affidavit included false and misleading information and as a result, he was wrongly held in jail for about five months.
As first reported by The Denver Post, the lawsuit was filed against:
- Chaffee County, Colorado
- Board of County Commissioners of Chaffee County, Colorado,
- Chaffee County Sheriff’s Department
- District Attorney Linda Stanley
- Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze
- Chaffee County Undersheriff Andrew Rohrich
- Eleventh Judicial District Attorney’s Office Investigator Alex Walker
- Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Lindsey
- Deputy District Attorney Mark Hurlbert
- Chaffee County Sheriff’s Detective Robin Burgess
- Chaffee County Sheriff’s Deputy Randy Carricato
- Chaffee County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Himschoot
- Chaffee County Sheriff’s Sergeant Claudette Hysjulien
- Chaffee County Sheriff’s Sergeant William Plackner
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Director John Camper
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Joseph Cahll
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Megan Duge
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Caitlin Rogers
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Derek Graham
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Kevin Koback
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Kirby Lewis
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director of Investigations Chris Schaefer
- Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Jonathan Grusing
- Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Kenneth Harris
- John/Janes Does 1-10
The lawsuit claims Barry last saw his wife on May 10, 2020 around 5 a.m. He called a neighbor when he, and the two Morphew daughters, were unable to contact Suzanne. The investigation into her disappearance began as Barry drove back home from work in Broomfield.
The lawsuit lists multiple parts of the investigation that it says were not included in the arrest affidavit.
"Defendants authoring the Arrest Affidavit knowingly, recklessly, and maliciously omitted material, exculpatory information and included misleading and false information," the lawsuit reads.
It says one of these examples happened during the initial investigation: When Barry offered investigators Suzanne's clothing for a K-9 to smell, the animal followed her scent from the bike to a rushing river, where it disappeared.
The document claimed that Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which contains DNA samples of convicted offenders across the United States and unknown samples from unsolved crimes, found matches to DNA samples found on Suzanne's bicycle, her car and inside the Morphew home. This "highly exculpatory information" was also not included in the affidavit, the lawsuit reads. The judge was not informed of the unknown foreign male DNA found at the crime scene.
The state district court judge said that “the foreign male DNA being found on pieces of evidence at the crime scene that would exclude Mr. Morphew… would tend to negate guilt," the lawsuit reads, citing a transcript of a Feb. 10, 2022 hearing.
The lawsuit also claims that FBI agents told a CBI agent that certain GPS location data from Barry's phone was unreliable, but the defense used this data without disclosing that it was not reliable.
In addition, two CBI agents expressed their concerns with the drafted arrest affidavit for Barry. The head of CBI's Major Crimes Division agreed with these concerns and conveyed them to the CBI deputy director of investigations.
On the day Barry was arrested — May 5, 2021 (though the lawsuit reads May 4, 2021) — the CBI director reiterated these concerns to Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze. The CBI director said this was the first time in his career that he had called a sheriff asking them to hold off on arresting a person.
The lawsuit claims that the affidavit also lacks information about the multiple calls made to the sheriff about this, and the concerns coming from the CBI.
Barry was brought to the Chaffee County Jail, where he remained without bond until he was released on Sept. 20, 2021.
In April 2022, the judge issued a written discovery order sanctioning the prosecutors for violating its discovery orders from May and June 2021. That order ruled that the prosecutors concealed exculpatory information from the affidavit. Despite knowing there was no probable cause, the defendants "caused the arrest warrant to be issued" and charges to be brought against Barry, the lawsuit reads.
The defendants theorized that Barry had killed Suzanne on May 9, 2020, by injecting her with animal tranquilizer, staged her bike and helmet, and had killed her out of rage after discovering she had been having an affair, the lawsuit reads.
Denver7 is working through the lawsuit and will update this story in live time. The full lawsuit can be accessed here.
On April 18, 2023, Barry Morphew's attorney Iris Eytan said she had filed a complaint March 29 with the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation asking for discipline for 11th Judicial District Attorney Linda Stanley and the other prosecutors who worked on a murder case against her client for the alleged murder of Suzanne.
Background on the disappearance of Suzanne Morphew
Suzanne, who was 49 when she disappeared, has been missing since May 10, 2020 — Mother’s Day — from the Maysville area in Chaffee County. A neighbor called 911 to report that she had gone for a bike ride and never returned. Barry, her husband, was working in the Denver area for his landscaping business when he learned of her disappearance.
Investigators started rigorous searches in the area and created a tip line. Barry and a family friend said they were offering $200,000 for her safe return. Her bike and helmet were both found, but there was no sign of Suzanne. Investigators obtained DNA evidence from the bike, helmet and Suzanne’s vehicle.
After the summer of 2020, the case went quiet for several months, with very few updates. By September, family-led searches restarted in the area.
Based on phone data, investigators found Barry’s cell phone showed that around the time his wife went missing, he turned onto highway and passed where her bike helmet was ultimately found before turning around to go to work. He told authorities he was following an elk.
Barry spoke with investigators and did not admit to any wrongdoing.
Colorado Bureau of Investigation forensic analysis determined that an unknown male DNA on the bike helmet, bike, Suzanne’s car’s glovebox and the backseat of the car did not belong to Barry. That DNA was later determined to partially match DNA found in three out-of-state unsolved sexual assault investigations.
READ MORE: 'Lion, mountain lion?': Video shows Barry Morphew's reaction to police finding wife’s bike
In late April 2021, CBI learned that the sheriff’s office was going to arrest Barry, which was strongly opposed by two CBI agents, who cited the need for more forensic testing and evidence collection. According to the Motion for Discovery, the head of the Major Crimes Division of CBI reached out to the sheriff to advise against arresting Barry. The CBI director communicated the same afterward.
Almost a year after Suzanne disappeared, Suzanne's husband Barry was arrested on May 5, 2021 on multiple charges, including first-degree murder.
Barry 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. Barry pleaded not guilty to the charges. At the time of his arrest, the Chaffee County sheriff said he did not believe Suzanne was alive and they were not searching for any other suspects.
In a separate case, Barry was also charged with forgery after he allegedly submitted a mail ballot in his wife's name.
Denver7 covered each day of Barry's preliminary hearing in August 2021. 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 hearing included 20 hours of testimony and included enough evidence for the murder case to go to trial, Chaffee County Judge Patrick Murphy ruled in September 2021.
Prosecutors had argued that Morphew discovered his wife was having an affair, then killed her, disposed of her body and staged a bike crash in a rural area.
The same day Barry was released on a $500,000 cash bond, his 130-page arrest affidavit, which details the allegations into why Barry was arrested in connection with the murder of his wife, was released to the public. This was Sept. 20, 2021 and the affidavit was authored on May 4, 2021. The document detailed monthslong investigations and numerous law enforcement interviews with Barry. It did not include that CBI did not support the arrest.
READ MORE: Barry Morphew released on bond; affidavit claims he fabricated stories surrounding wife’s disappearance
In addition, the document did not inform the judge of the DNA — still from an undetermined source — and that Barry’s DNA did not match.
When Barry was released, he had spent five months in jail unable to post bond.
A little more than a week after Barry’s September 2021 release, a woman who was suspected of having a relationship with Barry was arrested on a trespassing charge after allegedly entering the property of where the Morphews used to live. The woman was later arrested and identified as Shoshona L. Darke of Salida. She faces a charge of second-degree trespassing. In October 2021, Judge Murphy disqualified himself from that case, citing that one of the individuals representing Shoshona had a longtime friendship with the judge, which included their time in high school.
As a result of that move, Judge Murphy announced in December 2021 that he had also granted the motion to disqualify himself from the Morphew case due to the friendship with a possible witness's attorney. In early January 2022, Judge Ramsey L. Lama was appointed to take over the case.
According to documents obtained by Denver7 in October 2021, attorneys representing Barry intended to sue prosecutors and investigators for what they claim is unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution, and defamation. Attorneys claimed investigators omitted crucial evidence in the case, including DNA evidence from an alleged sex offender, and engaged in “extreme and outrageous conduct.” They intend to file a lawsuit against 26 individuals associated with the Chaffee County Sheriff's Office, the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
The documents indicate that the attorneys alleged that DNA evidence found in the glovebox of Suzanne’s car matched “the same profile as a single or multiple individuals across the country involved in sexual assault cases,” and say that after a year of having the evidence, Chaffee County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lindsey followed up on an individual in Phoenix who appeared to match the DNA profile found on Suzanne’s glovebox, but the Arizona individual refused to cooperate and retained a lawyer. As the case moved from the investigation stage into the courtroom, it gained more and more local and national attention, media coverage and negative pretrial publicity, according to an order. As a result of this, the court decided on Feb. 1, 2022 Barry could not receive a fair trial in Chaffee County, and the case was moved to Fremont County. The case was set to stay in the 11th Judicial District.
"This is a high-profile case in a relatively small county with a small jury pool," the order reads. "The media saturation is high."
About a week after the announcement that the trial would move counties, Barry's defense team filed a motion to dismiss the first-degree murder case against him, noting that an investigator had recently called the arrest "premature." His attorneys claimed the remarks made by Colorado Bureau of Investigations Agent Joseph Cahill during a Dec. 2, 2021 internal affairs interview are grounds to dismiss the case. Cahill worked on the Morphew investigation shortly after Suzanne went missing. In the defense’s motion, attorneys claim that Cahill said Barry’s arrest was premature and the “worst” decision that could be made.
Defense attorneys argued that that conversation was not brought up during previous court hearings and that they only learned of Cahill’s interview in January 2022 and saw the taped conversation in February. They asked the judge to dismiss the case because of “prosecutorial discovery violations.”
A few weeks after that was filed, on Feb. 23, 2022 prosecutors filed a response, calling the defense’s motion “utter nonsense" and said Cahill had been “thoroughly discredited,” and was only offering his opinion.
On April 19, 2022, a Fremont County judge granted the prosecution's motion to dismiss the murder case against Barry. The motion asked the court to dismiss the charges without prejudice, meaning he could be tried again if prosecutors refile charges.
The prosecution listed two reasons for asking for the dismissal: First, that law enforcement said they believed they knew where Suzanne's body was located and they needed snow to melt to find her. Second, prosecutors said they feel that because the judge in the case ruled in 2022 that they could not call most of their expert witnesses at trial because of discovery violations, they would need to find Suzanne’s body to prove the case.
As of Tuesday — May 2, 2023 — Suzanne's body had not been found.
After this motion was granted, Barry's defense attorney Iris Eytan said there had not been "a single ounce" of physical evidence connecting Barry to Suzanne's death. She said her team was going to get Barry acquitted after a trial.
The two Morphew daughters — who were 20 and 16 at the time of Suzanne's disappearance — said he isn’t a killer and celebrated the dismissal of the case.
In mid-April 2023, Barry's attorney Iris Eytan, called for an investigation into the 11th Judicial District Attorney and the six other prosecutors in that office, citing a pattern of unethical conduct. Eytan filed a complaint March 29 with the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation asking for discipline for District Attorney Linda Stanley and the other prosecutors who worked on the murder case against Barry.
Barry Morphew attorney calls for investigation into prosecutor
The 83-page request for investigation states that judges overseeing identified violations of court orders and discovery rules, including "providing false information to the court."
Eytan said in a press conference that she was requesting for those prosecutors to be disbarred, if not severely disciplined.
“Their case was baseless to begin with. Their affidavit they filed was like a tabloid, filled with misrepresentations, false information and concealed extremely favorable evidence," she said.
The 11th Judicial District Attorney's Office said after the press conference that it had not yet received a complaint and could not comment.
"It is disappointing that Ms. Eytan appears to be seeking to circumvent the procedures in place that protect due process by holding a press conference before any official action has taken place," the statement read.