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Preliminary hearing for Barry Morphew wraps up; judge set to rule on advancing case on Sept. 17

Posted at 3:59 PM, Aug 24, 2021

CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. – A decision to determine whether there’s enough evidence to proceed with the criminal case against Barry Morphew, who is suspected of murdering his wife Suzanne, will be decided by a judge in mid-September.

After 20 hours of testimony in a preliminary hearing that spanned four days, 11th Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Murphy told the court he would rather make the decision correctly rather than too quickly.

An in-person hearing where attorneys will make further arguments for their case will take place on Sept. 17 at 1:30 p.m. Judge Murphy will make this ruling whether to proceed to a trial thereafter, or whether to let Morphew get out on bond. The arrest affidavit in the case, which has remained sealed, will also be addressed.

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 four of the multi-day preliminary hearing. Read about day one here, day two here, and day three here.

The last day in the preliminary hearing of Barry Morphew started at around 10 a.m. Tuesday, with FBI agent Jonny Grusing on the stand being questioned by defense attorney Dru Nielsen.

The initial discussion of the day surrounded Barry turning west (left) on Highway 50 in the early morning of Sunday, May 10, 2020 – the last day Suzanne was heard from again. Nielsen told the court there was no GPS evidence to show Barry turned left/west. Grusing agreed. Nielsen also said there was also no blood, no body or anything else related to Suzanne where he turned his truck around at the Garfield mine. Grusing agreed.

The discussion then turned to more details about Barry’s location based on cell phone data.

At around 2:47 p.m. on May 10, Barry’s phone went into airplane mode. Nielsen said that when Grusing asked about Barry’s phone switching to airplane mode, Barry responded with “No, no, no. If it happened, it was probably an accident.”

Regarding a conversation surrounding immunity, which Barry allegedly asked investigators about, Nielsen told the court Barry had watched YouTube videos in which people suggested he not “talk” because anything he said could be used against him. This happened in the early days of March, around March 5, according to Grusing.

Grusing told Nielsen Barry said he wanted immunity in case someone falsely convicted him. During the interview, Barry indicated he took Suzanne for granted, according to Grusing.

Questioning then turned toward cash in a safe. During a March 3 interview, Barry claimed he thought he had $70-80,000 in the safe, and said he put the cash in different containers in the safe. He said people should have to work to find things and that if the cash was missing, then either the police took it or Suzanne took it.

The discussion then turned to chlorine. Barry Morphew reportedly said during a March 3 interview officials had asked about it, but Barry said he had no idea that he had no bleach in his room. He told investigators he thought maybe it had come from a pool.

During this line of questioning, Nielsen went through multiple points: The fact that multiple dogs didn’t smell anything, and that Barry searched for Suzanne when she went missing for months, covering about 200 square miles searching for her along with a man named George Davis. When officials asked Barry what happened to Suzanne, investigators claim he said, “I think she left.”

Grusing told the court that Barry confessing to his daughters about Suzanne’s affair was the hardest thing he’s ever done.

In a redirect, DA Jeff Lindsey questioned if Macy, one of Suzanne’s daughters, knew that her mother was going to leave Barry. In texts to Sheila, Suzanne wrote that Macy suggested that they could move to Salida and get jobs and even suggested a restraining order.

“Macy assured me it would be fine,” the texts reportedly stated. “Why don’t you do it without telling him,” Macy allegedly wrote, and, at one point, got so fired up she told Barry to leave Suzanne alone.

Nielsen objected, saying Suzanne lied to Sheila on several occasions and that this was Suzanne’s interpretation not coming directly from Macy.

The hearing moved on to the issue of Barry striking Suzanne. Grusing says there was such an incident, but that Barry said it was an accident where he apparently clipped the side of her nose with his hand.

Lindsey then questioned Grusing on when law enforcement knew when to first start looking for Suzanne’s bicycle, to which Grusing responded that it happened when Jeanne Ritter called. She was told by Barry to look for the missing bike, Grusing said.

With that final question, the people rested in the preliminary hearing of Barry Morphew.

The defense called Chaffee County Sheriff Deputy Scott Himshoot to the stand to discuss the gun safe, in which empty tranquilizer carts and a dart gun were found inside.

Body camera video is then shown, which shows the search of a laundry room. Nielsen then asks Himshoot if one of the deputies found anything in the dryer.

Himshoot responds, saying the deputy didn’t find anything in the dryer but that they were assigned to swab the dryer after it was “blue-starred.”

A second body camera worn video is shown to the court.

Video appears to show a cap from one of the tranquilizer dart guns, which appears to not have been fired.

Nielsen asked Himshoot if he made the determination that the gun had not been fired for a long time.

There’s an objection and the court takes a break.

After the morning break, the defense calls on CBI agent Joseph Cahill, who is questioned by defense attorney Iris Eytan about unknown DNA found in Suzanne’s car glove box. That information is in the arrest affidavit, which remains sealed.

Barry was excluded from the DNA mixture, which also found unknown DNA on the bike grips.

“Were you aware of DNA results that were found?” Eytan asks Cahill. He responds, “I don’t recall.”

Eytan responds lab results indicate there’s unknown male DNA on the bike grips, which do not belong to Barry Morphew.

Eytan then reads from the lab report and says the prison DNA data system, CODIS, returned three confirmed matches from the glove box to other unsolved sexual assaults from out-of-state.

Cahill says that the information in the report is true.

One of the sexual assaults occurred outside of a convenience store in Tempe, Ariz and another in Phoenix. The judge then overrules an objection, reminding the courtroom that the defense is allowed to question further in a proof evident presumption great hearing. Cahill then agrees the assault happened outside a convenience store.

Eytan then pounds on the fact that there was a match between an unsolved sexual assault and DNA found on Suzanne's glove box. She then brings up another match with the glove box DNA and an unsolved sexual assault in Chicago.

Cahill explains he didn't know about these findings when they came in because he was on military leave from March to May 10.

On a redirect, prosecutor Mark Hurlbert reminds the court that Barry Morphew's DNA was found on the bike seat and in Suzanne's car. He then shifts gears from where Morphew's DNA was not found to where it was found.

The court takes a lunch break.

After a lunch break, there’s some back-and-forth as Mark Hurlbert starts asking CBI agent Joe Cahill questions related to DNA.

The defense objects, as Cahill is not a forensic scientist. The court moves on to discuss the prison DNA database "CODIS."

After much talk about unknown DNA on Suzanne's bike and in her car, questioning ends for the day.

Judge Patrick Murphy says there have been 20 hours of testimony and he's taken 25 pages of notes. It's now time for him to decide whether to bind Barry Morphew over for trial.

“We are urging the court to rule on the proof evident today... so that Mr. Morphew doesn't have to continue to sit in jail,” Nielsen says, standing up.

Judge Murphy says he’d rather make the decision correctly rather than too quickly.

An in-person hearing where attorneys will make further arguments for their case will take place on Sept. 17 at 1:30 p.m. Judge Murphy will make this ruling whether to proceed to a trial thereafter, or whether to let Morphew get out on bond. The arrest affidavit in the case, which has remained sealed, will also be addressed.