A judge’s gavel in a file photo. (AlexStar/iStock)
SALIDA, Colo.—A Colorado man who posted a video on social media pleading for his wife’s return shortly after she vanished on Mother’s Day 2020 appeared in court Monday to face accusations that he killed her.
Barry Morphew, 53, who is charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in the death of Suzanne Morphew, sat in front of his two daughters in court during the start of a four-day hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for him to stand trial. He sat quietly, occasionally whispering with his attorneys or pointing to papers in front of him. When his attorney, Dru Nielsen, talked about him describing Suzanne Morphew as his “angel” and a “special, wonderful person,” Morphew, wearing a gray striped suit and blue medical mask, appeared to become emotional and dabbed his eyes with a tissue.
When questioned by the defense, Chaffee County Sheriff’s Commander Alex Walker testified that Suzanne Morphew — who was 49 when she was reported missing by a neighbor after failing to return from a Mother’s Day bicycle ride — had had a two-year extramarital affair before she disappeared, The Denver Post reported. It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors think that played a role in the case.
During a break in the courtroom in the mountain community of Salida, Morphew turned around to face his two daughters and appeared to smile from behind his mask, his hands in his pockets. They took off their masks so he could see their smiles. One of them showed him how long her hair had grown.
The courtroom was kept at limited capacity because of coronavirus concerns. Everyone was required to wear masks and people in the gallery were asked to maintain 3 feet (1 meter) of social distancing. Members of the public who wanted a seat lined up in front of the courthouse well before the doors opened at 8 a.m. Some wore T-shirts in support of Suzanne Morphew and shook their heads when defense attorneys questioned witnesses.
Attorneys and prosecutors used a projector to display video and photos during the hearing. Body camera footage showed that investigators found Suzanne Morphew’s bicycle down a short but steep ravine off a county road. In the video, officers walk around the bike through rugged terrain, calling her name, and note that the bike showed no apparent damage.
A 130-page court document containing details of the evidence that led to Morphew’s arrest in May has been sealed despite opposition from news media organizations so the hearing is expected to provide the first look at the case against him.
Besides being charged with killing his wife around May 10, 2020, which was Mother’s Day, Morphew is also accused of submitting a fraudulent vote on his wife’s behalf for then-President Donald Trump in November’s election.
Morphew is charged with tampering with his wife’s deceased body around the time she was killed as well as with evidence in the case from last May through early March, about two months before he was arrested. He is also charged with illegally possessing a short rifle and using deceit to influence law enforcement officers from the time his wife disappeared until he was arrested.
The hearing was scheduled to continue Tuesday and resume again later this month.