A Colorado Woman Was Reported Missing on Mother’s Day 2020. Her Death Was Just Ruled a Homicide

Barry Morphew leaves a Fremont County court building in Canon City, Colo., with his daughters, Macy, left, and Mallory, after charges against him in the presumed death of his wife were dismissed, Tuesday, April 19, 2022. The death of Suzanne Morphew, whose disappearance nearly four years led to murder charges against her husband that were later dropped, has been ruled a homicide authorities said Monday, April 29, 2024. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP, File)


DENVER (AP) — The death of a Colorado woman reported missing on Mother’s Day nearly four years ago was a homicide, authorities said Monday, revealing new details in a case that at one point led to murder charges against her husband that were later dropped.

Suzanne Morphew died by “undetermined means,” according to an autopsy report released by the Chaffee County Attorney’s Office. A cocktail of drugs that are used to tranquilize wildlife was found in one of the 49-year-old woman’s bones but there was no indication of trauma, the report said.

Morphew’s husband, Barry Morphew, told investigators he last saw his wife in May 2020, on Mother’s Day. Her remains were found in September 2023 in a remote area of central Colorado more than 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of her home.

A tranquilizer gun and accessories were found in the couple’s home, according to investigators, who arrested Barry Morphew in May 2021 on suspicion of first-degree murder, tampering with a human body and other offenses.

The charges were dropped in 2022, just as Barry Morphew was about to go to trial, after a judge barred prosecutors from presenting most of their key witnesses, citing their failure to follow rules for turning over evidence in his favor. The evidence included DNA from an unknown man linked to sexual assault cases in other states, which was found in Suzanne Morphew’s SUV.

Barry Morphew’s lawyers later filed a complaint accusing prosecutors of intentionally withholding evidence and asking that they be disciplined. Barry Morphew also filed a $15 million lawsuit accusing prosecutors and investigators of violating his constitutional rights. The suit is pending in federal court.

Prosecutors, saying they wanted more time to find Suzanne Morphew’s body, left open the possibility of filing charges against him again. In announcing the autopsy findings on Monday, Colorado Bureau of Investigation Director Chris Schaefer did not say whether that would happen; he said the investigation is ongoing.

The prosecutor for the part of Colorado where the body was found said her office was assisting in the investigation.

“We will continue to follow the evidence and seek justice for Suzanne,” said 12th Judicial District Attorney Anne Kelly in a statement.

An attorney for Barry Morphew and his two adult daughters said Monday that his dart gun to tranquilize wildlife was not working when his wife disappeared, and that he did not possess the tranquilizer that’s used in the darts.

Attorney Iris Eytan told The Associated Press that evidence suggests Suzanne Morphew was abducted, drugged and killed by someone else.

“The Morphews have prayed the authorities would remove their blinders and not only find Suzanne, but find the suspect responsible for her disappearance and murder,” Eytan’s firm said in a statement on behalf of the family.

Investigators have said the couple had a troubled marriage. In an affidavit, they alleged that Barry Morphew, an avid hunter and sportsman, was unable to control his wife, so he “resorted to something he has done his entire life — hunt and control Suzanne like he had hunted and controlled animals.”

At the time, Barry Morphew said the last time he had seen his wife, she was in bed asleep. He also told investigators that Suzanne Morphew had recently developed an interest in mountain biking. Deputies found her bike and bike helmet in two separate places, away from where her remains were discovered.

Eytan’s firm said authorities have not revealed to the Morphews whether bike clothes found with Suzanne Morphew’s remains have been tested for DNA.


Brown reported from Billings, Montana. Hanson reported from Helena, Montana.

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