Death of woman reported missing on Mother’s Day 2020 ruled a homicide (2024)

CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV/Gray News) - As the search for answers continues in the death of Colorado woman Suzanne Morphew, an autopsy report released Monday ruled her death a homicide.

Suzanne Morphew was living in the Salida area with her husband Barry and was reported missing on May 10, 2020, Mother’s Day. Her body was found during an unrelated search in September of 2023 in Saguache County.

According to the autopsy report, Suzanne Morphew died from “homicide by unspecified means in the setting of butorphanol, azaperone, and medetomidine intoxication.” The report goes on to say, “these drugs are marketed as a compounded injectable chemical immobilizer for wildlife.”

Legal expert David Webster, who spent years prosecuting homicide cases, said investigators may be looking to who would have knowledge of and access to wildlife tranquilizers found in Suzanne Morphew’s system.

“... These types of drugs, I would think, are a little bit more difficult to get. They are sedatives. ... So the question is how easy are these things to get?” Webster said. “As far as I know, I don’t think they have anything pointing toward one individual at this point. ... It’s going to entirely depend on what the Colorado Bureau of Investigation has in their file that they have not shared with the public. That is standard practice, you don’t share everything. The real question is what do they have? For all we know, they have a smoking gun.”

A tranquilizer gun and accessories were found in the Morphews’ home, according to investigators at the time, who arrested her husband 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 Associated Press reported. The evidence included DNA from an unknown man linked to sexual assault cases in other states, which was found in Suzanne Morphew’s SUV.

Investigators have said the couple had a troubled marriage. In an earlier 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,” the Associated Press reported.

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.

The 12th Judicial District is now the “potential prosecutor,” according to the FBI. This comes after a long list of allegations have been made against 11th Judicial District District Attorney Linda Stanley, whose office was originally prosecuting the case against Barry Morphew, as well as when charges against him were dropped. Since then, Barry Morphew has filed a lawsuit against Stanley and her office.

In announcing the autopsy findings on Monday, Colorado Bureau of Investigation Director Chris Schaefer did not say whether charges would be filed against Barry Morphew again. Schaefer said the investigation is ongoing.

Anne Kelly, 12th Judicial district attorney, said her office “continues to provide guidance to the investigation team” because the remains were found in the district. She said she was unable to comment further but said her team “will continue to follow the evidence and seek justice for Suzanne.”

Barry Morphew’s lawyers, Jane Byrialsen and Iris Eytan, said in part in a statement: “For the past four years the Morphews have agonized over Suzanne’s disappearance. This included not only the pain of the loss of their wife and mother but also the false accusations and prosecution of Barry Morphew. 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. However, the Morphews are left with more questions than answers and a lack of justice for Suzanne, the family and the community.”

The statement also said that “the authorities will not tell the Morphew family whether Suzanne’s bike clothes, collected seven months ago with her remains, have been tested for DNA.”

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

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

Copyright 2024 KKTV via Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Death of woman reported missing on Mother’s Day 2020 ruled a homicide (2024)

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