Colorado man accused of killing wife heads to trial

SALIDA, Colo. (AP) — A judge ruled Friday there is enough evidence for the case to proceed against a southern Colorado man who was charged with first-degree murder nearly a year after his wife was reported missing on Mother’s Day 2020.

Judge Patrick Murphy ruled Barry Morphew, 53, should stand trial for the presumed death of Suzanne Morphew, a 49-year-old mother of two daughters who was reported missing after she did not return from a bike ride near her home in the Salida area. The judge set cash bail at $500,000, and restricted Morphew from traveling outside of Chaffee County and having contact with several people involved in the case.

Barry Morphew posted a video on social media pleading for his wife’s safe return soon after she vanished. He was arrested May 5, 2021, amid what authorities described as an extensive and ongoing investigation that involved dozens of searches in Colorado and interviews of more than 400 people in multiple states.

Suzanne Morphew’s body has not been found.

Murphy said there is probable cause Barry Morphew might have murdered his wife and that he had motivation to do so, but the judge also noted that probable cause is the lowest standard of proof in the criminal justice system, Denver television station KUSA-TV reported.

“Is it possible Mr. Morphew would be convicted? Yes,” the judge said. “Is it fairly likely he would be convicted? … This case could go either way in front of a jury.”

He outlined three possible scenarios: Barry Morphew killed his wife, someone else killed her or she disappeared on her own.

During a preliminary hearing in August, investigators said Suzanne Morphew had an affair with a man for two years. Prosecutors also presented text messages between her and a friend from 2019 and 2020 in which she complained that her husband was picking fights and putting their children in the middle.

Meanwhile, Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent Joseph Cahill testified during the preliminary hearing that a partial DNA profile created from male DNA left on Suzanne Morphew’s glovebox matched profiles developed in unsolved sexual assault cases in Chicago, Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona. DNA from Barry Morphew was not found in the DNA sample, according to his lawyers.

Barry Morphew also is charged with tampering with a human body, tampering with physical evidence, possession of a dangerous weapon and attempting to influence a public servant.

Judge Murphy decided to unseal the arrest affidavit by noon Monday, saying, “The meat of this case has been heard by the public.” Morphew entered a not guilty plea, and his trial is set to begin May 3.