CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. — A four-day preliminary hearing for Barry Morphew began Monday morning at the Chaffee County Courthouse.
Morphew’s wife, Suzanne, was reported missing on Mother’s Day, May 10, 2020. She has never been found.
Morphew stands accused of Suzanne’s murder and is currently in custody in Chaffee County awaiting trial. Iris Eytan and Dru Neilsen are his attorneys.
Morphew was arrested in May of 2021, nearly a year to the day of Suzanne’s disappearance. He faces the following charges:
- Murder in the first degree
- Tampering with a deceased human body
- Tampering with physical evidence
- Possession of a dangerous weapon – short rifle
- Attempt to influence a public servant
- Forgery of Public Records
- Misdemeanor Elections-mail ballot offense
Preliminary hearing are intended to protect defendants from unsupported criminal charges. The judge will decide whether there is enough probable cause for the case to move forward.
“Welcome to my courtroom,” Judge Patrick Murphy said Monday morning before denying a request by Morphew’s attorney to make a brief opening statement.
The first witness to take the stand, Commander Alex Walker with the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office, told District Attorney Linda Stanley what he remembered about the circumstances of Suzanne’s disappearance. He told the court Mallory Morphew, one of the couple’s daughters, reached out to a neighbor when her mother didn’t respond to her texts on Mother’s Day. The girls had apparently left on a road trip earlier and had not yet returned home.
Reportedly, Suzanne left her home over the weekend for a bike ride.
On Monday, the court saw body camera video taken by Chaffee County deputies when Suzanne’s bicycle was discovered.
Mallory and Macy Morphew held hands and cried in the courtroom as they watched that video play out.
More than ten agencies have been involved in the search for Suzanne – searches which, according to Walker, continue to this day.
Morphew’s attorney spoke to those searches on Monday as well. She said that despite aircraft involvement, drones, grid searches, K-9s, mine checks, ground-penetrating radar, water teams, and the efforts of hundreds of people – Suzanne was never found.
New information regarding Suzanne’s extramarital affair was revealed on Monday.
Jeff Libler and Suzanne went to high school together in Alexandria, Indiana.
As the investigation into Suzanne’s disappearance progressed, Libler asked law enforcement officers if he was considered a suspect in the case. He said claimed his phone had been destroyed shortly after Suzanne went missing – and he deleted “secret accounts” on What’s App, an application used to send texts and videos.
In explanation, Libler claimed he didn’t want Suzanne’s legacy tarnished by their affair.
The couple’s relationship was revealed by the discovery of a spy pen, which Suzanne asked her best friend, Sheila Oliver, to help her obtain.
The device was discovered in a search of Suzanne’s closet. Investigators said several audio files had been deleted from the pen – two of those were files were successfully recovered – both of those involved Libler.
FBI Agent Kenneth Harris testified on Monday that he believed Suzanne had deleted those audio files herself.
He also said Morphew told him he didn’t have any knowledge of his wife’s affair.
Morphew’s defense team says it plans to play audio of Libler from an interview with investigators.
Investigators said they never found Suzanne’s phone or the charger she kept by her bedside – instead, they used what was backed up on iCloud, as well as records from her carrier.
Suzanne did not write about their affair in any journal, but reached out to Libler on Facebook and afterward used an app called Voxer to communicate. Later, the two switched to talking to each other on the phone. Libler’s daughter did find out about his conversations with Suzanne and told her older brothers and uncle.
The two took a break in their relationship for a while but began speaking again around Christmastime of 2019.
Libler told special investigators that Suzanne had told him that Barry had seen some of their messages and that they needed to switch back to using communication apps.
Eytan spoke from the report, “She was worried, what if Barry looks up records. He had no idea that we had talked to each other.”
The two spoke 26 times between Jan. 4 and Jan. 11 of 2019.
Suzanne met up with Libler in Feb. of 2019 in New Orleans, April of 2019 in Indiana, July of 2019 in Michigan, Oct. 2019 in Dallas, Texas, and Feb. of 2020 in Florida. Libler was planning a trip to Colorado in March of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The two were planning a future marriage, calling each other soul mates.
Today’s proceedings have concluded, with court resuming at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 10. FOX21’s Lauren Scharf is tweeting, live, during Monday’s hearing. You can follow her updates by clicking here.