Officials: Search continues for Suzanne Morphew’s body

The 11th Judicial District on Monday said authorities are still looking for the body of Suzanne Morphew so that her homicide case can be prosecutable either against her husband, Barry Morphew, or someone else.

Morphew previously was charged with his wife’s death after her disappearance from their Salida home in May 2020, but his case was dismissed by the DA’s Office without prejudice in April 2022, just days before it was set to go to trial.

During a hearing Monday, District Court Judge Amanda Hunter denied Barry Morphew’s request to reconsider a previous ruling relating to public access to the information contained within the case alleging that Morphew killed his wife.

Hunter’s ruling affirms her April 13 orders denying six motions (five by the defense and one by the prosecution) to limit public access.

In her order, she stated that in a criminal case, court records are “presumed to be accessible to the public” and to deny the public access to a court record or any part of a court record, the Court must follow certain procedures unless the record is inaccessible to the public pursuant to other statute, rule, regulation or Chief Justice Directive.

“While it may be legally possible for Mr. Morphew to be tried in this matter, whether and when he will be tried is a matter of speculation,” Hunter’s order states. “The arguments advanced by Mr. Morphew that relate to the proximity of trial and the ability to impanel a jury are significantly weakened by the dismissal of charges. The same conclusion is reached with respect to his argument that his right to a fair trial will be damaged by release of the records.”

“Even an attempt to impose a delay in the release of the records in order to ‘wait and see’ if Mr. Morphew is prosecuted a second time would be speculative,” Hunter’s order states. “It would also subject to later argument that the Court should continue to extend such ‘wait and see’ period. Such a decision would negate the Rule’s clear language demanding that any orders limiting public access not be indefinite. The Court cannot identify any substantial interests that would allow such a deviation from the Rule. Without a pending case and a looming trial date, the substantial interests cited by Mr. Morphew fail to override the presumptive public access to the court records.”

Deputy District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said the pleading that was filed was a notice to the defense that he was going to introduce certain statements of Suzanne Morphew under Colorado rules of evidence and to do that, he needed to plead with specificity.

“In an abundance of caution, we filed the motion public,  pursuant to Judge Murphy’s order, but we filed our exhibits under seal to be able to say alright, let’s litigate this before we decide which of these statements are going to come in,” he said. “Many of the statements were already out during preliminary hearing,” including statements about Suzanne Morphew leaving her husband.

Morphew’s defense attorney, Iris Eytan, said the pleading that was filed was highly inflammatory and much of the information would have been inadmissible in a trial.

“There is much misleading material taken out of context that it would have endangered the potential jury trial,” she said.

She said she and her co-counsel filed a request for an investigation with the Office of Attorney Regulation Council and identified this exact pleading as one of the bases for discipline against Hurlbert and District Attorney Linda Stanley.

Eytan said the prosecution had been operating on a hunch that they one day will find Suzanne Morphew’s body and that that hunch will somehow lead them to Morphew again.

“If this pleading is not stricken from the public eye, then it will violate Mr. Morphew’s right to due process and right to a fair jury,” she said. “Those are constitutional rights that Mr. Morphew has and even more so now than he had before. That is of substantial interest to Mr. Morphew, is to maintain his right to privacy, which is a fundamental right and his right against harassment and defamation which is something that this pleading and the information contained within it will harm Mr. Morphew substantially and his due process rights.”

Eytan said when the DA’s Office dismissed the case, it was done so with a good faith belief that they were going to find Suzanne Morphew’s body and that it was imminent.

The prosecution in October refused to release some of Morhpew’s personal items because they were possibly going to prosecute Morphew one day and the items needed to remain secured with law enforcement as evidence.

Three years after Suzanne Morphew’s disappearance, Eytan said all the prosecution has is “a feeling” that they will find her body.

“At this point, we believe that there is going to be no prosecution against Mr. Morphew, I believe that,” Eytan said. “I believe Mr. Morphew is innocent.”

But Hurlbert said the motion to dismiss the case was made in good faith and that at the time, the prosecution felt it was imminent that Suzanne Morphew’s body would be found.

“She is in a very difficult spot, but we have not found her yet,” he said. “We actually have more than a feeling, we have some specific investigative leads that the People are not going to get into at this point – but it is more than a feeling and the sheriff’s office is continuing to look for Ms. Morphews’s body.”

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