Autopsy: Suzanne Morphew had sedatives, opioid painkiller in system

Posted at 1:15 PM, April 29, 2024 and last updated 2:39 PM, April 29, 2024

CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. (Scripps News Denver) — The autopsy report for Suzanne Morphew, a Colorado mother whose 2020 disappearance captured worldwide attention, was released on Monday and confirmed her death was a homicide after a mix of powerful sedatives and an opioid painkiller was detected in her system.

missing person photo of Suzanne Morphew

FILE – Suzanne Morphew (Facebook/Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office)

Her remains were found in a shallow grave in Saguache County more than 1,200 days after she was reported missing on Mother’s Day in 2020. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) made the announcement on Sept. 22, 2023 and confirmed dental records were used to identify the 49-year-old mother a few days later on Sept. 27.

CBI said the remains were discovered during a search in connection with an unrelated investigation around the Town of Moffat. Moffat is about 45 miles south of the Maysville area in Chaffee County, where Suzanne Morphew was last seen.

Related | Disappearance of Suzanne Morphew: Status of the Investigation

No arrests have been made since the remains were located.

On Monday, CBI categorized her death as a “homicide by undetermined means in the setting of butorphanol, azaperone, and medetomidine intoxication,” according to an autopsy report by the Chaffee County Coroner’s Office.

The National Institute of Health explains that butorphanol is a synthetic opioid pain-killer, azaperone is a sedative commonly used as a tranquilizer for pigs and elephants, and medetomidine is regularly used by veterinarians to sedate and provide pain relief for dogs.

The autopsy report has been shared with the Morphew family.

Anybody with information on this case is asked to call the tip line at 719-312-7530 or email [email protected].

Suzanne Morphew was last reportedly seen on May 10, 2020, when she left for a bicycle ride around the Maysville area. A neighbor called 911 to report that she had never returned. Barry Morphew, Suzanne Morphew’s husband, was later identified as a suspect and was arrested on charges of first-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence, attempting to influence a public servant, tampering with a deceased human body, and possession of a dangerous weapon. Court TV covered the four days of his preliminary hearing in August 2021. Barry was released on bond after the judge ruled the case would proceed to trial.

Watch | Barry Morphew Speaks Out After Filing Lawsuit

Photo of Barry Morphew

FILE – This undated file photo provided by the Chaffee County (Colo.) Sheriff’s Office shows Barry Morphew in Salida, Colo. (Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

In February 2022, Barry’s defense team filed a motion to dismiss the first-degree murder case against him, noting that an investigator had recently called the arrest “premature.” They asked the judge to dismiss the case because of “prosecutorial discovery violations.” On April 19, 2022, a Fremont County judge granted the prosecution’s motion to dismiss the murder case against Barry. The motion asked the court to dismiss the charges without prejudice, meaning he could be tried again if prosecutors refiled the charges.

In May 2023, Barry’s attorney called for an investigation into the 11th Judicial District Attorney and the six other prosecutors in that office, citing a pattern of unethical conduct. Three defendants were later dismissed from the lawsuit.

About two weeks later, Barry filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in early May 2023 seeking $15 million over his arrest and first-degree murder charge. He claimed his Constitutional rights were violated by the defendants and that his arrest affidavit included false and misleading information and, as a result, he was wrongly held in jail for about five months. On Feb 19, 2024, two more prosecutors were accused of conspiring to discredit the judge who was overseeing the now-dismissed trial.

After her remains were found in September 2023, loved ones of Suzanne Morphew said they hope investigators can finally piece the mystery together.

“I guess we’re going to start over because now the sheriff’s office and the FBI and CBI said what they needed was her body,” her friend Tisha Leeway told Scripps News Denver. “Now they have her body, so now let’s finish the job.”

This story was originally written by Stephanie Butzer at Scripps News Denver, an E.W. Scripps Company.