By: Stephanie Butzer
DENVER (KMGH) – Barry Morphew, who was accused of killing his wife in Chaffee County before the case was dismissed in 2022, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Tuesday seeking $15 million over his arrest and first-degree murder charge in 2021.
In the 185-page suit, Barry Morphew, who was arrested on charges of killing his wife Suzanne Morphew in 2020 before the prosecution asked to dismiss the case in April 2022, claims his Constitutional rights were violated by the defendants. He claims that his arrest affidavit included false and misleading information and as a result, he was wrongly held in jail for about five months.
As first reported by The Denver Post, the lawsuit was filed against:
- Chaffee County, Colorado
- Board of County Commissioners of Chaffee County, Colorado,
- Chaffee County Sheriff’s Department
- District Attorney Linda Stanley
- Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze
- Chaffee County Undersheriff Andrew Rohrich
- Eleventh Judicial District Attorney’s Office Investigator Alex Walker
- Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Lindsey
- Deputy District Attorney Mark Hurlbert
- Chaffee County Sheriff’s Detective Robin Burgess
- Chaffee County Sheriff’s Deputy Randy Carricato
- Chaffee County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Himschoot
- Chaffee County Sheriff’s Sergeant Claudette Hysjulien
- Chaffee County Sheriff’s Sergeant William Plackner
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Director John Camper
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Joseph Cahll
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Megan Duge
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Caitlin Rogers
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Derek Graham
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Kevin Koback
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Kirby Lewis
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director of Investigations Chris Schaefer
- Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Jonathan Grusing
- Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Kenneth Harris
- John/Janes Does 1-10
The lawsuit claims Barry last saw his wife on May 10, 2020 around 5 a.m. He called a neighbor when he, and the two Morphew daughters, were unable to contact Suzanne. The investigation into her disappearance began as Barry drove back home from work in Broomfield.
The lawsuit lists multiple parts of the investigation that it says were not included in the arrest affidavit.
“Defendants authoring the Arrest Affidavit knowingly, recklessly, and maliciously omitted material, exculpatory information and included misleading and false information,” the lawsuit reads.
It says one of these examples happened during the initial investigation: When Barry offered investigators Suzanne’s clothing for a K-9 to smell, the animal followed her scent from the bike to a rushing river, where it disappeared.
The document claimed that Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which contains DNA samples of convicted offenders across the United States and unknown samples from unsolved crimes, found matches to DNA samples found on Suzanne’s bicycle, her car and inside the Morphew home. This “highly exculpatory information” was also not included in the affidavit, the lawsuit reads. The judge was not informed of the unknown foreign male DNA found at the crime scene.
The state district court judge said that “the foreign male DNA being found on pieces of evidence at the crime scene that would exclude Mr. Morphew… would tend to negate guilt,” the lawsuit reads, citing a transcript of a Feb. 10, 2022 hearing.
The arrest affidavit reads that there was no evidence of other suspects, the lawsuit reads, which is untrue when looking at the DNA.
The lawsuit also claims that FBI agents told a CBI agent that certain GPS location data from Barry’s phone was unreliable, but the defense used this data without disclosing that it was not reliable. This included a map that allegedly showed Barry’s phone moving up to 50 mph through walls inside the house, the lawsuit claims.
It also included “false and misleading statements about GPS phone location data allegedly showing where Barry drove his truck in the early morning hours of May 10, 2020,” the lawsuit says.
In addition, two CBI agents expressed their concerns with the drafted arrest affidavit for Barry. The head of CBI’s Major Crimes Division agreed with these concerns and conveyed them to the CBI deputy director of investigations.
On the day Barry was arrested — May 5, 2021 (though the lawsuit reads May 4, 2021) — the CBI director reiterated these concerns to Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze. The CBI director said this was the first time in his career that he had called a sheriff asking them to hold off on arresting a person.
The lawsuit claims that the affidavit also lacks information about the multiple calls made to the sheriff about this, and the concerns coming from the CBI.
Barry was brought to the Chaffee County Jail, where he remained without bond until he was released on Sept. 20, 2021.
In April 2022, the judge issued a written discovery order sanctioning the prosecutors for violating its discovery orders from May and June 2021. That order ruled that the prosecutors concealed exculpatory information from the affidavit. Despite knowing there was no probable cause, the defendants “caused the arrest warrant to be issued” and charges to be brought against Barry, the lawsuit reads.
The defendants theorized that Barry had killed Suzanne on May 9, 2020 by injecting her with animal tranquilizer, staged her bike and helmet and had killed her out of rage after discovering she had been having an affair, the lawsuit reads.
This story was originally published by KMGH in Denver, an E.W. Scripps Company.