DA asks to drop charges in Colorado missing woman case

Posted at 12:06 PM, April 19, 2022 and last updated 7:37 PM, July 12, 2023

DENVER (AP) — Prosecutors on Tuesday asked a judge to dismiss criminal charges against a Colorado man about to go on trial in the presumed death of his missing wife but reserved the right to bring new charges against him later.

This combination photo shows Barry Morphew’s May 5, 2021, booking photo (L) and missing Colorado woman Suzanne Morphew (R). Barry has been arrested and charged in his missing wife’s murder. (Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office)

The request followed Judge Ramsey Lama’s decision earlier this month to bar prosecutors from presenting key witnesses during Barry Morphew’s trial for repeatedly failing to follow rules for turning over evidence in his favor. The evidence included DNA from an unknown male linked to sexual assault cases in other states, which was found in Suzanne Morphew’s SUV, raising the possibility of another suspect being involved.

In a court filing, District Attorney Linda Stanley said the exclusion of some of the prosecution’s witnesses was one reason for her request to dismiss the charges, which still must be approved by the judge. But she emphasized that investigators need more time to find the body of Suzanne Morphew before Barry Morphew goes on trial, saying for the first time that investigators believe her body is located in an area covered deep in snow near their former home in the southern Colorado mountains. Prosecutors and law enforcement believe they are close to finding her, she said.

“The People were hopeful that the search for, and the discovery of, the victim’s body would be concluded well before trial, but weather has complicated the efforts,” Stanley wrote.

Suzanne Morphew’s siblings agree with the prosecution’s request to drop the charges, she said.

Barry Morphew pleaded for help finding Suzanne Morphew after she disappeared and was reported missing on Mother’s Day in 2020 but he was arrested and charged with murder and other crimes last year. He has pleaded not guilty and was released on bond. His trial is set to begin April 28.

David Beller, an attorney with Recht Kornfeld PC, a Denver law firm, and a former president of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, said prosecutors’ request showed they feared a jury could have acquitted Barry Morphew and was a last minute attempt by to save their case.

A not guilty verdict would have prevented the government from ever prosecuting him again since the Constitution bars people from being prosecuted for the same crime twice.

Despite leaving the door open to filing charges against Barry Morphew later, Beller did not think it was likely unless Suzanne Morphew’s body was found with some kind of evidence linking it to Barry Morphew’s involvement in her death because of the other evidence suggesting his innocence.

“This is a relatively inexperienced prosecution team who brought charges in part based on community and political pressure,” he said.