Suzanne Morphew’s Death Ruled A Homicide; Animal Tranquilizers Found In Body

Drugs found during the autopsy of Suzanne Morphew, the 49-year-old Colorado woman whose remains were found in September after she disappeared in May 2020, were consistent with a tranquilizing agent used to immobilize wildlife, according to a report released Monday by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Morphew’s husband of 25 years, Barry Morphew, who was arrested in May 2021 on suspicion of first-degree murder in connection to her disappearance, previously told investigators who found a tranquilizer dart cap in the couple’s clothes dryer that he tranquilized deer bucks to cut off their horns. Charges were dropped before he went to trial in 2022, according to The Associated Press.

Morphew’s death was ruled a homicide by undetermined means “in the setting of butorphanol, azaperone, and medetomidine intoxication,” according to the autopsy report.

The death of Colorado mom Suzanne Morphew, whose remains were found four years after she disappeared, was ruled a homicide.
The death of Colorado mom Suzanne Morphew, whose remains were found four years after she disappeared, was ruled a homicide.

Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office

The three drugs are often compounded in a mixture known by its acronym BAM to immobilize large mammals, such as deer, according to wildlife researchers and the veterinary pharmaceuticals company NexGEN.

Morphew’s remains were found in a shallow grave during an unrelated search roughly 44 miles south of the city of Salida, in Chaffee County, where the mother of two had been reported missing on May 10, 2020 — Mother’s Day. Barry Morphew initially suggested that Suzanne had disappeared after a Mother’s Day bike ride. Authorities, however, alleged that Barry Morphew had killed her the day before, on May 9, after discovering that she was having an affair. Her bike, which investigators said appeared to be undamaged, and a teal helmet were later found separately not far from their home.

There is no evidence that Suzanne Morphew, who days before her disappearance texted her husband she was “done” and wanted a divorce, left the house after Saturday afternoon, authorities said. She was last known to be alive on May 9 at 2:03 p.m., when she sent a selfie on LinkedIn to her secret boyfriend, who was in Michigan at the time. After that, she never responded to calls or texts, and her phone has never been found.

According to the full autopsy report, obtained by HuffPost, Morphew was identified using dental records and DNA. Among her remains, investigators found a padded bra, a torn green Nike tank top, a ripped sweatshirt labeled “Crested Butte,” Yeti brand shorts and what is described as a “pink and light color leather work glove.”

The clothing is consistent with what Morphew often wore while mountain biking, a sport she had just taken up after surviving a second bout with cancer. A medical port was also recovered among her remains.

In a statement from Barry Morphew’s attorneys provided to HuffPost, the recovered clothing “confirms” that Morphew was getting ready to ride or already cycling when they claim she was abducted and buried while Barry was working at a job site 150 miles from their home, in the opposite direction of the grave site. They also cite unknown DNA on Morphew’s bike and inside her car as evidence that Barry Morphew was not involved in his wife’s death.

A “weathered bullet” was also collected from the grave site, according to the autopsy report, which doesn’t address its possible significance. When authorities searched the Morphews’ home the day after she was reported missing, they found an unspent .22-caliber bullet on the floor next to Morphew’s side of the bed.

Authorities said Barry Morphew gave conflicting accounts about his whereabouts and what he was doing the weekend his wife disappeared. Many of those details were contradicted by cellphone records, GPS data, a vehicle monitoring technology and security video. According to the original arrest affidavit, his phone entered airplane mode at 2:47 p.m. on May 9, 2020, and stayed there until 10:17 p.m.

The affidavit said digital and vehicle monitoring technology showed unusual activity that night and into the early morning. Authorities have not presented any evidence showing that Barry Morphew could have driven about 45 miles south and back during that time period, and it is unclear whether authorities still consider him a suspect in the case.

Just before Barry Morphew’s trial was scheduled to start in April 2021, Chaffee County District Attorney Linda Stanley asked for all charges against him to be dropped, saying prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to proceed after the judge imposed heavy sanctions against them. Citing their “negligent, bordering on reckless” pattern of not turning over evidence to Morphew’s defense team, the judge barred 12 of the prosecution’s 14 expert witnesses from testifying in the case.

The case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning that prosecutors could refile the charges at a later date.

The district attorney had previously been sanctioned for violating court procedures and, along with two other prosecutors, is currently facing accusations of misconduct in the Morphew case. Last May, Morphew filed a $15 million lawsuit against prosecutors and investigators, saying his civil rights had been violated. That case is pending.

It remains to be seen whether the autopsy findings will lead authorities to prosecute Barry Morphew again. Stanley declined to comment on the case to HuffPost.

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