A Mother’s Day Vanishing
On May 10, 2020, Suzanne Morphew set out from the Salida, Colorado home she shared with her husband Barry for a Mother’s Day bike ride. Suzanne, a 49-year-old mother of two adult daughters never returned home Instead, she vanished without a trace.
On the day of Suzanne’s disappearance, Barry Morphew told authorities that he left home early for a job in Denver where he was working a landscaping job. Authorities were told that Suzanne began her bike ride at some point after that on Mother’s Day morning, but there are no witnesses that saw her leave the house on her bike or that can say they saw her that morning at all. It was only after her daughters, on their way home from an out-of-state camping trip, couldn’t reach her by phone that they grew concerned and enlisted a neighbor to help them locate her.
it was first noted that Suzanne, a former middle school teacher in Alexandria, Indiana before relocating to Colorado in 2018, hadn’t been active on social media since the day before she vanished. Her last post was a photo of her with her two daughters, all smiling happily in a group photo.
When it became apparent that she was missing, the neighbor reported her missing on the family’s behalf and authorities began to look into the situation. Barry was already on his way back home after having been contacted by his children, postponing his workday in light of the situation unfolding at home. Suzanne’s bike was discovered later that same day on a track located a short distance from her home, but there was no sign of her.
With no real clues to go on, more than 100 law enforcement officers, tracking dogs, and dive teams began an extensive search through the land and waters near the track and the Morphew’s home, but they came away empty-handed.
In an effort to locate his wife, Barry Morphew offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to her safe return. That amount was matched by a family friend, bringing the reward to $200,000 in total.
After continued searches, Colorado police announced they had recovered a personal item of Suzanne’s about 500 meters from her home, but there has been no indication of what that item might be. With this new evidence, they expanded their search into the Morphew family home. Witnesses report seeing them carry many evidence bags and assorted equipment out of the location.
On May 17, one week after his wife had gone missing, Barry posted an online video that some considered quite odd in nature. In it, he begged his wife to come home, told her he loved her, and wanted her back “so bad.”
It was later reported that Barry had not spent the night at home, but had stayed at a Holiday Inn in Denver near a landscaping job. The room was taken over by a coworker named Jeff Puckett after Barry had to leave upon learning of Suzanne’s disappearance. Puckett told detectives that when he arrived in the room on that Sunday evening, it stank of bleach, and wet towels were scattered all about.
Because Barry had already been called away, Puckett hadn’t had an opportunity to ask him about it but assumed that the towels were just from his showering. However, the hotel reported that they do not clean their rooms with bleach, so there is no explanation for the strong smell of chlorine in the room.
Puckett also indicated that he had found a stack of Barry’s mail left behind in the room, including a letter regarding property insurance. He had initially intended to return these to Barry, but after events unfolded, they were turned over to the FBI instead. Subsequently, security footage from the hotel and other businesses nearby was obtained for May 7 through May 10 for review.
Barry was quick to refute any claims that there was anything to learn from the tapes or the condition of the hotel, stating that he had done nothing wrong in the hotel and cameras would reflect that. He claimed to have noticed the chlorine odor but insisted that it had nothing to do with him.
Rumors of an affair with Morgan Gentile, the landscaper who had hired him that weekend were also denied. In her interview with detectives, Gentile did note that Barry was acting strangely around the time of his wife’s disappearance that she felt concerned for her own safety around him.
Over the course of the last year, Barry has insisted upon his innocence and desperately tried to convince both Suzanne’s family and the public at large that he had nothing to do with her disappearance. He has even attempted to toss out some theories of his own, including one that Suzanne was attacked by animals while out on her bike ride, one that she perhaps got into an accident on the road, and even that she was possibly abducted by unknown individuals.
The 52-year-old has also taken aim at cops for “screwing up” the investigation. He shared private photos and love notes that had been exchanged with his wife as evidence of his innocence, claiming they were proof of their loving relationship. Despite his protests, recent behavior patterns have placed him under increasing scrutiny. Suzanne’s brother, Andrew Moorman, has stated in no uncertain terms that he believes Barry murdered Suzanne.
Andrew has repeatedly stated that he doesn’t believe his sister ever went for a bike ride. He believes she died on May 9 and was hidden away that night. He believes it was a case of domestic violence. In an interview with Dr. Phil, Andrew said he based his accusations on past behaviors and incidents and that he believes that Suzanne was murdered at home and hidden elsewhere by his brother-in-law. He called out Barry to take a lie detector test.
Rather than addressing the accusations made by Andrew and other members of the Moorman family, Barry instead attacked their relationship with Suzanne. He claimed that she spent many nights crying on his shoulder about why her siblings “refuse to show her love.”
Barry also claims that he has given over thirty hours of testimony across three interview sessions with the FBI and the CBI (Colorado Bureau of Investigation) and told them everything he has to tell. He maintains his innocence, claiming instead that the detectives screwed up the investigation and just tried to nail him for it so they could claim they had closed the case.
At the end of February, Barry Morphew was caught on camera having dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Salida with an unidentified redhead. Surveillance photos taken show him close to the much younger woman as he dropped her off at a nearby hotel.
In April 2021, Barry sold the family home he had shared with his wife for $1.62 million, claiming that his daughters have fears of being there after their mother was possibly taken from the home. He also sold off the Salida two-acre plot of land he had just purchased weeks after Suzanne disappeared. This plot of land had been previously excavated after cadaver dogs picked up the scent of human remains on two separate visits to the property.
For Suzanne’s family, there is an almost certainty that Suzanne is dead. When her father passed away in November 2020, she is listed as “presumed dead” in his obituary. Gene Moorman was 87 when he passed away without closure in his daughter’s case. In lieu of flowers, the obituary instead asks mourners to make donations to their local domestic violence organization.
A year after her disappearance, there has still been no recovery of Suzanne Morphew’s body. Despite this, police feel they have uncovered enough evidence to arrest someone in the case.
On Wednesday, May 5, 2021, police arrested their prime suspect, Suzanne’s 52-year-old husband, Barry Morphew. He has been charged with first-degree homicide, evidence tampering, and attempting to influence a public servant.
According to court documents, the charges against him are all dated for crimes committed on May 10, 2020, which seems to indicate that police believe Suzanne Morphew was murdered on the day she disappeared. A conviction on the murder charge alone could send Barry to prison for life.
In a press conference held that same evening, Chaffee Country Sheriff John Spezze and District Attorney Linda Stanley addressed concerns that it has taken so long to make an arrest in this case. They indicated that it was simply a case of not having the evidence they needed to make solid charges.
Though they still do not have a body or know the cause of death, their investigation seems to have uncovered an incident that led to Suzanne’s murder. As is the case with many ongoing cases, the details of their discovery are unknown and the arrest affidavit is currently sealed. However, Stanley has insisted that the case against Barry Morphew is strong.
Suzanne’s sister, Melinda Moorman, says she feels a great bit of relief to finally be getting closer to answers and justice. She has expressed the family’s gratitude for the endless hours that investigators put into her sister’s case.
“Today, justice is beginning for my sister. It’s been a journey that no one ever imagines that they’ll take,” she said. “I want the world to know that my sister was the darling of our family. She was the rose among thorns. That’s what I used to call her.”
During the year that has passed since their mother’s death, the daughters of Suzanne Morphew have remained silent. The pain they must have felt at losing their mother on a day meant to honor her must be immeasurable. The knowledge that her death may have well been at their father’s hands is no doubt another painful revelation. The hurt they are undoubtedly feeling as Mother’s Day once again unfolds is something that no person should suffer.
Many details of this case are yet to unfold, but the most pressing question any of us can have is still “Where is Suzanne Morphew?” Her death is almost a given, but the location of her body remains. Hopefully, the person responsible for her disappearance will provide her family with the closure and peace they deserve and finally tell them where she is hidden so that they may bring her home for burial.
Update 5/15/2021: While Morphew’s case is still pending regarding the murder of his wife, he has now been further charged with voter fraud for casting a ballot in his wife’s name for Trump. He claims she would have voted for Trump if she were able to do so. I suppose the upside is that if they can’t make a murder charge stick without a body, perhaps he’ll at least go to jail for voter fraud. How very sad that we sometimes have to hope for an alternate justice instead of what is deserved.