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Murder case dismissed against Barry Morphew after wife disappears in Colorado

The prosecution filed a ‘motion to dismiss without prejudice,’ meaning the case could still be refiled down the road.
WATCH: Murder case against Morphew dismissed after wife disappears in Colorado
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 9:17 AM MDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2022 at 11:56 AM MDT
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CANON CITY, Colo. (KKTV) - Barry Morphew left the Fremont County courthouse a free man Tuesday after a judge agreed to dismiss the case.

In a surprise turn, it was prosecution who filed the motion to dismiss.

However, this doesn’t necessarily end things for Morphew.

“Dismissing without prejudice” means that though the case is dismissed for now, it could be refiled down the road.

The murder case centers around the disappearance of Morphew’s wife Suzanne, who vanished on a bike ride in Chaffee County on Mother’s Day 2020. First considered a missing person, she is now presumed dead by law enforcement, though to date no remains have been found.

The motion cites the inability to search for Suzanne’s remains at this time as the prosecution’s reason for asking for a dismissal, leaving an opening to return to the case if and when she is located:

Excerpt from prosecution motion to dismiss without prejudice.
(Colorado Courts)

The prosecution explained their reasoning further on pages 7-8 of the motion:

“As an offer of proof, the People and law enforcement believe we are close to discovering the victim’s body. 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. Specifically, the area law enforcement has been focused on is in a remote and mountainous region nearby the Morphew residence. This area received a significant amount of snow over the winter months before a search could be completed. To date, the area has 5 feet of snow concealing the location where the People believe Ms. Morphew is located. As a result, the People cannot safely excavate this area and resolve this unanswered question.

“By filing this motion, the People have complied with Rule 48(a); a motion to dismiss submitted in writing, publicly available, proffered in open court, and accompanied by a statement summarizing the reasons for the action. Given the timing of this motion before trial, the Defense does not need to consent, and does not have standing to object. The Court need only resolve the question of whether or not this motion was filed in good faith, such that clear and convincing reasons exist which further the interests of justice for the public and the Defendant. Issues related to speedy trial, or any other outstanding litigation would not be relevant to the Court’s determination at this juncture.

“Here, the People have presented sufficiently reliable good faith reasons to dismiss without prejudice. First, the People believe that we are close to locating the deceased victim’s body. The People’s fundamental responsibility in the criminal justice system is not to gain a conviction, but to further the truth-seeking process and ensure equal justice. In typical homicide cases, the fact of the victim’s death is rarely at issue, but in a case such as this, the most influential fact of consequence is whether or not Ms. Morphew is deceased. If the body proves to be there, further forensic examination could potentially inculpate or exculpate the Defendant, which is incredibly important evidence for the jury to hear in determining the merits of the case. Given the need to conduct further investigation to resolve these issues, this is a good faith basis to dismiss the current indictment.”

The full motion can be read at the bottom of this article.

Following the judge’s decision, the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement:

On Tuesday, April 19th, Linda Stanley, District Attorney for the 11th Judicial District, filed a motion to dismiss the pending charges against Barry Lee Morphew, including the First Degree Murder of Suzanne Morphew. The motion is a request to dismiss all charges without prejudice, which allows for the opportunity to refile charges against Mr. Morphew in the future. On the District Attorney’s motion, Fremont County District Judge Ramsey Lama dismissed the current case without prejudice. The Morphew trial will not proceed as scheduled for April 28, 2022, but future prosecution may be pursued pending further investigation.

The Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office acknowledges the decision of Judge Lama to dismiss the pending charges in the Morphew case. Sheriff John Spezze responded, "As an on-going, active investigation, we will not share additional information at this time. The Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office maintains its commitment to this case and will continue to work tirelessly to find the body of Suzanne Morphew. While we are disappointed in the delay of the proceedings, we remain unwavering in our commitment to this investigation and the ultimate prosecution of Mr. Morphew. I stand behind the strong work of the investigators within the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office and the many law enforcement agencies involved and the strong case we have built. Above all else, we remain dedicated to seeking justice for Suzanne and her family.”

The Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office will not address questions or issue additional comment on the Morphew case dismissal at this time. The Sheriff’s Office will issue updates as relevant.

The judge previously denied several defense requests to dismiss the case and as recently as April 8 had set a trial date for the end of the month.

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