Did accused husband use chipmunks as his alibi for homicide?

When Suzanne Morphew, a Colorado mom of two ladies, vanished on Mom’s Day in Could 2020, authorities puzzled if she’d been kidnapped or if her husband Barry — whom she had threatened to divorce — may need killed her.

Investigators by no means anticipated the case would have so many weird twists and turns and finally contain a chipmunk alibi, a tranquilizer gun, a “speaking” truck, thriller DNA and a spy pen proper out of a James Bond movie.

“This case is extremely distinctive,” says Aya Gruber, a regulation professor on the College of Colorado at Boulder. “While you began to dig a bit bit deeper, nothing is what it appears.”

Barry and Susanne Morphew
Barry and Susanne Morphew


Correspondent Peter Van Sant investigates in “The Suzanne Morphew Case: Nothing Is What It Appears,” an all-new “48 Hours” airing Saturday at 10/9c on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

Gruber studied 1000’s of pages of public paperwork from the prosecutor, investigators and protection attorneys.

Suzanne was reported lacking on Could 10, 2020. She’d been alone that day as a result of her daughters, Macy, 16, and Mallory, 20, have been off on a church-sponsored tenting journey and deliberate to return dwelling later that Mom’s Day.

On the similar time, Barry Morphew informed investigators he had left the house early within the morning to drive to a job web site some three hours away. He stated the final time he noticed his spouse of 25 years was when she was sleeping of their mattress. 

After Suzanne was formally reported lacking by a neighbor, investigators started to look at Barry’s story. Associates and kinfolk informed investigators that the wedding was troubled, and brokers discovered a deleted textual content from Suzanne to Barry on his telephone that learn: “I am executed. I may care much less what you are as much as and have been for years. We simply must determine this out civilly.”

However 10 days after Suzanne disappeared, brokers have been pulled in a unique route once they discovered a so-called spy pen belonging to Suzanne. The spy pen has an extended battery life and is designed to look and write like an atypical pen.

Nevertheless it has one further characteristic: it’s voice-activated and information conversations. Suzanne had acquired it, she informed a buddy, as a result of she suspected Barry was having an affair and he or she hoped to make use of the pen to collect proof. However the plan backfired.

Investigators listened to what the pen had recorded and, though there was no proof of Barry having an affair, they are saying they heard “intimate” conversations between Suzanne and somebody named Jeff.

It was one other twist in a case crammed with them.

With out realizing who Jeff was or his location when Suzanne went lacking, they may not remove him as an individual or curiosity. It took FBI brokers six months earlier than they uncovered his id: Jeff Libler, a person each Suzanne and Barry knew from their Alexandria, Indiana, highschool. Jeff and Suzanne had had a one-time fling after commencement, and he or she’d reached out to him in 2018 after the Morphews moved to Colorado with a Fb message that learn merely: “Howdy stranger.”

“And from that second that they had talked nearly each single day nonstop,” stated Ashley Franco, a reporter for KKTV, the CBS affiliate in Colorado Springs, who has lined the story from the start.

That was sufficient to ignite a virtually two-year love affair. Jeff had a spouse and 6 kids. He lived in Michigan and claimed to be there along with his household on the day Suzanne vanished.

Brokers finally found the lovers had spoken to one another for dozens of hours, typically speaking through secret accounts on WhatsApp and LinkedIn. Jeff additionally admitted that they met for romantic rendezvous in New Orleans, Florida, Texas, Michigan and Indiana.

After Suzanne disappeared in Could 2020, Jeff didn’t contact authorities. As an alternative, brokers say, he deleted the accounts the place he had communicated with Suzanne.

“What he did was delete all his social media accounts that he had used to speak with Suzanne,” says Gruber. “He is bought so much to lose if revelations of this affair come out.”

Jeff reportedly informed brokers he didn’t need to tarnish Suzanne’s reminiscence, however he additionally informed them he fearful that he’d lose his spouse, kids and job. He additionally fearful he may be thought-about a suspect. “He asks the brokers, ‘Am I a goal?'” says Gruber.

After brokers confronted him, he did cooperate, offering a pattern of his DNA and passwords to the deleted accounts. Investigators finally have been in a position to retrace the couple’s steps and recovered texts by tapping into the iCloud accounts of Jeff and Suzanne.

Jeff was in a position to present receipts for a house items retailer he’d visited in Michigan on the day Suzanne vanished and he was finally cleared.

Investigators nonetheless had their suspicions about Barry Morphew. They by no means uncovered any proof that he was having an affair, however investigators discovered his actions on that Mom’s Day weekend to be suspicious.

Morphew property
Cellular phone information seem to indicate Barry Morphew’s telephone pinging throughout the home on Could 9. When requested about this uncommon telephone exercise, Barry informed investigators he was operating across the property taking pictures chipmunks, which Barry says have been a relentless nuisance.

Chaffee County District Court docket

They requested Barry why his telephone gave the impression to be pinging throughout his home on the day earlier than Mom’s Day and he informed them he should have been out taking pictures chipmunks, which he stated have been a relentless nuisance on the home.

It was maybe the world’s first chipmunk alibi, however Barry stood by it, saying he’d shot 85 chipmunks within the two years he owned that Colorado home.

“After which that confession to taking pictures chipmunks turns into a significant piece of incriminating proof towards him,” says Gruber.

Peter Van Sant requested why. “As a result of [agents are] saying, ‘Properly, you understand, now he is admitting to having run round the home. And this can be a ridiculous rationalization, so it have to be the reason of a responsible particular person,'” says Gruber.

What’s extra, there was no proof of any chipmunk shootings round the home and neighbors didn’t recall listening to any sort of disturbance throughout that time frame.

Instances typically activate the smallest of issues and, on this case, brokers seized upon simply such a small merchandise.

Morphew evidence
Investigators found this clear plastic needle cap within the Morphew household’s dryer.

Chaffee County District Court docket

Brokers had discovered a small clear plastic cap within the household’s dryer that they believed was from a syringe used to inject chemical substances right into a tranquilizer dart. Barry acknowledged he knew learn how to inject chemical substances right into a dart and that he’d shot many deer for trophies and so he may get their antlers. His storage was crammed with deer heads and a pile of antlers. Nonetheless, there was no working tranquilizer gun discovered within the dwelling and Suzanne’s DNA was on that plastic cap, not Barry’s.

Investigators developed a concept that Barry had shot Suzanne with a tranquilizer gun after which chased her round the home earlier than she handed out. They discovered a door body that was damaged and suspected there had been a confrontation.

Brokers additionally tapped into a brand new investigative instrument known as digital automobile forensics. They pulled information from his Ford truck’s many computer systems and bought the truck to “speak” to them. They realized that when Barry stated he was sleeping, the truck’s doorways have been opening and shutting.

Barry Morphew
This reserving picture was taken after Barry Morphew’s arrest, almost a 12 months after Suzanne’s disappearance. Regardless of not having discovered his spouse’s physique, he was charged with first-degree homicide and tampering with bodily proof and different costs.

Chaffee County Sheriff’s Workplace

He was arrested and charged with first-degree homicide and different crimes in Could 2021. Suzanne’s physique has not been discovered and prosecutors presume she is lifeless. Barry finally pleaded not responsible.

However on the eleventh hour, there was yet one more twist, revealed for the primary time publicly at a preliminary listening to to find out if there was sufficient proof for possible trigger.

Prosecutors admitted at a listening to held in the summertime of 2021 that their very own forensics workforce had uncovered DNA proof that threatened to destroy their case towards Barry. State technicians had discovered DNA on the glove compartment of Suzanne’s automobile that partially matched an unknown male related to a few unsolved sexual assault instances in three completely different cities. 

Barry Morphew and Jeff Libler have been excluded from that DNA pattern which meant there was an opportunity Suzanne had fallen into the arms of a sexual predator. “This DNA discovery is so vital,” Gruber stated. “Abruptly, the seemingly implausible turns into extra potential.”

Choose Patrick Murphy was candid in his evaluation of the case, saying it may go both approach earlier than a jury. He discovered sufficient possible trigger to place it over for trial however ordered that Barry be launched on $500,000 bond, observing that he thought there was not “a good chance” that Barry could be convicted by a jury. Barry entered a plea of not responsible to the fees.  

Barry Morphew raised the bond cash and is free awaiting trial. The trial is scheduled for Could 2022. Choose Murphy later disqualified himself due to a possible battle of curiosity involving a witness. A brand new choose was appointed in January 2022. There is no such thing as a replace on whether or not the trial shall be set for a later date. 

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