Colorado man suspected in wife's death appears in court

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In this still image from video, Barry Morphew, center, appears in court in Salida, Colo., Thursday, May 6, 2021. Morphew was arrested on Wednesday, May 5, in connection with the disappearance of his wife, Suzanne Morphew, who was last seen a year ago on Mother's Day, May 10, 2020. (KUSA via AP, Pool)

DENVER – A Colorado man suspected in the death of his wife who disappeared last Mother's Day made his first appearance in court Thursday to be advised of the charges he could face, including first-degree murder.

Barry Morphew, 53, wore an orange-and-white striped jail uniform during his brief in-person appearance in court in Salida, a historic mountain town about 140 miles (229 kilometers) southwest of Denver, a day after his arrest in connection with the death of Suzanne Morphew. He only spoke in response to Chief Judge Patrick Murphy's questions about whether he understood his rights and wanted public defenders appointed to represent him.

Prosecutors said they did not object to Morphew, who is being held in the nearby jail, from being able to have contact with his two daughters as long as it was civil. Murphy allowed the contact but ordered that it could not be harassing.

Barry Morphew made a reference to the daughters needing their mother in a video he posted on Facebook pleading for her safe return shortly after she vanished on May 10, 2020.

“No questions asked, however much they want, I will do whatever it takes to get you back,” he said.

The Morphew family relocated from Alexandria, Indiana, to Colorado in the spring of 2018, WISH-TV in Indianapolis reported Thursday. Before she became a mother, Suzanne Morphew taught at a middle school in Arcadia, Indiana, the station said.

Barry Morphew was taken into custody Wednesday without incident near his home in Poncha Springs, a small community in southern Colorado near some of the state’s tallest mountains. Authorities say the arrest was the result of an extensive and ongoing investigation that has so far failed to find Suzanne Morphew's body. After conducting over 135 searches across Colorado and interviewing 400 people in multiple states, investigators believe Suzanne Morphew is dead but have not found her body, Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze said.

Melinda Moorman, Suzanne's sister, told KXRM-TV in Colorado Springs on Wednesday she was relieved to hear about the arrest.

“Today, justice is beginning for my sister,” she said. “It’s been a journey that no one ever imagines that they’ll take.”

She added that she still loves her brother-in-law, “though he’s done a terrible thing.”

The arrest affidavit outlining the evidence leading investigators to believe Morphew is responsible for his wife’s death has been sealed although, during the court hearing, prosecutors said a digital copy was given to Morphew's lawyers.

One of two state public defenders appointed to represent Morphew, Daniel Zettler, has said he cannot comment on the case under office policy.

Murphy gave prosecutors 10 days to file charges against Morphew. He is scheduled to appear in court again on May 27.