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Judge Moves Barry Morphew Trial To Neighboring County Over Pre-Trial Publicity
A judge ruled that Morphew was entitled to a change of venue, saying"the media saturation is too high" for him to receive a fair trial in the local area.
The murder trial of Barry Morphew has been moved to another county after a judge ruled that a presumption of prejudice in the jury pool exists following widespread news coverage.
On Monday, District Court Judge Ramsey Lama ruled in favor of a change of venue after the defense argued that Morphew could not receive a fair trial by an impartial jury, according to court records. The motion argued that residents in Chaffee County, Colorado, where Morphew’s wife disappeared on Mother’s Day 2020, have to have been influenced by the massive media attention paid to the case.
The trial — currently scheduled for May — will proceed instead in neighboring Fremont County.
The defense argued that “massive, pervasive, and prejudicial publicity” was “ongoing and does not seem, at this time, to have an end date in sight.”
Judge Lama agreed.
“Because of the size of the community and the pervasive negative pretrial publicity since Suzanne Morphew’s disappearance, the Court finds that a fair trial cannot take place in Chaffee County,” the judge stated in his ruling. “This is a high profile case in a relatively small county with a small jury pool. The media saturation is high.”
Suzanne Morphew, 49, vanished, allegedly after a bicycle ride in Chaffee County in May 2020. Morphew’s daughters sounded the alarm when they could not reach their mother while away on a camping trip. A widespread search commenced, resulting in authorities’ discovery of the victim’s bicycle in a ravine.
Despite large-scale attention on the case, Suzanne Morphew remains missing.
Monday’s ruling also noted that there was “pervasive community involvement in the search for Suzanne Morphew” in supporting the defense’s motion for a change of venue.
Barry Morphew was arrested in May 2021 — nearly one year after his wife’s disappearance — and charged with first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and many of the details that led to his arrest remain under seal.
However, during a preliminary hearing in August 2021, prosecutors alleged that Barry Morphew found out about his wife’s infidelity. One friend testified that the defendant said of his wife's alleged paramour, “If I find him, I will shoot off his balls and shove them down his throat.”
In September 2021, a judge released a 129-page affidavit in which Barry Morphew told FBI agents that his wife’s disappearance might have been God’s judgment for her two-year-long extramarital affair.
“Maybe in God’s eyes, this was his way of resolving something,” said the defendant.
Several texts were also presented during the hearing and more recently released by the judge that suggested there were broader problems in the marriage.
“He won’t speak of divorce,” Suzanne Morphew texted to a friend. “Begging for another chance. I’m so torn. But [in] my heart, I know who he is.”
While Morphew remains out on bond, he maintains support from his adult daughters. Last week, Judge Lama allowed the defendant to travel over county lines to visit his children.