ALEXANDRIA — The husband of an Alexandria native who went missing supposedly while on a bike ride last year on Mother’s Day near the mountain town of Maysville, Colorado, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of her murder.
After nearly a year of searching and hoping, Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze announced Barry Morphew was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Suzanne Moorman Morphew, 49. He also was charged with tampering with evidence and attempting to influence a public servant.
Barry Morphew, 53, whose arraignment is expected to take place Thursday, is being held in the Chaffee County Detention Facility.
“Today is not the day for celebration. Nor does it mark the end of this investigation,” Spezze said at a news conference Wednesday.
He and Linda Stanley, who was sworn in as district attorney for Colorado’s 11th judicial district in January, stressed that the affidavit detailing the evidence will remain sealed and that Suzanne Morphew’s body has not been found.
The arrest, Spezze said, is the culmination of an investigation by 70 law enforcement officers from his department, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of investigation. According to Spezze, more than 135 search warrants were executed on 400 individuals throughout several states as part of the investigation.
Stanley said when investigators tried to interview Barry Morphew, he refused to answer questions and asked for a lawyer.
Spezze said he does not expect any additional arrests.
Debbie Moorman, Suzanne Morphew’s sister-in-law, said she felt a little overwhelmed after the murder charge was announced.
“It’s been a long, difficult year,” she said, declining to make additional comment until after the family learns more details.
Morphew’s birthday was last Friday, and a bench in her honor was dedicated Sunday at Alexandria’s Community Garden.
Morphew was the daughter of Gene Moorman, former owner of the popular Gene’s Root Beer drive-in restaurant on Scatterfield Road in Anderson. He died in November.
The Morphews and their two daughters moved to Maysville, Colorado, about three years ago.
Over the past year, Alexandria residents have held vigils, circulated social media posts using the hashtag #shinebrightforsuzanne and hung teal and yellow ribbons around the city as they held out hope that she would be found alive and well.
Alexandria City Councilwoman Amy McCurry, who has been at the forefront of many of those efforts, said news of the arrest first came across her phone. Then she started receiving a spate of phone calls from concerned family members and friends.
“I honestly feel every emotion there is to feel, and don’t even know how to process that still,” she said, sobbing. “I’m typically not an angry person, but I am angry, obviously. I’m so sad. I am so sad for her family. I am sad for this family. I am sad for those girls.”
In the back of her mind, McCurry said she long has doubted that Suzanne Morphew still was alive. But hearing about the charges against Barry Morphew made what she prayed wasn’t true real.
“For those who suspected it, you didn’t want to for many reasons, obviously,” she said. “We just pray that justice however it needs to be served is served.”
McCurry said she finds comfort in the knowledge that Suzanne Morphew was a strong Christian woman.
“I just want to be that positive light because she was always such a positive light,” she said.
Alexandria City Council President Patty Kuhn received the call shortly after noon from her sister, who is married to Suzanne Morphew’s older brother, David Moorman. Kuhn said her daughter grew up with Morphew, and they were friends.
“She was crying, I was crying,” Kuhn said of her reaction to news of the arrest. “It was an emotional release, just to get another step closer to getting this resolved.”
She said the family had given up long ago on the possibility of finding Suzanne Morphew alive.
“It has taken up a lot of emotional time. It has been so stressful for Suzanne’s brothers and sister,” Kuhn said. “I’m just glad it didn’t go on for years, not having an arrest made.”
Kuhn said she and others long suspected foul play.
“We did hold out hope that she would be found, but it wasn’t likely,” she said. “If that had happened, if she would have been abducted or something, the hell that she had been through. How would she have survived that?”
Though the arrest still came as something of a surprise, Kuhn said she believes she is one of many people who thought Barry Morphew might have been involved in his wife’s disappearance.
“Everything was pointing to him,” she said. “It’s been a year, so we didn’t really know what the outcome would be. A lot of things didn’t make a lot of sense.”
Rob Keesling, a longtime friend of Suzanne’s brother Andy Moorman, said his first reaction to the news of Barry Morphew’s arrest was “finally.”
Keesling took part in a search last September in Colorado in an effort to find Suzanne Morphew.
“Everyone in that immediate search party saw Barry,” he said. “You would see him driving in town.
“He (Morphew) didn’t help in the search, which was not a surprise,” Keesling said. “It was consistent with his behavior from the beginning. It was sad, but didn’t surprise me.”
Keesling said he knows that Morphew is innocent until proven guilty but that his actions and behavior don’t warrant following that belief.
“Basically he tried and convicted himself,” he said.
Keesling said he’s certain the Colorado law enforcement officials wanted all the details in place before making an arrest.
“It’s a sad day,” he said.
Keesling said he was “praying for a miracle” when he helped with the search last year.
“I was hoping she wasn’t murdered, maybe abducted,” he said. “There were more than 700 people that took part in that search from many different states. There was a massive outpouring of good.”
Keesling said the Moorman family has probably been dealing with a constant changing of emotions.
“I think they accepted she was dead,” he said. “If it was my sister, I can’t understand what closure is. I would never forgive him.”