Barry Morphew, the Colorado man accused of murdering his wife before charges against him were dropped earlier this year, received a deferred sentenced of one year probation after pleading guilty to voting on behalf of the missing woman during the 2020 Presidential Election, according to local reports.
Morphew was accused in May 2021 of submitting Suzanne Morphew’s completed ballot despite Suzanne having been missing for a year – and amid an ongoing investigation surrounding her disappearance, according to an arrest warrant that was first obtained by FOX 21 and pertains to voter fraud allegations. FOX 21 reported Thursday that Morphew pleaded guilty to forgery during a morning arraignment related to the voter fraud allegations, FOX 21’s Lauren Scharf reported.
Scharf and FOX 21 were granted access to the Thursday morning virtual hearing as a result of a granted request for expanded media coverage.
Morphew, 53, was ordered to serve 32 hours of community service in addition to a deferred sentence of one year probation, Scharf reported.
Morphew, who shared two daughters with his missing wife, allegedly mailed Suzanne Morphew’s nearly completed ballot to the county clerk’s office, court papers show.
The ballot envelope showed a handwritten sender address of the Morphews’ Salida, Colorado, home and was dated Oct. 15. But the envelope was not signed by a voter, despite a line that said, "Voter’s Signature Required."
"However, the ballot did have a handwritten date of 10/15/2020 on the designated date line and the handwritten name of Barry Lee Morphew on the designated signature line of the Witness’s Legal Name," court papers state. The ballot was reportedly cast for former President Donald Trump.
When FBI agents confronted Barry Morphew on April 22, they asked him why he submitted Suzanne’s ballot. He responded: "Just because I wanted Trump to win," court papers allege, and he allegedly knew "she [referring to Suzanne Renee Morphew] was going to vote for Trump anyway."
When asked on Thursday if he wanted to make a statement before his sentencing, Morphew reportedly looked at his attorney, Iris Eytan, before saying no. When pleading for a lighter sentence, Eytan told the judge her client "signed the witness line" on the voter ballot "because he had legal guardianship. That was the wrong choice, and he understands that," according to Scharf.
She reportedly confirmed that Morphew did vote for Trump on her wife’s behalf.
The attorney also asked if Morphew, "an avid hunter," could use a hunting rifle and archery equipment for hunting, Scharf said. The judge reportedly said Morphew would now have to request to use a bow and muzzle-loader each time he wants to go hunting.
Police said they were told Suzanne Morphew left for a bike ride on May 10, 2020, but never returned. A neighbor reported her missing, officials said at the time.
A few days later, investigators found an item possibly belonging to her, but several searches that included waterways did not turn up a body.
A week after she went missing, Barry Morphew posted a video on Facebook pleading for her safe return.
"No questions asked, however much they want, I will do whatever it takes to get you back," he said.
The sheriff's office said it worked with law enforcement partners to execute over 135 search warrants statewide and interview more than 400 people in multiple states. The law enforcement teams looked into more than 1,400 tips.
Morphew's remains have never been recovered.
The Chaffee County District Attorney Linda Stanley said in May 2021 that investigators had gathered enough evidence to charge Barry Morphew with murder and tampering with physical evidence.
In a 131-page affidavit released after Morphew's arrest, investigators described how Morphew realized he couldn’t control his wife and her decision to leave him, so instead "he resorted to something he has done his entire life — hunt and control Suzanne like he had hunted and controlled animals," the document states.
But earlier this year, officials dropped the charges against Morphew just weeks before he was headed to trial. While the search for Suzanne continues, prosecutors said in April they believed they were close to locating her remains, which could implicate or exculpate her husband.
Meanwhile, Eytan told ABC her team will be taking action against the district attorney on the case and will be calling for a probe into prosecutors’ mishandling of the investigation.
"They absolutely dismissed this case at this point because they knew they were going to lose this trial and Mr. Morphew was going to be acquitted and exonerated," she told reporters after the news of the dismissal.
Eytan slammed Stanley's office's handling of the case and called the charges "false from the beginning."
"The affidavit that was filed in this case was egregious, and wrong, and had so many misstatements that carried it through to preliminary hearing where more lies and perjury were committed in order to get Mr. Morphew wrongfully convicted," she said.
Eytan said there was "not a single ounce" of physical evidence linking Barry Morphew to the case and noted that prosecutors have never before said they needed to find Suzanne Morphew's body in order to prosecute.
"In fact, there is DNA that is placed on all the critical items of evidence in this case – on the bike, on the bike helmet, in the house, in the car – that is linked to unknown males and has been linked to convicted sex offenders in this country."
She added: "And the prosecution has chosen not to follow those leads."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.