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Suzanne Morphew autopsy: CO woman's death ruled a homicide after strong sedatives, opioid painkiller detected

Anybody with information on this case is asked to call the tip line at 719-312-7530 or email
Posted at 12:40 PM, Apr 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-30 15:15:24-04

CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. — The autopsy report for Suzanne Morphew, a Colorado mother whose 2020 disappearance captured worldwide attention, was released on Monday and confirmed her death was a homicide after a mix of powerful sedatives and an opioid painkiller was detected in her system.

Her remains were found in a shallow grave in Saguache County more than 1,200 days after she was reported missing on Mother's Day in 2020.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) made the announcement on Sept. 22, 2023 and confirmed dental records were used to identify the 49-year-old mother a few days later on Sept. 27.

Breaking: Suzanne Morphew's autopsy results released

CBI said the remains were discovered during a search in connection with an unrelated investigation around the Town of Moffat. Moffat is about 45 miles south of the Maysville area in Chaffee County, where Suzanne Morphew was last seen.

No arrests have been made since the remains were located.

Extensive search done Friday near where Morphew remains were found: What we know

On Monday, CBI categorized her death as a "homicide by undetermined means in the setting of butorphanol, azaperone, and medetomidine intoxication," according to an autopsy report by the Chaffee County Coroner's Office.

The National Institute of Health explains that butorphanol is a synthetic opioid pain-killer, azaperone is a sedative commonly used as a tranquilizer for pigs and elephants, and medetomidine is regularly used by veterinarians to sedate and provide pain relief for dogs.

The autopsy report has been shared with the Morphew family.

In addition to Chaffee County Coroner Jeff Graf, members of the Chaffee County Sheriff's Office, CBI, FBI, Saguache County Sheriff's Office and 12th Judicial District Attorney's Office attended the autopsy.

According to the report, investigators submitted three large paper bags containing human bones, non-human bones and fragments, as well as seven bags containing clothing and seven envelopes containing various items, including a "dirt-covered purple medical port," pieces of fabric and a "weathered bullet."

Iris Eytan, attorney for Suzanne Morphew's husband Barry Morphew, said the shallow grave where the remains were found did not include feet, socks or shoes.

Anybody with information on this case is asked to call the tip line at 719-312-7530 or email

The Morphew family released a statement on Monday regarding the autopsy findings. In full, it reads:

Suzanne Morphew was last reportedly seen on May 10, 2020 when she left for a bicycle ride around the Maysville area. A neighbor called 911 to report that she had never returned. Barry Morphew, Suzanne Morphew's husband, was later identified as a suspect and was arrested on charges of first-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence, attempting to influence a public servant, tampering with a deceased human body, and possession of a dangerous weapon. Denver7 covered the four days of his preliminary hearing in August 2021. Barry was released on bond after the judge ruled the case would proceed to trial.

In February 2022, Barry's defense team filed a motion to dismiss the first-degree murder case against him, noting that an investigator had recently called the arrest "premature." They asked the judge to dismiss the case because of “prosecutorial discovery violations.” On April 19, 2022, a Fremont County judge granted the prosecution's motion to dismiss the murder case against Barry. The motion asked the court to dismiss the charges without prejudice, meaning he could be tried again if prosecutors refile charges.

In May 2023, Barry's attorney called for an investigation into the 11th Judicial District Attorney and the six other prosecutors in that office, citing a pattern of unethical conduct. Three defendants were later dismissed from the lawsuit.

About two weeks later, Barry filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in early May 2023 seeking $15 million over his arrest and first-degree murder charge. He claimed his Constitutional rights were violated by the defendants and that his arrest affidavit included false and misleading information and, as a result, he was wrongly held in jail for about five months. On Feb 19, 2024 two more prosecutors were accused of conspiring to discredit the judge who was overseeing the now-dismissed trial.

After her remains were found in September 2023, loved ones of Suzanne Morphew said they hope investigators can finally piece the mystery together.

Suzanne Morphew: Salida community hopes discovery of body helps investigators "finish the job"

“I guess we’re going to start over because now the sheriff’s office and the FBI and CBI said what they needed was her body,” her friend Tisha Leeway told Denver7. “Now they have her body, so now let’s finish the job.”

See a timeline of the case below.

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