The implosion of the case against Barry Morphew, once charged with murdering his missing wife, has drawn new scrutiny to a Colorado prosecutor—who is accused of launching a bizarre media blitz and using her team to go after the judge.
Linda Stanley, the district attorney of the 11th Judicial District in Colorado, allegedly withheld information from defense lawyers, blew court deadlines, and divulged case details to true-crime YouTubers and podcasters—one of whom told The Daily Beast they were stunned by Stanley’s behavior.
“I was shocked, nervous, and unsettled when she contacted me,” Julez Wolf, who hosts “True Crime with Julez,” told The Daily Beast. “I was intimidated.”
Stanley reached out to Wolf on Facebook in September 2021—four months after Barry Morphew’s arrest—to discuss some criticisms that the YouTuber had made and to answer questions about the case.
“I reacted by feeling that she was bullying me and creating her own narrative,” Wolf said. “I suspected that by contacting me… she may have been going against the wishes of the court, but she insisted she was working within the law.”
The court, however, didn’t see it that way.
The complaint filed with the Colorado Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge last month against Stanley provides a behind-the-scenes look at how the prosecution in a high-profile murder mystery devolved into chaos until charges against Barry Morphew were dropped this spring.
The disappearance of Suzanne Morphew
Suzanne Morphew, a 49-year-old mother of two who lived in Maysville, Colorado, was reported missing by a neighbor on May 10, 2020, after she did not return home from a bike ride.
Her disappearance triggered a massive search over a 2.5-mile area near her home. This turned up her bike and undamaged helmet, but not Suzanne. Barry Morphew, her husband of 26 years and a landscaping business owner, released a video pleading for his wife’s safe return.
“Oh Suzanne, if anyone is out there that can hear this, that has you, please, we’ll do whatever it takes to bring you back. We love you. We miss you. The girls need you. No questions were asked. However much they want, I will do whatever it takes to get you back. Honey, I love you. I want you back so bad,” he said, offering a $200,000 reward.
It wasn’t long before questions about Barry Morphew began to arise, fueled in part by a report that he was seen cleaning a Denver hotel room just before his wife went missing. He denied any involvement and said he last saw Suzanne sleeping at home before he left on a business trip.
In a Fox21 interview that August, Morphew complained that he was being painted as a villain and offered theories about what could have happened to Suzanne, including the idea that she was the victim of an animal attack. “We don’t know why God does what he does. But we have to trust him,” he said.
The ongoing search yielded no sign of Suzanne, but in May 2021, nearly a year after she went missing, Barry Morphew was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence. Days later, he was hit with additional charges for allegedly casting a mail-in ballot on behalf of his wife—for Donald Trump. (Morphew pleaded guilty last July in the voter fraud case and did not receive jail time.)
There’s a new DA in town
Stanley, a former police officer and prosecutor, was elected DA in November 2020, five months after Suzanne Morphew disappeared. The case had become national news and spawned hundreds of headlines and TV segments, and the new prosecutor embraced the media attention.
According to the complaint, Stanley contacted Mike King, host of the “Profiling Evil” YouTube channel, about a month before Morphew’s 2021 arrest. On May 3, 2021, two days before the press conference where she announced Barry Morphew’s arrest, she texted and called King. After the charges were made public, she allegedly sought to provide information about the investigation to King in response to his questions about the complaint.
“Um, I will see what I can do. Only because it’s you, Mike,” Stanley replied to King’s query, according to the complaint.
King, who did not respond to a request for comment, floated the theory that Barry Morphew had strangled his wife in a hot tub, which Stanley shot down by revealing that the tub looked like it had not been used “in a long time,” the complaint says. “But keep on spinning ideas in your brain!” Stanley allegedly texted King.
In August 2021, as preliminary hearings in the case were underway, Stanley and King were allegedly texting again. “Feeling good?” King asked Stanley on the third day of the hearings, when Morphew’s attorneys cross-examined a former Colorado Bureau of Investigations agent about DNA.
“Yes. Only because the judge has basically indicated that he’s done. That’s good for us,” Stanley responded, according to the complaint. Later that day, the YouTuber texted the DA again, asking whether Morphew “tried to stare you down” during the hearing.
“I stared at him down. I have tried every single day,” Stanley allegedly responded.
The pair had another conversation before Stanley appeared on King’s show on Aug. 30, 2021, to discuss the ongoing case. She talked about the process of a preliminary hearing, how her office did not get the full case data until after Morphew’s arrest, and how her husband’s cooking helps her deal with the “stress” of the case.
“I am never going to compromise my ethical beliefs at all. Or compromise a case at all,” Stanley said. “I thought, this is my third time on here. By now, you should know who I am and what I am about, and more importantly, what I am not about.”
Afterward, Stanley took the time to respond to comments by viewers under the YouTube video.
“I’m curious how long you’ve been a criminal law attorney since you like to think that you know it,” Stanley wrote in response to a comment that questioned how prosecutors could win without Suzanne’s body.
It was around that time that Stanley reached out to Wolf, who had questioned the DA’s investigation in one of her videos. Wolf said Stanley messaged her directly to defend herself—and even gave her a personal cellphone number.
Wolf asked Stanley in that conversation whether Morphew was “getting ready to flee,” to which the DA responded, “Possibly,” the complaint says. Wolf also displayed some of the messages between her and Stanley in a Sept. 14, 2021 video. It didn’t take long for Morphew’s defense team to get wind of Stanley’s media campaign. The Wolf video and Stanley’s interview on “Profiling Evil” were detailed in a September 2021 defense motion for sanctions against the prosecution.
Despite the defense's allegations of prosecution misconduct, the court found probable cause for the charges to move the case forward to trial. The judge then granted Morphew a $500,000 cash-only bond, going against the prosecution’s recommendation of a $10 million bond.
Iris Eytan, who represented Morphew, told The Daily Beast that she was shocked to hear that Stanley had discussed the case in public and said the DA was “causing this confusion and giving false hope that they had a stronger case than they did.” The defense attorney, however, added that her client always denied the allegations and that the judges in the case were fair in their rulings.
Afterward, the complaint says, Stanley texted King about the bond decision. She told the YouTuber she was not surprised because one of the prosecution’s witnesses “majorly screwed up on his testimony.”
“He’s not on the case anyway,” Stanley allegedly added.
Investigating the judge?
The allegations about Stanley’s media contacts and appearances pale in comparison to another accusation in the complaint, which says she asked her team to investigate whether then-Judge Ramey Lama, who presided over the case, “ever abused his ex-wife.” An investigator interviewed the ex-wife, who denied the claims.
Lama joined the case in January 2021, after the former judge recused himself over his personal relationship with an attorney linked to the investigation. He soon determined that the trial should be moved out of the county, in part, because of Stanley’s public comments—and continued to hammer the prosecution until the scheduled April 2022 trial date.
The judge also reportedly called the prosecution “sloppy” for being late on discovery deadlines and said the pattern was “negligent, bordering on reckless.” He also barred prosecutors from using 11 of the 16 expert witnesses set to testify about cellphone data, vehicle data, and DNA.
On March 12, 2022, Stanley texted the Morphew prosecution team an online petition Wolf to oppose Lama’s decision to bar a prosecution expert on domestic violence, according to the complaint. In the petition, titled “Help give Suzanne Morphew back her voice (and all the other Suzannes),” Wolf alleges “that the ex-wife of Judge Lama is an advocate of Suzanne Morphew and victims of domestic abuse.”
Stanley encouraged her underlings to interview Lama’s ex and ask if the judge “is trying to get back at her, essentially, in almost a passive-aggressive way by making this case impossible to prosecute” according to the complaint.
“We wanted to see if she would say anything to us about any of that or if these actions by the judge may be almost a passive-aggressive move at her,” Stanley said in a message to the prosecutors, the complaint states.
After a local sheriff’s investigator declined to interview the judge’s ex, the DA had her own investigator speak to her on April 15. The ex, according to the complaint, denied the DA’s out-of-thin-air theory.
Lama, who did not respond to a request for comment, told the Denver Gazette that a YouTuber also previously accused him of domestic violence, posting a threatening video that prompted the Canon City police to escort him to court for a while. He said he was appalled by Stanley’s decision to interview his ex on a false rumor.
“These were flagrant bullying and retaliatory actions and I thought the public needed to know,” he said in an interview with the Denver Gazette. “She believed she could do it. That there was nothing wrong with it.”
The case against Barry Morphew implodes
Four days after the judge’s interview, Stanley moved to dismiss the case against Barry Morphew without prejudice, meaning charges could be refiled at any time. The decision was so unexpected that it even caught the defense team by surprise.
At the time, the DA said charges would be revisited when Suzanne’s body was found, suggesting that her office just wanted to wait for stronger evidence. Previous hearings revealed that the prosecution’s case hinged on circumstantial evidence with no clear narrative on how Suzanne was killed.
Suzanne’s remains were discovered in September, and the DA’s office has not announced charges against Morphew—or anyone else—leaving it unclear whether anyone will face justice for her murder. (It is not immediately clear how Suzanne died and Morphew’s legal team told The Daily Beast they are still waiting on autopsy results.)
Meanwhile, Stanley’s troubles are not confined to the disciplinary judge’s complaint filed this month.
She has been hit with half a dozen other complaints since she took office in January 2021. Some involve the Morphew case and are pending; KRDO reported that Stantely is using taxpayer dollars to defend herself.
Another complaint filed in August alleges that Stanley gave a TV interview about a case involving a baby’s death before trial in which she cursed and offered her opinion of the baby’s mother. The complaint is pending, and Stanley has not responded to the allegations.
In response to one of the Morphew complaints that alleges she has a pattern of violating court discovery rules, Stanley told Fox21 in July that the Colorado Attorney Regulation Counsel’s investigation is “not going to find anything.”
“It’s a witch hunt, in my opinion,” she added.
Stanley did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast. Morphew’s lawyer, Iris Eytan, said her client, who maintains he had nothing to do with the murder, is primarily focused on finding out what happened to Suzanne. He has also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit over his arrest. “All the family wants to know is what happened to Suzanne,” the lawyer said. “All of this other stuff is background noise.”
But Lama, who resigned as a judge in April 2022 for personal reasons, is not holding back on his thoughts about Stanley.
“I think she should lose her law license,” he said. “I do not believe she should be practicing law. This was an abuse of her position.”