Colorado man pleads guilty to casting missing wife's ballot for Trump

The outcome marked the latest twist in the mystery of what happened to Mrs Suzanne Morphew, who disappeared in May 2020. PHOTO: AFP

COLORADO (NYTIMES) - The husband of a Colorado woman who has been missing for more than two years has pleaded guilty to casting her mail-in ballot for Mr Donald Trump during the 2020 election, telling FBI agents, "I figured all these other guys are cheating."

The man, Barry Morphew, 54, was given a sentence of one year of supervised probation but avoided jail time after pleading guilty to one count of forgery, a felony, in district court in Chaffee County, according to court records.

The outcome in the voter fraud case marked the latest twist in the mystery of what happened to Mrs Suzanne Morphew, who disappeared in May 2020 after going for a bike ride near her home in Salida, Colorado. The missing-person's case has generated national headlines.

Prosecutors charged Morphew with first-degree murder last year. But then, in April, they dropped all charges against him related to her disappearance after a judge imposed sanctions on them for violating discovery rules.

Morphew maintained his innocence as prosecutors accused him of killing his wife after learning that she had been involved in an extramarital affair.

The body of Mrs Morphew, a mother of two who was 49 when she vanished, has not been found.

About five months after she was reported missing, her mail-in ballot for the 2020 election arrived at the clerk's office in Chaffee County, about 161km west of Colorado Springs, according to an arrest warrant. Election officials contacted the sheriff's office, which took a photograph of the ballot and seized it as evidence.

A space for the voter's signature was blank, but Morphew wrote his name on a line for legal witnesses to sign ballots. The ballot was dated Oct 15, 2020.

When FBI agents asked Morphew why he had returned his missing wife's ballot, he told them, as detailed in the warrant, "Just because I wanted Mr Trump to win."

Morphew told investigators that he did not know he was not authorised to cast a ballot for his wife.

"I just thought, give him another vote," he said, referring to Mr Trump. "I figured all these other guys are cheating. I know she was going to vote for Mr Trump anyway."

Ms Iris Eytan, a lawyer for Morphew, said on Friday (July 22) that her client had mistakenly assumed that when he became the legal guardian for his wife after her disappearance, it extended to voting.

"He believed that because he could sign legal documents for her, that the ballot, similarly, was under his authority," Ms Eytan said. "So he was following her wishes. He did not sign her name. He signed his name on the witness line. So he didn't, in any way, intend to deceive the clerk of the court."

Ms Eytan said instead of prosecuting Morphew for voter fraud, the authorities should be focused on the search for Mrs Morphew.

"Barry's life is shattered," she said. "Her disappearance is not linked to him. He's looked at and treated like a killer."

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