The husband of a Colorado woman who has been missing for more than two years pleaded guilty on Thursday to casting her mail-in ballot for Donald J. Trump during the 2020 election, telling F.B.I. 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 Suzanne Morphew, who disappeared in May 2020 after going for a bike ride near her home in Salida, Colo.
The body of Ms. 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 100 miles 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 Mr. Morphew wrote his name on a line for legal witnesses to sign ballots. The ballot was dated Oct. 15, 2020.
When F.B.I. agents asked Mr. Morphew why he had returned his missing wife’s ballot, he told them, as detailed in the warrant, “Just because I wanted Trump to win.”
Mr. Morphew told investigators that he didn’t know he was not authorized 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 Trump anyway.”
Iris Eytan, a lawyer for Mr. Morphew, said in an interview on Friday 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 that instead of prosecuting Mr. Morphew for voter fraud, the authorities should be focused on the search for Ms. Morphew.
“Barry’s life is shattered,” she said. “Her disappearance is not linked to him. He’s looked at and treated like a killer.”