A suspect has been arrested in connection with the gruesome, tragic death of professional poker player Susie Zhao. 60-year old Jeffery Morris of Pontiac, Michigan was arraigned from his hospital room, charged with first-degree, premeditated murder of the 33-year old Zhao.
Police found Zhao’s burned body at the Pontiac State Recreation Area on July 15. It was a mystery as to what happened and aside from Morris being in custody, it still largely is.
The Detroit News reports that according to police, Morris is believed to have met up with Zhao in a parking lot in White Lake Township the night before she was found dead. According to phone records, it is thought that they met at a Waterford Township motel. Zhao was from Waterford Township, though she had been living in Los Angeles.
That is about all that is known right now, at least publicly. Zhao had apparently stayed at that same motel on other occasions, but it is not known how she and Morris knew each other, what their relationship was, or what the possible motivation was for her murder.
Morris does have a criminal history and was already on probation for retail fraud. He is also a registered sex offender with multiple domestic violence charges on his record. At the time of his arrest, he was technically homeless, staying on people couches.
His former landlord, Dawn Carr, told Fox 2 Detroit that he “had a decent job and seemed normal” when she first met him, but things quickly changed.
“He answered an ad to rent from me and I rented a basement to him for four months. He seemed like a real creeper to me so I had to get him out of here, so I evicted him,” she said.
Police would not say when Morris was in the hospital, but he is expected to recover just fine from whatever it is an be discharged soon. A probable cause hearing has been set for August 18.
Investigators are still interviewing people who might be able to help put the pieces together; the evidence leading to Morris’s arrest have not been made public. At this point, there is no evidence that Zhao’s murder has anything to do with poker or gambling.
As mentioned, Susie Zhao, who was known as “Susie Q” in the poker world, lived in Los Angeles. She was a regular in local cash games and spent a lot of time playing poker at the Bicycle Casino. On Twitter, Clayton Fletcher remembered playing against her in the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event, saying, “She was one of the bubbliest and most vivacious opponents I’ve ever had. She was a very strong player who also liked to have fun at the table.”
He added that he didn’t know her well, but she was “just one of those people who make a really strong impression.”
In live tournaments, Zhao had $224,671 in recorded cashes, coming primarily from three solid performances in the WSOP Main Event.
Image credit: Facebook / Susie Zhao