Pro Poker Player Was Bound, Sexually Assaulted, ‘Lit on Fire’ After Motel Meeting

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Friends of Susie Zhao/Oakland County Jail
Friends of Susie Zhao/Oakland County Jail

Susie Zhao, the skilled poker participant whose charred stays had been present in a distant Michigan park in July, was allegedly certain with zip ties and sexually assaulted earlier than she was “lit on fire until she died” after assembly with a convicted intercourse offender, in line with new court docket paperwork. 

Zhao, 33, was final seen round 5:30 p.m. on July 12 by her mom, the White Lake Township Police Department beforehand instructed The Daily Beast. The subsequent day, her “badly burned” physique was found at round 8:05 a.m. in a car parking zone near the Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, about an hour outdoors of Detroit. 

Last week, Jeffrey Bernard Morris, 60, was charged from his hospital mattress with first-degree premeditated homicide. Authorities found the convicted intercourse offender allegedly met Zhao in a motel room the night time earlier than her physique was discovered. Morris, who’s homeless and has a “lengthy criminal history” is presently in jail after being denied bail. 

A Pro Poker Player Was Found ‘Badly Burned.’ Was She Murdered Over Gambling?

“This is not the end of the investigation into Susie’s death but the beginning of the pursuit of justice for her and her family,” White Lake Township Detective Chris Hild mentioned in a press convention. “We can only hope that where we are today brings some level of comfort to the healing process.”

In new court docket paperwork, first obtained by WXYZ, authorities revealed what occurred the night time the professional poker participant, recognized on the circuit as “Susie Q,” went lacking. 

Cell telephone data point out Morris and the rising poker star first met on July 12. In an interview with police the night time of his arrest on July 31, Morris admitted to selecting up Zhao on Watkins Lake Road earlier than they each checked into the Sherwood Motel at round 9:26 p.m.  

Morris instructed investigators the pair left the motel in some unspecified time in the future to purchase some alcohol and that Zhao left the motel at round midnight and took the whole lot along with her. Cell telephone data, nonetheless, present the 33-year-old’s telephone didn’t depart the motel till round 5 a.m on July 13, in line with the court docket paperwork. Surveillance footage near the motel and cellphone data additionally present Morris left the room at round 5 a.m., earlier than driving to a secluded part of the Pontiac Lake Recreation space— the place Zhao was discovered. 

Court paperwork say that proof suggests Morris was on the 3,745-acre park for about seven minutes. 

When Zhao was discovered the next morning, she was recognized by fingerprints and was certain with zip ties. She had been sexually assaulted with a big object earlier than being “lit on fire until she died,” the court documents state. 

A spokesperson for the Oakland County Medical Examiner told The Daily Beast that Zhao’s cause of death is currently unknown, pending an autopsy and toxicology results. 

When authorities pulled Morris over on a warrant in Ypsilanti weeks later, investigators found several hairs and other evidence with possible bloodstains. They also found duffle bags with a fitted bed sheet that appeared to have blood on it and a wooden baseball bat that also appeared to have a bloodstain. The items were taken to Oakland County Crime Lab for testing. 

Authorities are now scrambling to understand the motive behind the “mysterious death” that occurred just weeks after Zhao moved back to her home state of Michigan from California on June 9. 

Two childhood friends of Zhao previously told The Daily Beast that the poker player bounced between several cities—including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Florida—both for her job and because she was “a jet-setter.” 

According to PokerInformation.com, Zhao was profitable within the skilled employee world, garnering a number of deep runs within the World Series of Poker Main Event—putting 90th in 2012 to earn $73,805. Over the course of her profession, Zhao gained $224,671, according to the poker database The Hendon Mob. Despite earlier speculation, authorities have said there is no evidence that Zhao’s death was connected to her gambling.

“I don’t think there was ever anything else that she wanted to do. She was playing poker from a very young age,” Meredith Rogowski, a childhood friend, told The Daily Beast. “It was not a surprise. She was very bold and did whatever she wanted to do. Whenever we talked about her job, she was very nonchalant. But I do know it was exhausting to be in that world—it was long-hours and some of the people she met weren’t always genuine.”

Read extra at The Daily Beast.

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