Less than one month after the charred remains of professional poker player, Susie Zhao, was discovered, a suspect has been found, according to a report.
Jeffrey Bernard Morris, 60, a convicted sex offender, was charged in the grisly murder of the 33-year-old poker prodigy, according to a report by ABC-affiliated television station, WXYZ Detroit.
Zhao’s body was discovered in a secluded area in Michigan’s Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, and was identified by fingerprints. She was bound with zip-ties, and sexually assaulted with a large object before being "lit on fire until she died,” according to court documents obtained by WXYZ.
Morris, who was reportedly destitute and whose last known address was in Pontiac, was arrested on July 31 after being pulled over on a warrant in Ypsilanti. Police said that while in custody, he told cops he picked up Zhao before they both checked into the Sherwood Motel in Waterford Township on July 12, according to WXYZ. Morris alleged that the pair left the motel to pick up alcohol before returning and that Zhao left at midnight, taking "all her belongings including her cell phone with her," WXYZ reported.
However, court documents based on cell phone records reveal that Zhao’s cell phone didn't leave the motel until 5 a.m. Surveillance footage from the hotel, and phone records, indicate that Morris left during the early morning hours of July 13 and drove to the remote 3,745 acre park that is filled with barren land and acres of marshes, ponds, heavy forests, old farm fields, river bottom and lakes, WXYZ reported.
Morris was in the park for about seven minutes, according to WXYZ.
Zhao had been living in Los Angeles and moved to Michigan in June to stay with her parents as she confronted “challenges in her personal life,” according to her friends, and reported by the New York Post.
The rising poker star was last seen by her mom on the evening of July 12, authorities said. Her body was discovered the following morning in the parking lot of Pontiac Lake Recreation Area.
Zhao started playing poker on a team growing up in Troy. She began playing high-stakes games after pursuing her degree at Northwestern University. She was known on the professional poker circuit as Susie Q, winning as much as $16,000 in one hand.
According to her World Series of Poker player profile, Zhao had won $187,441 since 2009.
She often posted on social media about being a prominent woman in a male-dominated field.
"Everybody loved her," her friend Michelle Lagrou said. "Nobody ever remembers her fighting with anybody ever, no conflict, no drama."
Police said here has been no evidence indicating that poker or gambling was connected to her untimely death. However, detectives are still seeking a motive in the slaying.
Morris rap sheet goes back to 1989, when he was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1989.
Morris is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in her death. He did not enter a plea at his Aug. 4 arraignment. A probable cause conference is scheduled for Aug. 18.