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Professional poker player tortured, set on fire after meeting with accused killer

Posted at 4:44 AM, Aug 12, 2020

(WXYZ) — New information has been released in the FBI and local police investigation into the murder of professional poker player Susie Zhao. Police found her burned body on July 13 in a secluded park in the Detroit area.

According to court documents, Zhao 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.”

Cell phone records show she met with Jeffery Morris the evening before. After Morris was arrested, he told police he picked up Zhao on Watkins Lake Road and they both checked into the Sherwood Motel at around 9:26 p.m.

Morris told police they left the motel to buy some alcohol at a party store and returned to the motel.

Morris said Zhao left the motel at midnight “and took all of her belongings including her cell phone with her.”

According to the court documents, cell phone records indicate that Zhao’s cell phones did not leave until around 5 a.m. Surveillance footage near the motel and phone records show Morris left at that time and drove to the secluded park. Other evidence shows he was there about seven minutes.

Days later, the police and FBI found Morris and his vehicle in Ypsilanti, about 45 minutes south of where Zhao's body was found. A search found several footwear impressions, several hairs, fibers and other items with possible blood stains.

Investigators also found duffel bags with Morris’ identification, a fitted bed sheet with apparent blood stains as well as a wooden baseball bat with a possible big blood stain. Those are being tested at the Oakland County Crime Lab.

Police said last week the motive for the murder and the reason Morris and Zhao met are still under investigation.

RELATED: Man accused in poker player's brutal death had lengthy criminal history

Early speculation was that Zhao, or "Susie Q," as she’s known in the poker circuit, may have been killed in connectionwith her being a professional poker player living in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. She came home in June.

But now the evidence shows this was homegrown deadly trouble that she faced when she met up with Morris, a convicted sex offender.

This story originally reported by Jim Kiertzner on wxyz.com.