White Lake Township — A transient sex offender charged in the slaying of an Oakland County pro poker player apparently met her at a motel the night before her badly burned body was found, police said Wednesday.
Jeffery Bernard Morris, 60, of Pontiac was formally charged Tuesday from a hospital bed in the death of Susie Zhao, 33, whose body was discovered July 13 near a trail head at the Pontiac Lake Recreation area.
At a news conference, police said they have yet to find a motive in Zhao’s slaying.
“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,” Detective Lt. Chris Hild told reporters.
Morris is charged with first-degree, premeditated murder in the slaying of Zhao, a professional poker player known as “Susie Q” who had competed in several tournaments including the ESPN World Series of Poker. Zhao, described as a “free spirit” by friends, had recently returned to Michigan from California to live with her mother in Waterford Township.
Police said Morris, a convicted sex offender, is believed to have met up with Zhao the night before her body was found in a parking area at Maceday Lake and Cross roads in White Lake Township. The pair are believed to have met at a Waterford Township motel, according to cell phone records reviewed by local and federal investigators.
Morris was arrested last Friday based on unspecified evidence collected by investigators, Hild said. Police described Morris as a transient, homeless person whose last known address was in Pontiac.
Investigators have learned Zhao had stayed at the same motel on several occasions prior to last month. Her relationship — if any — with Morris remains under investigation, Hild said. The detective said Morris is not a suspect in any other incidents in the township but said it wouldn’t surprise him if he was of interest to other jurisdictions.
Morris was hospitalized, Hild said. He declined to discuss details, citing federal privacy law, but did say Morris’s situation was not believed to be life-threatening and he is expected to be discharged soon and lodged in the Oakland County Jail.
Clarkston District Judge Kelley Kostin denied bond Friday due to the severity of the crimes and set a probable cause for Aug. 18.
Hild said police are still interviewing people who may have information in the death. He said investigators have no evidence Zhao’s death had anything to do with her gambling or card-playing.
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