Pro poker player murdered after meeting with man at Michigan hotel: Police

The suspect is a convicted sex offender

On Tuesday, a Michigan man with a lengthy criminal history was formally charged with last month’s murder of professional poker player Susie Zhao.

According to The Detroit News, White Lake police said Wednesday that they still don’t know why Jeffery Morris, 60, killed Zhao, 33. Zhao’s charred remains were discovered July 13 in a parking area located near the Pontiac Lake State Recreation Area.

Police previously said they believe Zhao was killed at the park sometime after 11:45 p.m. on July 12. Cell phone records suggest Zhao met Morris at a Waterford Township motel the same evening, according to the news outlet.

How do you protect your children from predators? Join Nancy Grace and a team of world-class experts for the online course ‘Justice Nation: Crime Stops Here’.

Zhao reportedly stayed at the motel on several instances before her slaying. Law enforcement described Morris as a transient whose last known address was in Pontiac.

State records indicated that Morris is a Tier 3 sex offender with a 1989 conviction for third-degree criminal sexual conduct — force or coercion. A couple who lives in Pontiac said they took Morris in at one point but he was so violent they had to kick him out their home, according to WDIV.

Zhao was known in the professional poker circuit as Susie Q. She reportedly lived in Los Angeles and moved in with her parents in Michigan on June 9. Friends said Zhao bounced between cities, including Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and had recently moved back to Michigan to be closer to family and deal with some issues in her personal life.

A motive remains unclear. Authorities previously said they’re unsure if Zhao’s murder is connected to gambling in other states or to someone she recently met.

Morris was charged with Zhao’s murder from a hospital bed. White Lake Township police Lieutenant Christopher Hild didn’t reveal why Morris was being hospitalized, but said the suspect’s medical issue is not life-threatening.

Morris will remain jailed without bond after he’s discharged from the hospital. His next court hearing is scheduled for August 18.

For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast. Listen to a related episode:

Join Nancy Grace for her new online video series designed to help you protect what you love most – your children.

[Featured image: Jeffery Morris/Oakland County Sheriff’s Office; Susie Zhao/Facebook]