First-degree premeditated murder
Homeless Michigan man Jeffery Bernard Morris, 60, was charged Tuesday from his hospital bed with the first-degree premeditated murder of poker professional Susie Zhao.
Court TV footage shows the suspected killer wearing his orange prison jumpsuit and a neck brace as he received his charge from an Oakland County judge:
On the basis of mobile phone records analyzed by local and federal investigators, Morris is suspected of meeting up with Zhao at Sherwood Motel in Waterford Township on July 12, the night before the discovery of her badly burned body.
suspected of meeting up with Zhao at Sherwood Motel
While he is expected to be released shortly and taken to Oakland County Jail, Morris was hospitalized Tuesday. The reason was not disclosed.
At a Wednesday press conference, White Lake Township police lieutenant Christopher Hild said investigators are continuing to look for a motive for the homicide. Morris was jailed following an interview with detectives, but so far he has refused to talk to investigators.
Zhao’s murder suspect was denied bond and is due back in court on August 18 for a probable cause hearing, which includes discussions regarding a possible plea agreement.
Morris a known sex predator
Zhao’s charred body was found in a parking area on July 13 near Maceday Lake and Cross roads within the Pontiac Lake State Recreation Park. After what Hild termed “an exhausting 24 days of investigation”, in which White Lake police was assisted by the FBI, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, and Waterford Police Department, Morris’s arrest took place on July 31.
an establishment Zhao was known to frequent
According to Hild, the two had allegedly been together at the Sherwood Motel on the Dixie Highway, an establishment Zhao was known to frequent. Hild said Zhao’s relationship, if any, with Morris is still being investigated. He also declined to comment on any evidence gathered from Zhao’s motel room.
“This is not the end of the investigation into Susie’s death,” Hild told reporters Wednesday.
No evidence to link crime to poker play
Despite Zhao’s high-profile career, Hild told reporters there is no evidence linking the murder to her poker playing. He spoke about her recent move from Los Angeles to her parents’ home in Waterford Township around June or before.
“We’re piecing together when she came back from California to Michigan,” Hild added. According to friends’ accounts, Zhao relocated to deal with challenges in her personal life.
In a difficult week for families of poker players, police in Reno are investigating the 24-day disappearance of former high-stakes pro Brad Booth.