Trial of Man Accused of Murdering Poker Pro Susie “Susie Q” Zhao Begins

  • Convicted sex offender Jeffrey Morris is accused of sexually assaulting and murdering Zhao
  • Cell phone evidence allegedly puts Zhao and the accused together at the time of the killing
  • Prosecutors have surveillance footage of Morris buying items used in the murder
  • The defense team is reportedly planning to argue that most of the evidence is circumstantial
Closeup of gavel in a courtroom
The trial of the man accused of murdering poker pro Susie “Susie Q” Zhao has started in Michigan. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A harrowing case

The trial of the man who is alleged to have murdered poker professional Susie “Susie Q” Zhao has begun in Michigan. 62-year-old convicted sex offender Jeffrey Morris faces felony murder and first-degree premeditated murder charges. There were numerous delays to the beginning of the trial, which started Monday, as a result of the pandemic and various legal matters.

covered in gasoline and set alight while alive

According to prosecutors, Zhao was sexually assaulted before she was covered in gasoline and set alight while alive. The 30-year-old’s body was found by two men in the parking lot area of Oakland County’s Pontiac Lake Recreation Area in July 2020. Most of her body was badly burned and her wrists had been zip tied.

The motive for the killing

It took the authorities ten days to arrest Morris following the Zhao’s discovery. Court documents outlined some of the details that led to the arrest. An FBI task force worked with White Lake police on the case.

At the time of his arrest, Morris was driving on a highway approximately 30 miles from the murder scene. Convicted of rape in 1989, police describe Morris as a homeless transient.

Zhao was originally from China, but moved to Michigan when she was young. After attending high school in Michigan, she went to Northwestern University to study psychology.

Prosecutors believe that Morris was looking to have “pornographic fantasies come true.” The trial is expected to last about one week and the prosecutors have 17 possible witnesses to call upon. Witness testimony began on Tuesday morning; the defense did not identify any witnesses.

Evidence in the case

Prosecutors plan to present cell phone evidence during the trial to show that Zhao and Morris were with one another on the day of the murder. Their two phones show that they were close to the murder scene around the time the killing took place. There is also surveillance footage of Morris allegedly stealing petroleum jelly and zip ties from a nearby store. Finally, prosecutors have permission to present evidence of the defendant’s internet searches and web history for a period surrounding the murder.

Zhao was originally from Michigan, having moved back to her home state not long before her death. She had been playing high-stakes poker in California for about a decade. Most of her focus was on cash games, but she still had tournament earnings throughout her career of $224,671.

It appears that Morris’ defense team will be arguing that the evidence is mostly circumstantial and that their client is anticipating “his day for vindication.” Morris has spent most of the time since his arrest awaiting trial in county jail.