Police have arrested a 60-year-old man on charges he murdered a 33-year-old professional poker player. The defendant, Jeffery Morris, was formally charged and arraigned Tuesday from a hospital bed after suffering an unspecified medical issue earlier in the day. He is accused of killing victim Susie Zhao, who died almost a month ago, according to Click on Detroit.
Zhao’s body was found burned on the morning of July 13 in Pontiac Lake State Recreation Area, officials said. The alleged motive remains unclear. Investigators initially said they were looking into whether Zhao’s life as a poker player played into her death, but sources cited by Click on Detroit said that’s likely not the case. These sources reportedly said she and the killer met at a local hotel. Her phone records lead investigators to Morris, investigators said.
Morris was arrested on Friday but was not identified publicly until Tuesday.
A local couple who previously took the defendant in said they kicked him out after he became violent.
“That’s sick, man,” Jeffrey Maybee said about the claim that the defendant murdered Zhao.
Morris “answered an ad from me to rent a basement from me,” the defendant’s former landlord Dawn Carr told Fox 2 Detroit. “I rented to him for about four months. He seemed like a real creeper, and I had to get him out of here, so I evicted him.”
The defendant faces a count of first-degree premeditated homicide. A District Court clerk in Oakland Co., Mich., told Law&Crime that Morris had no attorney of record as of Wednesday afternoon. Morris is scheduled for a probable conference August 18.
This new arrest is another chapter in the defendant’s criminal history. Past convictions reportedly included domestic violence, assault with intent to rob while armed, and failure to comply with sex offender reporting duties. Morris is in the Michigan sex offender registry because he was convicted in 1989 of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree (force or coercion).
[Mugshot of Morris via Michigan sex offender registry; screengrab of Zhao via Live at the Bike]
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