Poker Player Susie Zhao Was Burned Alive, Autopsy Shows

Posted on: September 15, 2020, 07:58h. 

Last updated on: September 15, 2020, 08:41h.

Murdered poker player Susie Zhao was probably alive when she was set on fire by her killer, according to the medical examiner who conducted her autopsy.

Susie Zhao
Police said there had been eight phone calls between Susie Zhao and Jeffrey Morris on the night the poker player was murdered. (Image: Metro)

Dr. Andrew Hanosh was in a Michigan court Monday to testify at a preliminary hearing in the trial of Jeffrey Morris, 60. He is a sex offender and transient who has been charged with first-degree murder in the case.

Zhao’s body was found by two local men in a car parked at the Pontiac Lake Recreation Area in Oakland County on July 13. The body was badly burned, and her wrists had been bound with zip ties. One of the men told the court he didn’t know whether it was a “store mannequin or Halloween prank.”

Known in the poker world as “Susie Q,” Zhao had recently returned to her native Michigan after a decade in California pursuing a career as a high-stakes poker player.

Contact Between the Two

During a harrowing testimony, Hanosh explained that soot had been found in the victim’s airway, suggesting she had been burned alive. She also had been sexually assaulted. There was extensive damage to her genitals, Hanosh said, adding that around 90 percent of the body’s surface area had been burned. She was identified by her fingerprints.

According to White Lake Police Department detective Thomas Sorasin there had been eight phone calls between Morris and Zhao on July 12.

They also both stayed at the Sherwood Motel in Waterford, both in room number 7, although not at the same time, and this is where prosecutors believe Zhao met Morris that night.

The FBI, which aided the investigation, said cell phone tower records showed both Zhao and Morris’ phones were present near the Pontiac Lake Recreation Area at the approximate time of the murder.

“Cellular records consistent with travel from the geographical area of Sherwood over to the geographic area of the body location,” said FBI agent George Rienerth.

Morris was also caught on security cameras visiting a Meijer store, where an employee testified he is believed to have shoplifted cable ties and petroleum jelly.

Evidence ‘Circumstantial’

Morris was arrested by White Lake police and an FBI task force on July 31 driving west along I-275, around 30 miles from where the body was found. He sustained unspecified injuries during his arrest and was charged while still in his hospital bed.

On Monday, his lawyer argued that the evidence against her client was circumstantial.

Ultimately, the judge ruled the prosecution had enough evidence for Morris to be bound over for trial.