Susie Zhao Murder Update: Video Surveillance and Phone Tracking Led to Suspect's Arrest1 month ago
New information released in connection with the murder of Michigan poker pro Susie Zhao shows that authorities likely tracked Zhao’s gruesome murder to arraigned suspect Jeffery Bernard Morris through a combination of video-surveillance footage and cell-phone location tracking records.
The latest information regarding Morris’s involvement with Zhao’s violent July 13 murder comes from a news update on Tuesday from Detroit’s WXYZ / Channel 7, one of several local outlets tracking the case. According to an update also available at wxyz.com, authorities have also trapped Morris in a proven lie regarding his and Zhao’s whereabouts on the night of her murder.
According to details in the criminal complaint obtained locally by WXYZ, investigators were able to trace Zhao’s location on July 12th, the evening of her disappearance, via cell phone records that placed her at the Sherwood Motel, just outside Pontiac. Zhao and Morris checked in there at about 9:30 pm. According to Morris, who admitted meeting Zhao, the two then went to a nearby party store for alcohol.
After that, however, Morris’s version of events veered wildly from what investigators determined had happened. Morris claimed that Zhao left the motel around midnight, taking with everything of hers including her cell phone, but detectives instead learned that Zhao’s phone was still at the motel until about 5 am, when footage showed Morris himself driving off.
Morris’s car was also present for about seven minutes at the location where Zhao’s bound and charred body was discovered three hours later, in a remote park-access parking area several miles from the motel.
Morris’s presumptive lies also frame the violent and sadistic nature of what authorities declared happened that night. According to the document obtained by 7 Action News, “[Zhao] was bound with zip-ties, and sexually assaulted with a large object before being ‘lit on fire until she died.’”
Several days elapsed before local police and the Detroit office of the FBI were able to identify the 33-year-old Zhao from remaining fingerprints, and more than another week elapsed before the investigators established the links to Morris, a convicted violent sex offender with multiple felonies in his past. Morris, 60, was arrested in his vehicle on July 31st near Pontiac. More incriminating evidence was found in that vehicle, according to the latest news, including “a fitted bed sheet with apparent blood stains as well as a wooden baseball bat with a possible big blood stain.”
The WXYZ / 7 Action News update states that Zhao was ziptied and taken to the remote area, where she was set on fire. The earlier quote infers that Zhao was still alive when she was taken to the remote township parking area.
Still more details are likely to emerge when Morris makes his next court appearance, a show-cause hearing on Tuesday, August 18. However, this remains one of the darkest stories with a connection to poker in recent memory, perhaps since wannabe poker pro Ernie Scherer III murdered his parents in 2008 in an attempt to claim an inheritance and continue funding his losing poker career. Morris, a serial offender and a likely flight risk, remains held without bond in the Oakland County Jail pending further developments in the case.
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