A slain Michigan poker player was bound with zip ties, sexually assaulted and “lit on fire” before her badly burned body was left abandoned in a parking lot, according to new court documents released in the case.
The documents, obtained by local station WXYZ, provide grisly new details into the final moments of professional poker player Susie Zhao’s life.
Zhao’s charred remains were discovered the morning of July 13 in a parking area of the secluded Pontiac Lake Park.
Jeffery Morris, a homeless convicted sex offender, had allegedly met up with Zhao the night before her body was discovered at a Waterford Township motel, The Detroit News reports.
Morris—who is now charged with killing Zhao—told police he picked Zhao up on the evening of July 12 on Watkins Lake Road and the two checked into the Sherwood Motel around 9:30 p.m., according to the court records.
He allegedly told police the pair left the motel to buy some alcohol and then returned to the room.
Morris allegedly claimed that Zhao had left the motel that night around midnight taking “all of her belongings including her cell phone with her.”
However, investigators have said cell phone records placed her cell phone at the motel until 5 a.m., according to court records.
Surveillance footage also showed Morris leaving the motel around that time.
Investigators believe Morris left the motel to drive to the secluded park where he disposed of Zhao’s body, according to the court documents. He stayed in the area where the body was found for about seven minutes, authorities said.
Investigators believe Zhao suffered a grisly death and was bound with zip-ties, sexually assaulted with a large object and then “lit on fire until she died,” according to the court records.
When Morris was located several days later, investigators also allegedly found some disturbing items in his possession including a fitted bed sheet apparently covered in blood and a wooden baseball bat with a blood stain that may have been used in the alleged crime.
The evidence is currently being tested at the Oakland County crime lab.
Police have said previously that they were still trying to determine the motive in the slaying.
"This is not the end of the investigation into Susie's death but the beginning of the pursuit of justice for her and her family," White Lake Township Police Detective Lt. Chris Hild told reporters shortly after Morris’ arrest, according to The Detroit News.
Investigators said Zhao had stayed at the same motel several times before she died.
Hild told Oxygen.com Wednesday that he could no longer comment on the case because of the pending prosecution and referred all questions to the prosecuting attorney’s office.
Oxygen.com reached out to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office but did not immediately receive a response.
Shortly before her death, Zhao had moved back to her home state of Michigan from Los Angeles to be closer to family, according to The Detroit News.
Zhao had worked as a professional poker player after graduating from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
According to The Hendon Mob, an online poker database, Zhao had total live earnings of $224,671 during her career—including a $73,805 win in 2012 after placing 90th in the World Series Of Poker.
“Being able to quickly turn a little money into a big pot of money gave her the freedom to live life how she wanted, and she got a lot of satisfaction dominating in a mostly male profession,” friend Meredith Rogowski told the Detroit News.
Those who faced her at the poker table described her as a friendly—but formidable—opponent.
“Everybody liked her. Everybody rooted for her,” professional poker player Yuval Bronshtein told the local paper after news of her death spread.
Morris has been charged with first-degree, premeditated murder in the slaying.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.