The body of a Michigan poker player was found “badly burned” in the parking lot earlier this month, and investigators are now trying to determine what led to the horrific series of events.
Authorities have identified the body as Susie Zhao, a professional poker player who had recently moved back to Michigan to be closer to her parents.
Zhao, 33, was discovered in a “parking area” near Pontiac Lake Recreation Area just after 8 a.m. on July 13, according to a statement from the White Lake Township Police Department. No official cause of death has been released but police are treating it as a homicide.
There was no vehicle at the scene at the time, according to local station WDIV. Zhao was last seen alive around 5:30 p.m. the evening before by her mother.
Investigators are now trying to determine whether the possible killing could be connected to her gambling in other states or whether it could be linked to someone she had met in Michigan, White Lake Township Police Det. Lt. Chris Hild told local station WXYZ.
Zhao’s former roommate Yuval Bronshtein told WXYZ that she had recently returned to the Michigan area to deal with challenges in her personal life after bouncing between Los Angles and Las Vegas — but had no idea what could have led to the brutal death.
The one-time roommate said she was "surprised, confused, and saddened. ... It’s hard to picture her having enemies."
The sentiments were echoed by others who knew the 33-year-old, including fellow poker players.
“I never would have thought anyone would of wanted to do anything to her,” friend and poker rival Bart Hanson told WXYZ, describing Zhao as an “excellent player.”
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.
After news of Zhao's death broke, fellow poker player Clayton Fletcher took to Twitter, describing the news as “heartbreaking.”
“She was one of the bubbliest and most vivacious opponents I’ve ever had,” he wrote. “She was a very strong player who also liked to have fun at the table.”
Investigators are asking that anyone who may have had contact with Zhao between July 11 and July 13 to contact authorities. The FBI is assisting in the investigation, according to WXYZ.
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