Jeffery Morris arraigned for motel murder of Susie Zhao

Jon Pill
Posted on: August 06, 2020 08:08 PDT

“How does a professional poker player who was living in LA, know a man living on this street in Pontiac?” the reporter asked on Detroit’s local news. That is now the most open question in the Susie Zhao murder case.

The police came forward yesterday morning to provide a press briefing on the arrest of Jeffery Morris. In the briefing, they confirmed that he had been arrested for Zhao’s murder, as per recent speculation.

He was arraigned over a video call that same day. A ‘medical issue’ had put him in the hospital. It was from his hospital bed, clad in an orange jumpsuit and with an unused facemask hanging from his ears, that he heard his bail denied by the judge.

A History of Violence

Bail was denied in part due to the severity of the crime. But one imagines that his rap sheet might have been a factor too.

Morris was already on probation for retail fraud when the fuzz hauled him in. He also had an outstanding warrant for his arrest from the Sunshine State for a DUI.

A few days before the murder he had been kicked out of the house he was living in for alleged violence.

He had been staying with a husband and wife, who reportedly took pity on him. But they kicked him out shortly before the murder. The anonymous husband told reporters that Morris was a "sick individual." The wife referred to having had "nightmares" and being terrified that the police would let him out.

As well as his more up to date villainy, Morris also had previous convictions for larceny, destruction of a building, domestic violence, and failure to comply with sex offender reporting duties. In the ‘80s alone he racked up convictions for armed robbery, drugs, and one case of serious criminal sexual conduct, which is what got him on the sex offender register.

Money and Motel Rooms

The only clue the police have made public is that Susie Zhao met up with Morris at a motel. A few hours after this meeting, a jogger — it is always the joggers — found her body, partially burned, in a local park.

The reason for the motel meeting remains unclear, and one is cautioned against letting the seedy associations of the word "motel" do too much work in the absence of real context and hard facts.

The police tracked Morris's whereabouts using cellphone records. These records put him at the motel with Zhao. She was known to be staying at home with her parents as she was wont to do when "life got difficult." And reporters claim it was common to come "home to her mother’s in Waterford." The Waterford in question is a small Michigan town, a little outside Detroit.

These difficulties, relating to her life on the road as a poker player, do not seem to be the motive. The police were keen to emphasize that the murder does not seem to stem from her work. Previous statements had suggested poker might be to blame.

So the mystery deepens and we must await the next chapter once Morris is sent to trial.