Sex offender gets life in prison for murdering Susie Zhao
A convicted sex offender has been sentenced to life in prison for savagely raping and killing a professional poker player Susie “Susie Q” Zhao by burning her alive.
Jeffery Morris, 62, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Thursday, just over a month after being found guilty at trial of first-degree murder and felony murder in the commission of criminal sexual behavior in the second degree, according to The Oakland Press.
The jurors deliberated less than an hour before convicting the defendant.
When given the chance to speak at his sentencing, Morris said he was not going to say anything at the moment – but signaled his intention to appeal the verdict.
“There are a lot of things I would like to say,” the convicted murderer told the judge. “This time, I won’t say anything. I’ll wait until I come back to appeal and start over.
Judge Martha Anderson described the case as “one of the most agonizing trials” of her career.
“I can’t get over the brutality of this murder and the pointlessness of it all,” she said.
Zhao, a rising star in the professional poker world, used to live in Los Angeles but moved to Michigan to live with her mother and stepfather in June 2020. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia as an adult.
She was last seen alive by her mother on July 12, 2020. Her charred remains were discovered the next day in a wooded area in the Lake Pontiac Recreation Area in Oakland County.
Prosecutors said Morris, a homeless man convicted of a sex crime in 1989, met Zhao at a motel in Waterford Township where she often stayed and proceeded with what was described as a depraved sexual fantasy involving the servitude.
According to the evidence, the victim was brutally raped, causing damage to her genitals. She was restrained with zip ties, doused with gasoline, and set on fire while still alive.
Zhao’s body was so badly burned that when it was discovered by two men, they initially thought it was a Halloween prank or a burnt mannequin.
“What happened to him was so mean, so brutal and unnecessary,” prosecutor John Skrzynski said of the horrific crime.
Morris was arrested in August 2020 after police tied him to where Zhao’s body was found through phone records.