Murder Trial in Suzie Zhao Case Delayed Due to Clerical Blunder and Covid

Murder Trial in Suzie Zhao Case Delayed Due to Clerical Blunder and Covid

01 Feb

The Suzie Zhao murder trial has been hit by yet another set of delays, with the COVID-19 pandemic and court errors pushing the expected start date back to June, and possibly even later.

The man accused of the horrific killing, Jeffery Bernard Morris, has been in custody since August 2020, the convicted sex offender arrested three weeks after Suzie Zhao’s tortured and charred body was found in a car park in Michigan.

Since that time, Covid-related delays and various other setbacks – including Morris changing attorney – have seen the trial date pushed back multiple times. This month a double blow was landed.

Firstly, it transpired that a court clerical error meant the case had to be handed back from Circuit Court to District Court, after a felony murder charge was inadvertently missed out on paperwork when the case was passed up to the Circuit Court.

The paperwork delay was followed by an announcement that upcoming jury trials would be postponed because “COVID-19 continues to materially affect the functioning of the Court.”

That order, from Chief Circuit Judge Jeffery Matis, means that the expected trial date in March is now more likely to take place in June, “barring unforeseen circumstances”.

The story of Suzie Zhao’s death is the most shocking to have ever hit the poker community. The well-respected and much-loved poker pro had returned to her parents’ home in Michigan during the early 2020 pandemic lockdown.

For reasons unknown, it appears that on July 12th 2020, Suzie ended up at the Sherwood Motel with Jeffery Bernard Morris, a sick sexual fantasist who has previous convictions for rape and sexual assault.

Suzie’s body was found the following morning at a car park in a recreational park, with a post-mortem showing she had died from being set alight while still alive, her body also showing signs of violent sexual assault.

FBI investigators tracked Morris’ movements to the hotel and car park locations using cell phone technology and video surveillance footage, the 62-year-old arrested and initially charged with first-degree murder.

Various witnesses gave evidence that appear to link Morris to Zhao’s brutal murder. He was seen on CCTV stealing plastic cable ties that match those found on Zhao’s body. Matching cable ties and a bloodstained baseball bat were discovered in his car when he was arrested.

A DNA test on cervical samples were a match to Morris and masses of data found on Morris’ mobile phone were of a nature consistent with the horrendous sexual injuries inflicted on Suzie.

According to court schedules, February 17th is the new pre-trial date, with a trial date set for June 16th, though both are obviously subject to change.

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