The body of professional Los Angeles-based poker player Susie Zhao was found burned in a Michigan park earlier this month, and police are still not sure what the motive behind her death is. The White Lake Township Police Department believe her death may have something to do with out-of-state gambling or connected to someone she met in Michigan, reports WIFR. Zhao arrived in Michigan from Los Angeles on June 9 and was found dead on July 13, the day after the 33-year-old was last seen, police said.
"You have to determine whether or not this is a coverup, or this may be some sort of retaliatory incident because of her profession," Det. Chris Hild told WIFR. Police found Zhao's boy burned in the Pontiac Lake recreation area during the morning of July 13. She was last seen alive by her mother on July 12 at 5:30 p.m.
Police are hopeful that any witnesses who saw Zhao during that short time span could come forward. "We still are looking for anybody that may have seen or talked to Susie between Sunday at about 5:30 p.m. and early hours of Monday morning," an official told WIFR. Authorities still consider Zhao's death "mysterious," as her cause of death remains unknown, reports The Daily Beast. An Oakland County Medical Examiner spokesperson said the cause will be determined after the autopsy and toxicology results are complete.
The White Lake Township police contacted the FBI for assistance in the investigation after looking into Zhao's history. "We’re looking into every lead, every possibility. Obviously, when you’re dealing with that type of profession you have potential of owing debt, and those are things that we’re looking into," the detective said, reports Deadline.
Zhao grew up in Michigan and became a successful pro poker player after moving to Los Angeles. She placed 90th at the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2012, winning $73,805. According to The Hendon Mob, Zhao earned $224,671 in her career, placing 96th all-time among pro players from Michigan. Meredith Rogowski, a childhood friend, told the Daily Beast that Zhao wanted to become a professional poker player since childhood.
Please see the attached press release reference an ongoing investigation. Anyone with information, please call Det./Lt. Hild at 248-698-4404 ext. 2381. Thank you. pic.twitter.com/8beDaEjKQ6— WLTPD (@WhiteLakePolice) July 20, 2020
"She was very bold and did whatever she wanted to do," Rogowski said of her friend. "Whenever we talked about her job, she was very nonchalant. But I do know it was exhausting to be in that world—it was long-hours and some of the people she met weren’t exactly genuine." Kinga, another friend, told the Daily Beast Zhao was a "jet-setter" who often traveled between Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Florida.
"She valued friendship and she valued family and she was always true to herself. She always had her own style, her own thing—I think that’s why people loved her in poker. She wore her hats and her jewelry and that’s always been her thing," Kinga said, adding that her friends hope for "speedy justice and closure" in the case.