Former police officer held for trial in Wisconsin suitcase bodies case

Investigators are trying to determine when, where and how Steven Zelich, a former Wisconsin police officer, killed his alleged victims.
By Frances Burns  |  July 3, 2014 at 1:26 PM
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ELKHORN, Wis., July 3 (UPI) -- A former Wisconsin police officer appeared before a judge Thursday and was ordered held for trial on charges of hiding the bodies of two women found in suitcases.

Steven M. Zelich, 52, a licensed security guard from the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, is expected to be charged with the murders of Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minn., and Jenny Gamez, of Cottage Grove, Ore. Zelich has allegedly admitted killing them, but investigators are still trying to confirm when, where and how the two women died.

Road workers found the bodies in early June in Geneva, Wis., in a rural area southwest of Milwaukee, and Zelich is currently being held in Walworth County. Police in Rochester, Minn., are heading the investigation into Simonson's death, while the Kenosha, Wis., department is dealing with Gamez's.

"Our investigators are still working to confirm that the homicide did in fact occur in our jurisdiction," Kenosha Police Lt. Brad Hetlet told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in an email.

Zelich allegedly told investigators he met Gamez, who was about 19, in Kenosha County in late 2012 or early 2013. His encounter with Simonson allegedly took place at a motel in Rochester in November 2013.

Police sources told the Journal Sentinel that Zelich avoided dismissal and prosecution by resigning from the West Allis police department in 2001. He had been an officer since 1989.

Zelich was involved in an off-duty dispute with a woman with a prostitution record. She said Zelich had agreed to pay her for a private dance at his apartment and then tried to handcuff her and rape her, while he said they were having consensual sex.

"This was a real bad deal, this guy is nuts," she told police officers.

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