Investigators in Walworth County have identified the body of a second
woman found in a suitcase in the Town of Geneva.
Police say the body of 21-year-old Jenny Gamez of Cottage Grove, Oregon was identified using dental records. Investigators are not saying what evidence lead them to uncover her identity, although Town of Geneva Police Chief Steve Hurley says her family did not report her as a missing person. Hurley says Gamez “had told her family she was moving and they thought, perhaps, she was on with her life.”
Gamez’s body was found on June 5 in a suitcase left near a highway, along with the body of 37-year-old Laura Simonson of Farmington, Minnesota, who was in a separate suitcase. Investigators believe Gamez was killed in Kenosha and Simonson killed in Rochester, Minnesota. Police believe Simonson was killed last November in a Rochester hotel room, while they believe Gamez may have been dead since late 2012 or early 2013. Hurley described the case as “one of the more horrific crimes that I’ve been involved in” during my more than 36 in law enforcement.
Walworth County prosecutors have charged 52-year-old Steven Zelich of West Allis with hiding the two bodies. Zelich told investigators that he met both women online. The former police office is currently being held on a million dollar cash bond and investigators have said he could face homicide charges in other areas.
Update – Ex-cop suspected in killings resigned after argument with prostitute
ELKHORN, Wis. (AP) – A former police officer suspected in the deaths of two women whose bodies were stuffed into suitcases and dumped along a rural Wisconsin road resigned from his department a few months after an incident involving a prostitute.
That’s according to records the West Allis Police Department released
A police report says a woman told officers in May 2001 that she met Steven Zelich in a bar, went home with him and tried to flee when she thought she heard him get out handcuffs.
The report says Zelich said the woman tried to steal from him and their struggle was his attempt to get the money back.
Zelich resigned from the department in August 2001.
His attorney, Travis Schwantes, said he had not seen the report and could not comment.
By Andrew Beckett – Wisconsin Radio Network
A Walworth County judge set bond at a million dollars Friday for a former
West Allis police officer suspected of killing two women and then disposing of their bodies by leaving them in suitcases along a road in the Town of Geneva.
Prosecutors asked for the high bond during 52-year-old Steven Zelich’s initial appearance on two felony counts of hiding a corpse. Defense lawyer Travis Schwantes wanted a much lower bond, arguing that Zelich has not been charged with homicide. However, District Attorney Daniel Necci said he expects homicide charges in the counties where the women were killed — Laura Simonson in Rochester Minnesota, and the yet-to-be-named victim in Kenosha County
Authorities say Zelich stored both corpses for months at his West Allis home and later in his vehicle. He then dumped the suitcases along a grassy roadside near Lake Geneva, where they were then found on June 5 by a highway crew as it was cutting the grass.
Authorities say Zelich met both women online, then had separate encounters with them in which he killed them violently. However, his attorney also suggested that both women may have died as the result of accidents, possibly while having consensual sex.
Zelich is due back in Walworth County next Thursday for preliminary hearing.
A former West Allis police officer is due in court this afternoon, after he was charged in Walworth County with hiding the bodies of two women in suitcases and then leaving them by the side of a road. The suitcases were foundearlier this month by a highway worker cutting grass near Lake Geneva.
According to the criminal complaint, 52-year-oldSteven Zelich met both of the victims online and killed them when he first met each of them. Their bodies were then placed in separate suitcases. Police say Zelich told them that he caused the death of both women, although he has not been charged with homicide.
Police believe one of the victims, 37-year-old Laura Simonson, was killed at a hotel in Rochester, Minnesota last November. Hotel staff told investigators that Simonson checked in with Zelich, but checked out alone the next day. Simonson’s family reported her missing three weeks later, and she was reportedly found with a rope around her neck and a gag in her mouth.
The second woman, named “Jane Doe” in the complaint, was found partially in a garbage bag, with both of her hands tied behind her back. The complaint says Zelich hid the unnamed victim’s body in his home and his vehicle for over a year, after he met her in Kenosha County in late 2012 or early last year.
Category: State News