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August 5, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Ex-cop charged with killing Oregon woman, hiding body in suitcase

The Associated Press

KENOSHA, Wis. — A former police officer has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse in the death of one of two women whose bodies were found stuffed in suitcases left along a rural Wisconsin highway.

Steven Zelich, 52, of West Allis, was charged in the death of Jenny Gamez, a 19-year-old college student from Cottage Grove, Ore.

He was charged previously with hiding a corpse in Walworth County, Wis., where the suitcases were found June 5, but the prosecutor there had said homicide charges would have to come in the counties where the women died.

A Walworth County detective testified in June that Zelich told investigators he met Gamez at a Kenosha County hotel in 2012 and killed her accidentally during rough sex. Zelich then put Gamez’s body in a suitcase that he stored for more than a year in his home and car, Walworth County Sheriff’s Detective Jeffrey Recknagel said.

The other victim has been identified as Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minn. Zelich told investigators she died in November at a hotel in Rochester, Minn, Recknagel said. No charges have been filed yet in Minnesota.

Zelich eventually moved Gamez’s body to the trunk of his car, where he also was storing Simonson’s body, a criminal complaint said. He dropped them in Walworth County in early June after they began to smell, Recknagel said.

Zelich worked for the police department in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis from February 1989 until his resignation in August 2001, following an internal investigation that found he stalked women while on duty and used his position to get access to their personal information. His resignation allowed him to avoid discipline and pass state background checks for a private security officer’s license. He was working as a licensed private security officer when he was arrested June 25.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Cottage Grove, homicide, suitcase

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