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UPDATE: Ex-cop tied to suitcase deaths suspended 3 times

UPDATE: Ex-cop tied to suitcase deaths suspended 3 times

 UPDATED Wednesday, July 8, 2014 ---

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) -- Newly released records show that a former Wisconsin police officer charged with dumping two bodies stuffed into suitcases along a highway had a lengthy disciplinary record, including three suspensions and four reprimands.

Fifty-two-year-old Steven Zelich is charged with two counts of hiding a corpse in Walworth County. Authorities say he's also a suspect in the women's deaths, although no homicide charges have been filed.

Zelich worked for the West Allis Police Department from February 1989 until he resigned in August 2001.

Records obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press show he was suspended twice in 2001 for lying -- for 20 days in May and two days in April.

He also received a one-day suspension in 1996 for failing to report an accident in which he was involved while on duty.

Copyright Associated Press 2014

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ELKHORN, Wis. (AP) _ A detective says a former police officer told him that he killed two women during rough sex and then put their bodies in suitcases that he hid for months before dumping them in rural Wisconsin.

Walworth County Sheriff's Detective Jeffrey Recknagel testified Thursday during a preliminary hearing for 52-year-old Steven Zelich.

Zelich is charged with two counts of hiding a corpse after the suitcases were found June 5, about 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee.

Walworth County authorities have said the women were killed elsewhere and they expect homicide charges to be filed in those other counties.

Recknagel says Zelich told him he killed the women accidentally after separate sexual encounters that were rough and included bondage.

Zelich's public defender has said the deaths may have been accidents.

 

 

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UPDATED Thursday July 3, 2014 --

ELKHORN, Wis. (AP) -- A former police officer suspected in the deaths of two women whose bodies were found in suitcases left along a rural Wisconsin highway is expected in court Thursday.

Fifty-two-year-old Steven Zelich, of West Allis, is charged with two counts of hiding a corpse in Walworth County, about 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee.

He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing, where prosecutors generally summarize their evidence and allegations.

It will be Zelich's first court appearance. He made his initial appearance via video on Friday.

Walworth County officials have said they expect Zelich to eventually face homicide charges in the counties where the women were killed. Zelich told investigators one woman died in Rochester, Minnesota, and the other in Kenosha County, Wisconsin.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Monday, June 30, 2014 ---

ELKHORN, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin authorities say they've identified the second of two women whose bodies were stuffed in suitcases found along a rural highway as a 19-year-old Oregon woman.

Police identified the woman Monday as Jenny Gamez, of Cottage Grove, Oregon. Local investigators say she disappeared in 2012.

The suitcases were found on June 5 in the Town of Geneva, Wisconsin. Police Chief Steven Hurley says Gamez had told her family she was moving, so they didn't realize she had disappeared.

Walworth County Undersheriff Kurt Picknell says Gamez was identified with dental records. He declined to say how investigators made the link between the remains found in Wisconsin and her disappearance.

Investigators have charged 52-year-old Steven Zelich with two counts of hiding a corpse in the case. Authorities say he met both women online.

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UPDATED Sunday, June 29, 2014

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) _ Kenosha police say a woman whose body was one of two found in suitcases along a rural Wisconsin road is not believed to be from the Kenosha area.

An ex-West Allis police officer was charged in Walworth County Thursday with two counts of hiding a corpse. The criminal complaint says Steven Zelich told investigators he killed one in late 2012 or early 2013 in Kenosha County, and the other in November in Rochester, Minnesota. Authorities have not identified the first, but say the second was 37-year-old Laura Simonson of Farmington, Minnesota.

Kenosha Police Sgt. Brad Hetlet tells the Kenosha News (http://bit.ly/VvYvfl ) his department is working with other agencies to confirm whether the first victim was killed in Kenosha. But he says she's not believed to be from the Kenosha area.

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UPDATED Friday, June 27, 2014 ---

ELKHORN, Wis. (AP) -- Bond has been set at $1 million for a former police officer suspected of killing two women and hiding their bodies in suitcases dumped in rural Wisconsin.

A judge set the cash bond during a hearing Friday for 52-year-old Steven Zelich, agreeing with prosecutors that it was needed to protect the public.

Zelich, who lives in West Allis, Wisconsin, was charged Thursday with two counts of hiding a corpse in Walworth County. He appeared on video for the hearing but didn't speak.

Zelich's lawyer, Travis Schwantes, asked for a far lower bond, noting his client hasn't been charged with homicide.

But District Attorney Daniel Necci says he expects homicide charges to be filed where the women were killed. Investigators allege the women were killed elsewhere in Wisconsin and in Minnesota.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, June 26, 2014 ---

ROCHESTER, Minn. (WITI) — The Rochester Police Department held a briefing Thursday morning, June 26th, during which time they released new information about the deaths of two women who were found in suitcases in the Town of Geneva on June 5th.

The two bodies were found in suitcases sitting along the side of N. Como Rd, east of Co. Rd. H.

Town of Geneva police say one of the victims has been identified as 37-year-old Laura Simonson from Farmington, Minnesota. The second victim has been tentatively identified.

52-year-old Steven Zelich, a former West Allis police officer, has been taken into custody in connection with the death investigation.

According to Rochester police, Zelich confessed to being involved in Simonson’s death following his arrest. At this time, Minnesota authorities believe Zelich was also involved in the second victim’s death.

Zelich is currently being held at the Walworth County Jail on two counts of hiding a corpse.

A missing persons investigation initiated by the Farmington Police Department has determined Simonson was last seen alive in Rochester on November 2nd.

The Rochester Police Department says it became aware of the incident involving the suitcases and the missing persons investigation into Simonson on June 10th, when they were contacted by officials in Wisconsin.

On June 12th, investigators scoured a Rochester, Minnesota motel — gathering information. This, after motel employees recognized Simonson from the missing persons report, and contacted police.

During the course of their investigation, officials discovered that Zelich and Simonson checked into the Microtel Inn on November 2nd. On November 3rd, Zelich checked out of the hotel without Simonson.

On June 12th, the Rochester Crime Scene Unit and the Minnesota BCA processed the motel room for traces of evidence.

On June 24th authorities discovered physical evidence that connected Zelich to the bodies of Simonson and the unidentified female.

At this time, officials believe Simonson may have been killed in Rochester, as she was not seen again following her stay at the Microtel Inn.

Rochester police say Zelich and Simonson were known acquaintances that had a previous relationship through the Internet. It is unknown at this time when the two first met.

Rochester police also confirmed that they are currently investigating Zelich’s possible involvement with bondage websites.

The suitcases containing the bodies were discovered on June 5th by a Town of Geneva Highway Department employee who was cutting grass in the area of N. Como Road, east of Co. Rd. H.

The suitcases were opened by Town of Geneva police, and the bodies were discovered inside.

Anyone that may have additional information should contact the Town of Geneva Police Department at 262-248-9926.

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UPDATED Wednesday June 25, 2014 --- 4:30 p.m.

TOWN OF GENEVA, Wis.--- An arrest has been made in a bizarre Walworth County criminal case.

Town of Geneva police say they have arrested 52-year old Steven M. Zelich of West Allis, WI.

They say he is connected to two bodies found on June 5th inside suitcases.

One of the women has been identified as 37-year-old Laura Simonson, from Farmington, MN. Her mother reported Simonson missing on November.

The other woman has not been identified yet. She is described as white, between the age of 15-35 and between 5'2" - 5"4" tall. The victim weighed between 120-140 pounds. She had two piercings in each ear and a quarter-sized tattoo on her lower left abdomen/pelvic area.

Anyone with information on the identity of the second victim or additional information on the case should call the Town of Geneva Police Dept. at 262-248-9926.

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UPDATED: Monday, June 9, 2014 --- 1:00 p.m.

Town of Geneva -- Autopsies were completed over the weekend at the Waukesha County Medical Examiner's Office on the two bodies discovered Friday in suitcases on North Como Road.

The autopsies determined that both bodies were females. One was an adult, the second appears to be an adult but is subject to further verification.

The investigation is on-going. Authorities say, this is an isolated incident and the crime did not occur where the bodies were found.

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UPDATED Friday, June 6, 2014 --- 10:45 a.m.

TOWN OF GENEVA, Wis. (AP) -- Police say two suitcases containing the remains of two people have been found in long grass near a road in southeastern Wisconsin.

City police chief Steven Hurley says a highway worker came across the cases Thursday as he mowed the grass in Town of Geneva, about 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee. Another person alerted police officers who opened the cases and discovered the bodies inside.

Hurley says it appears there was a body in each suitcase, but he wouldn't comment on the condition of the remains. He says it doesn't appear that the victims were killed at the location where the suitcases were found.

The Waukesha County Medical Examiner's Office is conducting autopsies.

Investigators are checking with other law enforcement agencies for reports of missing people.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, June 6, 2014 --- 10:01 a.m.

From our news partner WITI in Milwaukee:

TOWN OF GENEVA (WITI) — Town of Geneva police tell WITI News they’re dealing with a death investigation.

Law enforcement officials were on the scene near Lake Como on Thursday, June 5th. Town of Geneva Police Chief Steve Hurley tells FOX6 News the discovery was made around 3:00 p.m. Several roads were shut down along Como Road near Lake Como as officials worked the scene.

The Waukesha County Medical Examiner tells FOX6 News they will be performing two autopsies on Friday, June 6th. The Waukesha County Medical Examiner is handling the autopsies for the Walworth County Coroner.

Police say this investigation is considered criminal — but police say that is routine when dealing with a death investigation.

Chief Hurley tells WITI News this is the first death investigation to occur in this community in years. Chief Hurley says this is an isolated incident.

No one is in custody — and it is unclear whether police are searching for anyone at this time.

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Posted: Friday, June 6, 2014 --- 6:04 a.m.

TOWN OF GENEVA, Wis. (AP) -- Police in Walworth County are investigating the deaths of two people.

Authorities say the bodies were found in the Town of Geneva Thursday, about a half mile from the police station.

Autopsies are expected to be done Friday. No other details were immediately released.

 

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