Skip to main content

Ex-cop accused of hiding bodies in suitcases pleads guilty in 1st trial

  • Author:
  • Updated:

A former Wisconsin police officer, accused of hiding the bodies of two women in suitcases and leaving them along a rural Wisconsin road, has pleaded guilty to killing one of the women.

Steven Zelich was charged with crimes in both Wisconsin and Minnesota after road workers discovered suitcases with human remains in them near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in the summer of 2014.

His trial in connection to the death of of 19-year-old Jenny Gamez, of Cottage Grove, Oregon, was scheduled to begin Monday in Kenosha County, Wisconsin. But before it started Zelich pleaded guilty to first-degree reckless homicide and hiding a corpse, Channel 3000 reports.

Zelich is expected to be sentenced in connection with this case on March 30, FOX 6 reports, and faces up to 55 years in prison, Kenosha News says.

He had previously pleaded not guilty to intentional first-degree homicide and hiding a corpse in connection with her death, WKOW reported. Gamez left her home state in 2012 and was identified as one of the bodies found in the suitcases.

Authorities identified the other remains in the suitcases as 37-year-old Laura Simonson of Farmington. They believe she died in Rochester, so Zelich faces a murder charge in Minnesota as well.

That trial isn't expected to start until the Kenosha County proceedings have finished. Though, Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem told The Associated Press Zelich's guilty plea in the Wisconsin case will "speed things up" in terms of bringing him to trial in Minnesota.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Minnesota, Zelich told police he met both Simonson and Gamez online and arranged to meet them for sexual encounters that included bondage sessions and "breath play," which involved choking.

He told investigators both women died accidentally during those encounters – Gamez in August of 2012, and Simonson a year later.

In both cases he took the women's bodies and kept them in a cold place, the complaint says. He eventually moved them to the suitcases in his car, and had to dump them when the odor became noticeable, according to the complaint.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel previously reported Zelich is a licensed private security officer who resigned from the West Allis police department in 2001. The station says Zelich has been linked to a Web forum on sadomasochism.

Next Up

Gov. Tim Walz and Scott Jensen.

Walz, Jensen clash over 'extreme' abortion views

The two clashed over the topic on Tuesday, following the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Screen Shot 2022-06-28 at 12.24.27 PM

Movie filming brings memorable day for MN teen with leukemia

Ayotzin Limon-Millard was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia last year.

Screen Shot 2022-06-28 at 1.25.30 PM

Police trying to ID 'Playboy bandit' and 'no-pants raider' suspect

Police are calling the unidentified man "the Playboy bandit" and the "no-pants raider."

storm, severe, shelf cloud

Twin Cities under severe thunderstorm watch Tuesday afternoon

Large hail and damaging winds are the main threats.

Screen Shot 2022-06-28 at 9.27.30 AM

Famous Dave's family brings new BBQ biz to the south metro

The newest Twin Cities location is the first to offer wine slushies on the menu.

storm, shelf cloud, severe weather

Large hail possible with strong storms in eastern MN, WI

Watch the forecast update with meteorologist Sven Sundgaard.

Tony Evers, Wisconsin governor

WI governor vows to protect anyone charged with abortion crimes

“You think it’s bad now? The four Republicans that are going after me, one of them we’re going to beat, they are going to make it worse," Evers said.


Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Tuesday, June 28

The state will stop providing daily updates and move to weekly editions beginning Thursday, June 30.


Sports anchor Hobie Artigue announces FOX9 departure

Artigue has spent the past seven years covering Minnesota sports.

hennepin county medical center

Boy, 7, dies after being pulled from pool in south Minneapolis

The boy was pulled from a pool at a home in south Minneapolis.

Screen Shot 2022-06-28 at 8.32.18 AM

Nashville man leaving wedding shot in the face in Minneapolis

He was leaving a wedding when gunfire erupted near the Stone Arch Bridge Saturday night.


Abogados Café in St. Paul is the first law-themed coffee shop in America

The new business is Minnesota's first Latina-owned coffee shop.