$1M bond for ex-cop charged with hiding bodies in suitcases

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Bond was set at $1 million for the former cop charged with putting two corpses in separate suitcases, which prosecutors say he then kept hidden for months before dumping them along a rural Wisconsin road, WISN ABC 2 reports.

Steven Zelich, 52, of West Allis, Wisconsin, was charged Thursday with two counts of hiding a corpse. WSAW reports authorities say Zelich met the victims online.

He appeared in court as scheduled Friday via video screen, where a Walworth County judge set bond, WISN says.

According to 620WTMJ, murder charges against Zelich in both Wisconsin and Minnesota are being explored.

The bodies were discovered in the suitcases on a roadside in the town of Geneva, Wisconsin, early this month. This week authorities identified one of them as Laura Simonson, 37, a Farmington, Minnesota, woman who was reported missing in November (pictured at right).

As for the body in the other suitcase – identified only as Jane Doe – prosecutors say she had been dead for more than a year and Zelich had kept her hidden in his home, the Associated Press reported.

According to FOX 9, the complaint filed against Zelich says he admitted he caused Simonson’s death in a Rochester hotel room, stuffed her body into a suitcase, and kept it in his vehicle for months after returning to Wisconsin. Police said both women were naked and tied with ropes when they were discovered. Simonson was also gagged.

Travis Schwantes, Zelich's public defender, says it's possible the women's deaths were an accident, and perhaps happened during consensual sex, FOX 6 reports. According to the station, Schwantes says Zelich is cooperating with the investigation and likely wouldn't contest being extradited to other counties.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Zelich is a licensed private security officer who resigned from the West Allis police department in 2001.

WISN 12 reports Zelich's resignation came after allegations of off-duty misconduct with a prostitute. No charges were filed, the station says, and he was allowed to resign.

The Fox affiliate in Milwaukee, WITI, says investigators are looking into a report from a prostitute who was concerned enough about Zelich’s behavior that she contacted police.

The Journal Sentinel spoke with Simonson's father, Richard Wierson of Northfield, who said his daughter had struggled with mental illness since adolescence. Wierson told the newspaper Simonson's seven children were placed in foster care with him in 2010.

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