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Detective: Ex-officer admitted to killings, hiding bodies in suitcases

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A detective testified in court Thursday that the former police officer charged with hiding the bodies of two women in suitcases before dumping them in rural Wisconsin admitted to killing them, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.

Steven Zelich, 52, of West Allis, Wisconsin, was charged with two counts of hiding a corpse after the remains of the women were found June 5 about 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee. The women died over the course of a bondage and sadomasochism session, according to testimony Thursday, the Journal-Sentinel reports.

The first woman identified was Laura Simonson, 37, of Rochester, Minnesota, who was reported missing in November. Officials earlier this week identified the remains of the second woman as Jenny Gamez, believed to be 19, from Cottage Grove, Oregon.

Zelich has not been charged with murder in connection with the deaths. He was in court for Thursday's preliminary hearing, handcuffed and wearing an orange jumpsuit.

Walworth County Sheriff's Detective Jeffrey Recknagel testified in the hearing that Zelich told him that he killed the women accidentally during two sexual encounters, the Journal-Sentinel says.

According to KEZI-TV, authorities say Zelich met the victims online. The station also reports in some graphic detail about the condition in which the women were found.

Prosecutors say Zelich kept the suitcases hidden for months before dumping them along the rural Wisconsin road in Town of Geneva, WISN-TV reports.

According to the Journal-Sentinel, Zelich's lawyer, Travis Schwantes, argued in court that probable cause for a trial did not exist, because by leaving the bodies on the side of the road, Zelich was likely hoping they would be discovered.

District Attorney Daniel Necci, on the other hand, said Zelich was likely trying to conceal a crime, the Journal-Sentinel reports.

Zelich is scheduled to enter a plea in the case July 17.

WITI-TV reports that new documents were also released Wednesday that say police searched Zelich's apartment in January at the request of Farmington police who were trying to find Simonson. However, an officer wrote, he “did not observe anything that would indicate Simonson had been staying at the residence.”

The documents say police attempted three more times to deliver a letter from Farmington police to Zelich's apartment in January and February, but since the man wasn't home, they left the letter on the third attempt.

Zelich was reportedly working as a security officer before he was charged with hiding the bodies of the women earlier this month. His bond was set at $1 million.

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