By Brendan O’Brien
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – A former police officer suspected in the deaths of two women is due in court on Thursday for a hearing on charges that he stored their corpses in suitcases found beside a rural Wisconsin road in June.
Steven Zelich, 52, is charged with two felony counts of hiding a corpse in Walworth County, where the suitcases were found, and investigations are continuing in another Wisconsin county and in Minnesota into the deaths of the women.
On Thursday, a Walworth County judge is expected to decide during a preliminary hearing whether there is probable cause to proceed with the charges against Zelich of hiding the corpses.
A road crew cutting grass found the suitcases on June 5 and moved the luggage out of the way. Authorities were called later and found the naked and decomposing bodies when they opened the suitcases.
The women were identified as Jenny Gamez, 21, of Cottage Grove, Oregon, and Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minnesota.
Zelich told investigators he met both women online, according to a criminal complaint.
Zelich told investigators he caused Gamez’s death when he met with her in Kenosha County in southeastern Wisconsin in late 2012 or early 2013, and caused Simonson’s death at a Rochester, Minnesota, hotel in November, the complaint said.
He is accused of keeping the suitcases with the women inside at his apartment in a Milwaukee suburb and in the trunk of his vehicle before dumping the luggage on the side of a road.
If convicted, Zelich would face up to 10 years in prison on each charge of hiding a corpse. He is being held in Walworth County jail on a $1 million bond.
Zelich could face more charges, including homicide, stemming from the ongoing investigations into the women’s deaths in Kenosha County and Rochester.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Sandra Maler)