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Ex-cop back in court to face additional charges in suitcase deaths

Steven Zelich, the 52-year-old cop formerly employed by the West Allis Police Department in West Allis, Wisconsin, will be back in court on Aug. 5 to face additional charges in connection with the women he allegedly murdered and whose bodies he allegedly stuffed into two separate suitcases and left in a drainage ditch along a rural Wisconsin road, according to ABC News. On June 26, Zelich was charged with two felonies for hiding women's bodies.

The former police officer has already been charged with hiding a corpse.  Homicide charges might be next.
The former police officer has already been charged with hiding a corpse. Homicide charges might be next.Walworth County Sheriff’s Office

Zelich’s lawyer said that his client will be appearing today in a Kenosha County, Wisconsin, courtroom; but the defense attorney would not speculate on what new charges would be brought forward. We would expect homicide charges are looming; but those charges would have to be brought forth in the counties where the women died.

One woman, 19-year-old Jenny Gamez of Cottage Grove, Oregon, died in Kenosha County, according to The Bennington Banner. So it’s entirely possible that a murder charge could come today in that instance. The other woman, Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minnesota, died in Minnesota. No charges have been filed there as of yet.

Zelich reportedly met both of his victims through an online sadomasochistic / bondage website. “Zelich had posted an ad seeking "no limit enslavement, imprisonment, captivity, animalization ... ideally in a farm/caged situation."

On June 5, the two decomposed female bodies were found jammed into two separate suitcases in Geneva, Wisconsin, a quiet town that runs along the shores of Lake Como about 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee. Simonson’s body was “found naked with a rope around her neck and a ball gag strapped in her mouth with a collar,” according to Twin Cities.

Gamez’s body was found with her hands tied behind her back. Her body was partly stuffed inside a plastic bag. Zelich reportedly shuffled the two bodies back and forth between his home and vehicle for years.

Gamez was 19 years old when she was murdered. Zelich told police that he met the teen online “in late 2012 or early 2013,” and then killed her shortly afterwards at a motel in Kenosha County. Witnesses at the motel recall Zelich and Gamez being at the motel together, but added that they saw Zelich leaving the motel alone. Geneva Police Chief Steven Hurley said that Gamez was never reported missing. The teen told her family she was moving “and they thought perhaps she was moving on with her life."

Gamez’s foster mom, Lorraine Ericksen, told police that Gamez “had been in foster care with numerous families since she was 5, and was a joy to be around,” according to The Huffington Post. Ericksen said that Gamez moved out of her house in Cottage Grove to be closer to a community college near Eugene. After she moved, Gamez lived with friends and visited her foster family, but eventually fell out of touch.

"I was surprised that I didn't hear from her," Ericksen said. "I knew she spent some time in California with friends, but her friends in Cottage Grove said she stopped texting with them, and after that we could not get in touch with her."

In 2008, Gamez gave birth to a son. According to her foster parents, Gamez went through a rough patch after awarding full custody of her baby to the baby’s father, but seemed to be turning her life around. Ericksen said that her foster daughter had been awarded a college scholarship just before she went missing.