They made a mark in 2014: Suitcase suspect

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Ian Gronau | December 31, 2014

Community newspapers are often more concerned with the people who live in their distribution area and their stories, rather than just the news. The happy, funny, tragic, exciting, interesting or even terrifying tales of our neighbors' lives can change the way we see our surroundings. Part of living in a community means realizing that we're all in this together.

As we end 2014, we take a look back at five people who left their mark, good or bad, on Walworth County during this year and how their tales will live on.  

June 15: Suitcases reveal alleged crimes
One of the more bizarre cases ever seen in Walworth County began on a sunny summer day along a rural road in Geneva Township.

On June 5, Dan Sojka, who runs C&D Landscaping in Elkhorn, was traveling down North Como Road when he saw the suitcases sitting on the side of the road. They apparently had been uncovered in the tall grass by a highway worker mowing along the roadway.

“When I got up close to them, I said to my sister, 'Aw gosh there's something dead in them things. I said them things are loaded with flies, I ain't stopping,' so I just kept on going,” Sojka told WISN-TV.

He called police and said, “Hey, you should go out on North Como Road and pick up or check on them suitcases; it looks like there's something dead in them.”

“It's certainly something that's unsettling, making a discovery like that,” Town of Geneva Police Chief Steven Hurley told the Chicago Tribune.

He told the newspaper that the suitcases were opened by Officer Eric Anderson, a 10-year veteran of the department.

“I talked to him, and he said he had to step back a minute and take a deep breath and collect his thoughts, but he handled it very professionally and continued to do his job,” Hurley said.

What Anderson discovered was the bodies of two women, eventually identified as Laura Simonson of Rochester, Minnesota, and Jenny Gamez from the state of Oregon.

It wasn't long before investigators had settled on their suspect, Steven Zelich, 52, a former West Allis police officer. Zelich was charged in Walworth County Circuit Court with two charges of hiding a corpse with the intent to conceal a crime.

During questioning by investigators, Zelich said that he had met both women on online chat room websites devoted to bondage, domination and sadomasochistic sex.

Both died, according to Zelich, during sadomasochistic sex that went terribly wrong.

The Walworth County case currently is on hold while Zelich faces first-degree homicide charges in Kenosha County.

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