Zelich case set for trial in Walworth County

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Jonah Beleckis | April 25, 2017

ELKHORN—Steven Zelich already has been convicted of killing two women during sex, but his case in Walworth County, where he is charged with dumping suitcases containing the bodies, has not been resolved.

Monday, the case was set for trial in August.

Zelich, a former West Allis police officer, received a combined 60 years in prison for killing Jenny Gamez, 19, of Cottage Grove, Oregon, and Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minnesota.

Zelich, 55, still faces two counts in Walworth County of hiding a corpse, which carry a maximum combined sentence of 20 years in prison.

He appeared in Walworth County Court on Monday via video from the Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun.

In Simonson's death, Zelich pleaded guilty in Olmsted County, Minnesota, on Feb. 3 to second-degree murder, with intent and not premeditated, as part of a plea agreement.

He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and must pay $6,596.95 in restitution, according to online court records.

In March 2016, Zelich was sentenced in Kenosha County to 35 years in prison in Gamez's death, pleading guilty to first-degree reckless homicide with use of a dangerous weapon and hiding a corpse.

Simonson had checked into a Rochester, Minnesota, hotel Nov. 2, 2013, with a man later identified as Zelich, according to the Olmsted County criminal complaint.

A detective found online conversations between the two indicating that they planned to meet for sexual bondage role-playing.

Police believe Gamez died in August 2012, according to court documents. Zelich told police he met Gamez online in 2012 and met her in person in Kenosha, where she died. Zelich's DNA was found on the ropes used to tie her hands.

On June 5, 2014, Walworth County sheriff's deputies responded to a report that two bodies had been found in suitcases on North Como Road in the town of Geneva.

Zelich told police he caused Simonson's and Gamez's deaths, but both were accidental during the role-playing sessions, according to court documents.

Walworth County Judge David Reddy did not accept a proposed plea agreement on the two Walworth County charges June 8. Zelich's attorney, Jonathan Carver Smith, said he believed both parties did not intend to go to trial but needed to further review a plea deal.

The two sides have not reached an agreement. Zeke Wiedenfeld, Walworth County's new district attorney, took over the case from his predecessor, Dan Necci, who resigned Oct. 2.

Zelich's trial is set for Aug. 14 to 17 with a final pretrial court appearance at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 4.

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