Suspect in Wisconsin Suitcase Deaths Had Many Bondage Dates

Public defender says Steven Zelich had relationships online and in person with many women

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Walworth County Sheriff's Office
    Steven Zelich

    The lawyer for a former police officer accused of hiding the bodies of two women who died during rough sex in suitcases left along a rural road says his client had encounters involving bondage with many other women as well.

    Walworth County Public Defender Travis Schwantes says 52-year-old Steven Zelich had many relationships online and in person with many women. He says some involved bondage and some did not.

    Schwantes entered a plea of not guilty for Zelich on Thursday to two charges of hiding a corpse. Highway workers cutting grass found the suitcases on June 5.

    Schwantes says Zelich maintains the deaths of 19-year-old Jenny Gamez and 37-year-old Laura Simonson were accidental.

    Walworth County District Attorney Daniel Necci has said he expects homicide charges to be filed in the counties where Gamez and Simonson died.

    Zelich told investigators that he met the women online, set up dates at hotels in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and killed them during bondage sex, a detective testified last month. He packed the bodies in suitcases that he hid for months in his home and car until they began to smell, Walworth County Sheriff's Detective Jeffrey Recknagel said.

    Zelich had resigned from the West Allis Police Department in August 2001 after an internal investigation determined he stalked women while on duty and had used his position to get personal information, including their home phone numbers. Records released by the department showed several women told investigators they feared for their safety or that of their children.

    The resignation allowed Zelich to avoid charges being filed with the city's Police and Fire Commission and later pass criminal background checks and obtain a private security license from the state. He was working as a security officer when he was arrested June 25.