On the same day his murder trial was set to begin, a former West Allis police officer has agreed to plead guilty to killing a woman and leaving her body in a suitcase along a rural Wisconsin roadway.
Jury selection had been scheduled to start Monday morning in the murder trial of 54-year-old Steve Zelich, who was accused of killing 19-year-old Jenny Gamez of Oregon in 2012 and then hiding her remains. Gamez’s body, as well as the body of 37-year-old Laura Simonson of Minnesota, were found stuffed into suitcases that had been left along a highway in Walworth County. They were discovered by a mowing crew in June of 2014.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says Zelich pleaded guilty Monday to a reduced charge of reckless homicide and a charge of hiding a corpse. He had been facing an intentional homicide charge at trial. Zelich has claimed both women died accidentally during rough sexual encounters that involved choking.
Zelich was only being tried in Wisconsin for the murder of Gamez, but a recent court ruling said Kenosha County jurors would be able to hear about the Simonson case as well. He’s still expected to face charges in Minnesota, where investigators believe Simonson was killed in 2013, after the conclusion of the Wisconsin case.
Zelich will be sentenced in Kenosha County court on March 30.