August 05, 2014 | 04:00 PMKENOSHA — The suspect in the suitcase body case has officially been charged with first-degree intentional homicide in Kenosha County.
Steve Zelich, a 52-year-old former West Allis police officer, told police that he accidentally killed Jenny Gamez, a 19-year-old college student from Cottage Grove, Ore., during a choking game that went too far.
The charge of first-degree intentional homicide carries a mandatory life sentence. Kenosha County prosecutors also charged Zelich with hiding a corpse. Online court records indicate that Zelich’s bail in Kenosha County was set at $2 million.
Gamez’s body and that of 37-year-old Laura Simonson of Farmington, Minn., were found on June 5 in suitcases on North Como Road in the town of Geneva.
In Walworth County, Zelich has been charged with two counts of hiding a corpse.
Zelich told investigators Gamez’s death was an accident. But Kenosha County District Attorney Robert Zapf says it’s hard to believe Zelich killed two women accidentally in similar circumstances.
Investigators say Zelich told them he met both women online and killed them during separate meetings for sex and bondage.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that after Zelich killed Gamez he placed her body in a suitcase and transported it to his West Allis apartment where he stored it in a refrigerator until November 2013.
In November 2013, Zelich reportedly met Simonson in person at a hotel in Rochester, Minn. During questioning, Zelich told Walworth County Sheriff’s Detective Jeffrey Recknagel that he killed Simonson during a bondage, domination and sadomasochism session. He then placed her body in a suitcase and transported it back to West Allis.
According to a source, Zelich told police that he stored both bodies in the trunk of his car throughout the cold winter.
In Walworth County, during a preliminary hearing, Recknagel testified that Zelich told him he kept the bodies in the trunk of his car until the smell was “so strong that he decided he had to get rid of them.”.
Police have previously stated that they found no connection between Zelich and Walworth County or the town of Geneva. During a press conference in June, town of Geneva Police Chief Steven Hurley stated “there was no particular reason we could come up with for why the town of Geneva was picked.”