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Ex-cop admits killing women he met online, hiding bodies in suitcases

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Former Wisconsin policeman confesses he killed women he met online, hid bodies in suitcases, authorities say
Women stuffed in suitcases were killed by former Wisconsin cop, documents say

A former Wisconsin police officer has admitted to killing two women he met online and stuffing their bodies into suitcases found earlier this month, according to court documents.

Steven Zelich, of West Allis, Wis., told investigators with the Walworth County Sheriff's Office that he met Laura Simonson, a 37-year-old mother of seven from Minnesota, and another unidentified woman in online chat rooms and killed both of them, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in Walworth County.

He hid their bodies in his apartment and vehicle before putting each in a suitcase and hiding them earlier this month on the side of a road in Geneva, a town with a population of 5,000 in southern Wisconsin, according to the documents.

The bodies were found June 5 by town employees, police have said. 

Det. Sgt. Lee Hollatz, an investigator with the Farmington Police Department in Minnesota, told the Los Angeles Times that Zelich was on the department's radar shortly after it started investigating Simonson's disappearance.

Simonson was reported missing in November, and might have given her family reasons to think she was leaving town, but Hollatz declined to elaborate.

Hollatz's investigation turned to Zelich in January, after he found out the 52-year-old had been caught on video with the victim at a motel in Rochester, Minn.

He contacted West Allis Police, who recognized Zelich as a former officer, Hollatz said. It was not clear why Zelich left the department, and calls to West Allis Police were not returned.

Investigators went to Zelich's apartment, but Hollatz said they found "no sign of Simonson, no red flags or anything." 

But Zelich had allegedly killed Simonson weeks before the visit from police, according to the complaint. Zelich admitted that he killed her when they met in Rochester in November 2013 and then stuffed her body in a suitcase.

The suitcase stayed in his vehicle for months, according to the complaint.

The second victim, who was not identified, met Zelich online in 2012. They met in person in early 2013 in Kenosha County, Wis., and Zelich also admitted to killing her, according to the complaint.

He also hid her body in a suitcase, then placed the suitcase in his West Allis home, where it remained for nearly a year, according to the complaint.

Simonson was found naked with a rope wrapped around her neck, according to the complaint. The second victim's body was partly hidden by garbage bags and her hands were bound, according to the documents.

Zelich has been charged with two counts of hiding a corpse. Walworth County Dist. Atty. Daniel Necci told The Times an additional complaint would be filed on Friday, but declined to elaborate.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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