40-year-old Kenosha man charged in death of Erin Ziemendorf

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KENOSHA (WITI) -- 40-year-old Matthew McDowell of Kenosha has been charged in connection with the death of 30-year-old Erin Ziemendorf.

Ziemendorf's body was found in the trunk of a car near a Greyhound bus station in Chicago on Sunday evening, October 27th.

matthew mcdowell

McDowell has now been charged with one count of first degree intentional homicide and one count of hiding a corpse.

Wearing a vest and jail-issued sandals, McDowell on Tuesday, October 29th stood before a judge for his initial court appearance.

Meanwhile, police sat outside his home, where the alleged crime occurred.

A criminal complaint in the case says McDowell and his brother went to the Kenosha Police Department on Sunday evening, and McDowell told officials there he wanted to report an accidental death.

The complaint says McDowell told officials he was at his residence in Kenosha on Saturday when he got into an argument and physical confrontation with Ziemendorf, his girlfriend.

The argument was over their relationship and money, according to the complaint. The complaint says the two had been taking a break from their relationship, but were now planning a vacation to Hawaii. The complaint indicates McDowell later told his brother the argument was over Ziemendorf telling McDowell she was cheating on him.

The complaint says McDowell told officials while in the upper bedroom of the residence, Ziemendorf "bumped him," and then grabbed his rib cage. McDowell told officials that at some point, he was pushed into a corner, stumbled, and pushed Ziemendorf back, according to the complaint.

The complaint says McDowell told officials Ziemendorf then picked up a corkscrew, swung it at him once, and then came at him.

The complaint says at some point, Ziemendorf pushed McDowell onto the bed, and placed her thumbs in his eyes.

According to the complaint, McDowell told officials that after Ziemendorf's hands left his face, he heard a crack -- and noticed that Ziemendorf was choking. McDowell told officials he became nervous and wondered if he had broken Ziemendorf's neck due to his body weight, according to the complaint.

When McDowell got up from the bed, Ziemendorf was not breathing and was not responsive, according to the complaint.

The complaint says McDowell told officials after he realized Ziemendorf was dead, he panicked, put Ziemendorf's body in her car, and then drove to a parking lot by the Greyhound bus station in Chicago, where he left her body inside the vehicle.

The complaint says McDowell told his brother he took the train back to Kenosha and a cab to his parent's home. McDowell later contacted his brother to accompany him to Kenosha PD.

Following an autopsy, a Medical Examiner determined Ziemendorf's cause of death to be blunt neck trauma -- and has ruled her death a homicide.

Pastor Ari Mattson is leading his congregation at Martin Luther Lutheran Church in mourning Ziemendorf's death.

"The family called me early and I met with them as they were first getting the news and the details. No one ever wants this to happen anywhere, to anyone. I will always remember her smiling. She was just a beautiful, kind and loving person that brought a lot of joy and happiness to people around her," Mattson said.

Kevin Masullo is Ziemendorf's ex-husband and father to her five-year-old son. Ziemendorf's little boy hasn't learned of her death yet. Masullo plans to tell him on Wednesday at church with the support of family and Mattson.

"She was the love of my life.  I`m gonna miss her dearly. I just want people to remember when she came into a room her beautiful smile, and we`re all gonna miss it," Masullo said.