WALWORTH CO./KENOSHA CO. (WITI) — After seeing the sketch put out by officials in Walworth County after two bodies were found in suitcases in the Town of Geneva, friends and family members of Jenny Gamez in Oregon say they knew it was her. They were just waiting on dental records to prove it.
Friends and family members say Gamez would have been 21 years old — and in her young life, she went through some rough times.
She is described as a young mother, a free spirit, and someone who was always smiling.
“Just super bubbly and outgoing — just a friendly personality,” Sonya Sobel, a friend of Gamez told FOX6 News.
Friends and family members are now learning Gamez was one of two women whose bodies were found in suitcases in the Town of Geneva on June 5th.
Charged with two counts of hiding a corpse is 52-year-old Steven Zelich — a former West Allis police officer.
A criminal complaint issued against Zelich says he admitted to police to causing the death of both Gamez and 37-year-old Laura Simonson of Farmington, Minnesota.
Simonson was identified quickly — but authorities in Walworth County initially asked for the public’s help in identifying the other body — issuing a sketch and a description.
During a press conference held on Monday, June 30th, officials in Walworth County confirmed the unidentified body belongs to Jenny Gamez.
Her body was found decomposed in a suitcase — with her hands tied with rope behind her back.
“It would make sense it would be her,” Sobel said.
Sobel says it was the distinct features in the sketch issued by authorities in Walworth County that told her it was Gamez right away.
“I have like, no doubt it was her. The black and white picture they have — you can see her crooked bottom teeth, big front top teeth, her little eyes and high cheekbones,” Sobel said.
Gamez’s foster mother was told Zelich allegedly murdered Gamez on their first date.
Gamez disappeared in 2012. Apparently, she told her family she was moving, and police say the young woman’s family just thought she was moving on with her life.
“The few of us who were really, really close with her lost contact and hadn`t heard from her,” Sobel said.
The complaint against Zelich says he admitted to authorities he met Gamez while chatting online in 2012.
The complaint says they met in person in late 2012 or early 2013 in Kenosha County — and it was during that meeting that Zelich told officials he caused her death.
Gamez’s friend says the whole situation has been disturbing, and says she just wants Gamez’s memory honored.
“She was always this happy person and just so positive about everything. Like a little ray of sunshine,” Sobel said.
Zelich made his initial court appearance on Friday, June 27th — where he was ordered held on $1 million bond. We’re told Zelich is being kept in segregation for his own protection.
Zelich is due back in court on Thursday, July 3rd in Walworth County for his preliminary hearing.
Zelich’s attorney tells FOX6 News it has not been determined whether the deaths were intentionally caused, or accidental. That will be determined by the court process.
We’re told Zelich’s cooperation in the investigation has been significant.
Officials in Kenosha County are trying to prove Zelich killed Gamez through computer evidence and hotel records before they bring the case to the District Attorney’s Office for possible murder charges in Gamez’s death.
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