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“The smell was so strong, he decided he had to get rid of them:” Detective says Zelich told him he killed the women accidentally

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WALWORTH COUNTY (WITI) -- 52-year-old Steven Zelich -- the former West Allis police officer facing two counts of hiding a corpse after the bodies of two women were found inside suitcases in the Town of Geneva on June 5th will stand trial on those charges. Zelich joined his lawyer in court in Walworth County on Thursday, July 3rd for his preliminary hearing.

Zelich has admitted to causing the death of two women, putting their bodies in suitcases and then placing the suitcases in the area of N. Como Road, east of Co. Rd. H. in the Town of Geneva during the first week of June.

The women have been identified as 37-year-old Laura Simonson of Farmington, Minnesota, and 21-year-old Jenny Gamez of Oakridge, Oregon.

Minutes after Zelich entered the courtroom in Walworth County on Thursday, new details in the case against him began to emerge.

A Walworth County Sheriff's Detective who interviewed Zelich after the suitcases were found took the stand.

Detective Jeffrey Recknagel told the court Zelich told him that he killed Simonson and Gamez during rough sex -- and then put their bodies in suitcases that he hid for months before dumping them in the Town of Geneva.

"He told me that had been storing these bodies in the trunk of his vehicle and that the smell was so strong, that he decided he had to get rid of them," Recknagel said.

Recknagel says Zelich told him he killed the women accidentally after separate sexual encounters that were rough and included bondage.

"The first suitcase had an adult woman.  She was naked.  She had a gag-ball in her mouth that was attached to a collar," Recknagel said -- speaking of the suitcase in which Simonson's body was found.

The complaint against Zelich says Gamez was found partially concealed in garbage bags. Her hands were found bound with rope behind her back.

According to the criminal complaint, Zelich told police he met both women while chatting online.

Zelich told police he met Jenny Gamez  in person in late 2012 or early 2013 in Kenosha County.

Zelich told officials he met Laura Simonson personally in Rochester, Minnesota in November of 2013.

"They spent days at the hotel. He participated in a BDSM session, and during that session, he ultimately took her life," Recknagel said.

In both cases, the complaint against Zelich says he told police he placed the bodies in suitcases -- taking them back to his West Allis apartment.

During Thursday's preliminary hearing, Zelich's public defender argued the women's deaths were not intentional.

Zelich isn't facing homicide charges out of Walworth County -- or any county or state, at this time.

In Walworth County, Zelich only faces charges of hiding the corpses.

"One: the evidence establishes that these suitcases were not hidden.  Second, there`s no crime to conceal if it`s an accidental death," Zelich's attorney said.

Zelich's attorney argues the suitcases were left in plain sight -- a quarter-mile away from the Town of Geneva Police Department -- and were therefore, not hidden.

He declined to answer any further questions from the media after Thursday's hearing.

"I appreciate you trying to do your jobs, but I don`t think it`s appropriate to comment any further right now," Zelich's attorney said.

Zelich will be arraigned in two weeks -- on July 17th.

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