Will evidence be enough for a conviction? Kris Zocco in court, accused of killing of Kelly Dwyer

Kris Zocco

MILWAUKEE -- After three-and-a-half years, homicide charges have been filed against the man investigators say was last seen with Kelly Dwyer. Kris Zocco made his initial appearance in court Tuesday, May 9th, as a court official said there's a mountain of circumstantial evidence against him in this case. The question is, will it be enough for a conviction?

As Zocco made his initial appearance on homicide charges Tuesday, a preliminary hearing was scheduled for May 18th. Cash bond was set at $100,000.

"The fact that Mr. Zocco took great pains to hide Kelly Dwyer's body, the fact that Ms. Dwyer's body was found nude and the dump site, the fact that a cadaver dog indicates that an odor of a body is in his apartment and the trunk of his vehicle," the prosecutor, Sara Hill said.

"The complete lack of physical evidence in this case, leaving the state to conjecture that the indications by a cadaver dog are sufficient to conclude that a death occurred within an apartment where not one piece of physical evidence was recovered," Craig Mastantuono, Zocco's attorney said.

As the prosecution and defense laid out this case, the court commissioner ruled there is enough evidence for this case to proceed.

"I will use the words, there is a mountain of circumstantial evidence, but is it strong circumstantial evidence to convict Mr. Zocco? I don't know. That will be up to a jury to decide," Barry Phillips, court commissioner said.

"It's a very strong circumstantial homicide case. Circumstantial cases are charged and won all the time," Hill said.

"There's a difference between circumstantial, which is allowed in court, and conjecture, and this complaint is more conjecture and a pile of conjecture," Mastantuono said.

42-year-old Zocco faces the following criminal charges, filed Monday, May 8th:

  • First degree reckless homicide
  • Hiding a corpse
  • Strangulation & suffocation

Kris Zocco

The 16-page complaint says "the three-and-a-half year police investigation of this matter has ruled out any other possible suspects and no evidence has been discovered to suggest that anyone other than defendant Kris V. Zocco could have killed Kelly E. Dwyer and disposed of her body."

The complaint details Zocco's conflicting stories and also backs up allegations about a sexually violent, dominating past which includes his obsession with bondage, restraint, asphyxia and strangulation.

Kris Zocco

Zocco's history of controlling and sexually aggressive tendencies dates back to high school when he was just 16 years old. Since then and over the course of the years, Zocco has had relationships with at least five women other than Kelly Dwyer. They claim he would hold them down during intercourse -- or tie up their hands and feet while blindfolded.

Pictures and video of Zocco engaging in similar acts with Dwyer, who was seemingly unconscious, were found on Zocco's cell phone.

Dwyer was seen for the last time alive entering Zocco's Prospect Ave. apartment building around 2:30 a.m. on October 11, 2013. In the days following, police dogs detected the odor of human remains on his bed, in the guest bathroom, where the rugs, towels and shower curtain were missing. The K9 also hit in the dumpster, in Zocco's car and his trunk.

Kris Zocco's East Side apartment building

Bank records trace Zocco along a 38-mile route where Dwyer's skeletal remains were located down an embankment in a rural part of Jefferson County in May 2015. His actions of removing his phone's SIM card, which provides GPS location, along with conflicting stories of his whereabouts and why he left his apartment with a large golf bag, attributes to the new charges.

Kelly Dwyer's body found in Jefferson County in May 2015

Reports indicate witnesses say Zocco was part of a rape chat room and a few women said he stalked them after cutting off their relationship.

If convicted of these three new felony charges, Zocco could face up to 76 years in prison. Right now, he is serving 19 years in state prison on unrelated charges after being convicted of 16 counts of possession of child pornography and several drug charges.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn spoke about the Zocco and Dwyer case on Monday afternoon, and the exhaustive effort by MPD to solve this crime.

"I think this is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle and there were a lot of pieces that were always available to us. It was just about how each piece fit with the others. I think there was an overwhelming amount of information in the complaint that indicates that we eliminated just about every other conceivable suspect," Chief Flynn said.