Suspect in suitcase deaths enters 'not guilty' plea

CREATED Jul 17, 2014 - UPDATED: Jul 17, 2014

  • Print
ELKHORN - Former West Allis police officer Steven Zelich pleaded not guilty to two counts of hiding a corpse when he appeared in Walworth County Court Thursday.
 
Attorneys on both sides spoke outside the courtroom. They're both aware that this case could be just what law enforcement in Kenosha and Minnesota need to hold Zelich so they can build their cases against him.
 
"Theoretically, if someone were to file homicide charges in another county, it would make our charges relatively small potatoes in comparison," said Daniel Necci, Walworth County prosecutor.
 
For more than six weeks, investigators in Wisconsin and Minnesota have been trying to learn how the decomposing bodies of Jenny Gamez and Laura Simonson wound up in suitcases, discarded in thick grass near the Town of Geneva.
 
"I have been in contact with Kenosha County and with Olmsted County to assure them that we're at their disposal, that we're happy to help them in any way," said Necci.
 
Also reportedly happy to help? The former West Allis police officer himself.  Steven Zelich appeared at his arraignment via closed circuit t.v. from the Walworth County jail.
 
"Since he was arrested on June 25th, he has engaged in extensive communication with law enforcement," said Travis Schwantes, public defender.
 
As we wait to see if Kenosha and Minnesota will file homicide charges, Schwantes was asked whether there could be even more victims.
 
"No. Actually I don't know that there's homicide in this case, I should say.  There's a lot that we don't know, but what we do know points to the deaths being caused by people meeting in a hotel room and something going terribly awry," said Schwantes.
 
The next court proceedings on this matter on charges of hiding a corpse is now scheduled for September.