Suitcase bodies suspect waives preliminary hearing on murder charge

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by Marshanna Hester

Kenosha -- A former police officer charged with murder and hiding the bodies of two women in suitcases returned to Kenosha County court Friday morning.

Steven Zelich, 52, decided to waive his preliminary hearing after a final talk with his attorney Jonathan Smith.

However, Smith said that does not mean Zelich is admitting he's guilty.

Zelich is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Jenny Gamez,19.

According to the criminal complaint, Zelich said he caused Gamez's death after a sexual choking game inside a Kenosha hotel room went too far.

Now that the preliminary hearing is over, Smith said he can get the police reports from Kenosha police, break them down and discuss details with his client.

A new judge will take over court proceedings at Smith's request.

He said the change is about working with someone he's familiar with and has experience.

He emphasizes it's not about winning, as there are no "winners" in this tragic case.

"The fact of the manner is we have two deceased women here, which is very tragic and a difficult manner for their families, yet there is still a judicial process that has to be respected," Smith said. "He certainly has rights and I expect his rights to be exercised."

Zelich is scheduled for an arraignment Monday, August 18 at 1:15 p.m in Kenosha County.

The former West Allis police officer also faces two counts of hiding a corpse in Walworth County.

One charge is for Gamez, the other is for Laura Simonson.

Simonson, 37, was found stuffed in a suitcase alongside Gamez on the side of a highway in the Town of Geneva.

Zelich stated in the criminal complaint he caused Simonson's death in a Minnesota hotel room during a BDSM session.

The defendant said he kept both of their bodies in his apartment before dumping them in June.

Smith said he has not spoken to Minnesota authorities about the possibility they could file murder charges against Zelich for Simonson's death.
 

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