Last Minute Change Ends Plea Agreement and Sends Alleged Suitcase Murderer to Trial
The former West Allis Police officer in the so called suitcase murders was back in court.
Steven Zelich was supposed to be sentenced for hiding the bodies of two women along a rural road in Walworth County. A last minute change is sending the case to trial.
Just as court was starting it was clear the state changed the plea agreement for Steven Zelich.
Zelich is accused of killing both Jenny Gamez and Laura Simonson and leaving their bodies in suitcases in Walworth County.
He was convicted last month in Kenosha County of Gamez's murder.
He still needs to be tried in Minnesota for Simonson's murder.
In Walworth County, he was facing two counts of hiding a corpse.
Prosecutors say to speed up the process of getting him to Minnesota, they had originally agreed to today's guilty plea of one count of hiding a corpse.
Prosecutors were recommending a concurrent 5-year prison sentence, and 5 years of supervision. Zelich is currently serving 35 years in prison for Gamez's murder.
During Wednesday's hearing, it was expressed the state wanted Zelich to plead guilty to both counts of hiding a corpse, but still serve the 5-years concurrent prison sentence.
Zelich's lawyer didn't agree. The judge left the next step up to the attorneys.
Zelich is expected back in court in September for a pre-trial hearing. The trial is set for October. Zelich is charged with two counts of hiding a corpse. He faces 20 years in prison.
On Wednesday, the court was supposed to hear from the family of both victims.
The mother and sister of 19 year old Jenny Gamez did not speak after it was clear Zelich wouldn't be sentenced Wednesday.
The judge did read a statement from the sister of Laura Simonson, the 47-year-old victim killed in Minnesota.
The court did hear from Nikki Carlson, Simonson's sister. The judge read a statement from her since she could not be at the hearing in person.
“The thing that saddens me most is that he left both Jenny's and my sister's bodies along the side of the road like they'd meant nothing. Both women had left behind children, family and friends. He took away my only sister, and now I'm being told that he will get up to 10 years, but it will run along with the other time he is serving. I'm having a hard time seeing the justice in that. He deserves more punishment than that,” said Carlson.