Zelich pleads not guilty to hiding corpses because bodies found - KMSP-TV

Zelich pleads not guilty to hiding corpses because bodies found

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Although former West Allis Police Officer Steven Zelich admitted to causing the deaths of two women whose bodies were found in suitcases in rural Wisconsin, he plead not guilty to two counts of hiding a corpse on Thursday.

Zelich entered his plea at the Walworth County Judicial Center, and so far, investigators say he has been cooperative as they try to determine whether or not he murdered two women during sexual encounters involving bondage and sadomasochism. One of those women -- 37-year-old Laura Simonson, of Farmington, Minn. -- was reported missing in November.

MORE: Missing Minn. woman's body found in suitcase in Wis.

Investigators say Zelich has spent hours answering questions, appearing on a video monitor from the Walworth County Jail. Charging documents state that he admitted to keeping the bodies of two women he met online in suitcases for months -- one in his home and one in the trunk of his car -- before dumping them near a road. The bodies of Simonson and Jennifer Gamez, of Cottage Grove, Ore., were found on June 5.

CHARGES: Wis. cop admits 'causing the death' of 2 women

On Thursday, Zelich's lawyer claimed to have received about 3 feet of paperwork related to the case so that he can prepare a defense; however, it is still unknown if murder charges will be filed -- or where. Authorities in Kenosha, Wis., and Rochester, Minn., may charge him in those jurisdictions since those are the places Zelich claims the women died.

"What we do know is the deaths being caused by people meeting in a hotel room," prosecutor Daniel Necci explained. "Something went horribly awry during consensual sexual activity."

The charges of hiding a corpse are keeping Zelich in jail for proceedings while other counties continue to investigate, but his attorney, Travis Schwantes, tried to argue that there wasn't probable cause for a trial on those charges because he contends Zelich hoped the bodies would be discovered by authorities in Geneva, Wis. According to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he intends to assert that argument again if the case goes to trial.

Schwantes is also trying to gain access to the recordings and interviews Zelich has undergone with police, and will spend the weekend reading and listening to the evidence collected. He also intends to represent Zelich if charges are brought in Kenosha County. A public defender in Minnesota would likely represent Zelich if charges are filed in Olmsted County.

MORE: 5 red flags show suspect in suitcase bodies had checkered past

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