Ex-cop charged with hiding two corpses held on $1 million cash bond
ELKHORN--The West Allis man prosecutors say admitted killing two women and putting their bodies into suitcases was ordered held Friday at the Walworth County Jail on a $1 million cash bond.
Steven Zelich, 52, appeared in court Friday afternoon by video from jail. He is charged with two counts of hiding a corpse.
“He confessed to causing the deaths of two individuals whose bodies he hid here in Walworth County,” District Attorney Daniel Necci said. “I believe that severity requires a severely high cash bond to ensure his appearance in court.”
Zelich’s attorney, Travis Schwantes, requested a $50,000 signature bond with a $1,000 cash component. He said Zelich has lived in West Allis the last two decades, graduated from UW-Milwaukee and the charges he faces are not the equivalent of a homicide charge, which would be consistent with a $1 million bond.
Zelich was arrested Wednesday at his West Allis apartment in connection with the two bodies found in separate suitcases along North Como Road in the town of Geneva on June 5. He was charged Thursday.
Zelich told police he ditched the suitcases along a Walworth County road in early June, according to a criminal complaint.
Zelich told police he met the two women online, killed them, stored their bodies in suitcases and later left the suitcases along the road, according to the criminal complaint.
Zelich told police he met the first woman, who remains unidentified to the public, through an online dating website in 2012 and met her in person in late 2012 or early 2013 in Kenosha County.
It was at their first meeting that Zelich killed her, according to the criminal complaint.
Zelich's attorney in Walworth County, public defender Travis Schwantes, said it is too soon to say how the deaths occurred.
“It could be anything from premeditated homicide down to accidental death that occurred through a consensual sex-related act,” Schwantes told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Zelich has cooperated with authorities in the two deaths since his arrest Wednesday morning at a Glendale company, Schwantes said.
Schwantes said he could not provide information on whether Zelich is providing information regarding other missing persons cases, the Journal Sentinel reported.
“He is grateful for the way he has been treated, and as to the weightier question of how he is emotionally responding to what he is accused of—there will be a time for that later,” Schwantes said.
Zelich has requested counsel in Kenosha and will also request counsel in Minnesota, Schwantes said.
Schwantes said he met with Zelich for about an hour at the Walworth County Jail before Friday's court appearance, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Zelich told officers he kept the unidentified woman’s body in a suitcase at his apartment, later hiding it in his car, according to the complaint.
Zelich also admitted being involved in the death of Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minnesota, according to the complaint.
Simonson's family reported her missing Nov. 22, 2013.
Zelich told police he met Simonson online and then met her in person in November 2013 in Rochester, Minnesota, where he killed her, put her into a suitcase and put the suitcase into his vehicle, according to the complaint.
Simonson was last seen Nov. 2, 2013, when she stayed at a Microtel Inn with Zelich, Rochester police said.
Zelich could be arrested on other charges related to the deaths, Undersheriff Kurt Picknell said Thursday.
Homicide charges could be filed in Kenosha County and Olmsted County, Minnesota, Necci said, but he did not know when. Rochester is in Olmsted County.
Simonson was found naked, with a rope around her neck and a gag strapped into her mouth with a collar, the complaint states. The other woman's hands were bound behind her back with a rope.
A worker mowing along North Como Road on June 5 found the suitcases.
When found, the bodies showed “obvious signs of decomposition” indicating both victims were dead for “a long period of time,” according to the criminal complaint.
Zelich was arrested at his West Allis apartment.
Necci could not speculate if there are other victims.
“I don’t know what else he’s been involved in, and that is part of the ongoing investigation,” Necci said.
Zelich is a licensed private security officer who has worked for Securitas Security Services USA since June 28, 2007, according to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Zelich resigned 13 years ago after 12 years of working as a West Allis police officer, West Allis Police Chief Charles Padgett said in a statement Thursday.
Zelich is scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Walworth County Judicial Center.