Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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June 29, 2014

Bond set at $1M for ex-cop in suitcase deaths

ELKHORN, Wis. (AP) — Bond was set at $1 million on Friday for a former police officer suspected in the deaths of two women whose bodies were stuffed into suitcases and dumped along a rural Wisconsin highway.

Steven Zelich, a 52-year-old security officer, is charged with two counts of hiding a corpse. Walworth County prosecutors convinced a judge to set the high bond after saying they expected homicide charges to be filed in the counties where the women were killed.

But Zelich's attorney suggested the women may have died during accidents, perhaps during consensual sex. Investigators have said he met the two women online.

Zelich appeared for the hearing Friday through a video from jail but did not speak.

Zelich was arrested Wednesday, when detectives wearing hazmat suits removed a refrigerator and large brown bags of evidence from his apartment in West Allis, a Milwaukee suburb.

Highway workers cutting grass discovered two suitcases on June 5. Police identified one woman as Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minnesota. Authorities have not released the identity of the second woman but describe her as a white female with long, dark hair, a pronounced overbite and a small heart tattoo on her lower left abdomen.

Investigators allege that Zelich said he met both women online, killed them and stored their bodies in his home and vehicle for months before dropping the suitcases in the Town of Geneva, some 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee. He killed the unidentified woman in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, in late 2012 or early 2013 and Simonson in Rochester, Minnesota, in November, according to a criminal complaint.

Judge David Reddy accepted the prosecutor's request for a $1 million cash bond, noting that the most important thing was to protect the public.

Walworth County District Attorney Daniel Necci justified the request in part by saying he expected homicide charges to be filed in Kenosha County and Olmsted County, Minnesota, which includes Rochester.

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