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Wisconsin man accused of hiding bodies in suitcases expected to enter plea

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[July 17, 2014]  By Brendan O'Brien
 
 MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A Wisconsin man accused of stuffing the bodies of two women in separate suitcases and dumping the luggage in a roadside ditch is expected to enter a plea in court on Thursday.

Steven Zelich, 52, is charged with two felony counts of hiding a corpse in Walworth County, 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee, and investigations are continuing in another Wisconsin county and in Minnesota into the deaths of the women.

Zelich told investigators he accidentally killed Jenny Gamez, 21, of Cottage Grove, Oregon, and Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minnesota, during sexual encounters at hotels, according to court documents.

The former police officer told authorities he met Gamez at a hotel in Kenosha County in late 2012 or early 2013 and stuffed her body in a suitcase and hid it in his apartment until this year, when he moved it to a vehicle, authorities said.

Zelich met Simonson online and accidentally killed her at a hotel in Rochester, Minnesota, in November, authorities said. He told investigators he also put Simonson's body in a suitcase and hid her in his vehicle.

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Authorities believe Zelich dumped the suitcases shortly before they were found on June 5 by a crew cutting grass.

Zelich could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if convicted of hiding a corpse.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Peter Cooney)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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