2nd suitcase body confirmed as Oregon woman

2nd suitcase body confirmed as Oregon woman
Jenny Gamez
ELKHORN, Wis. (AP) - The second of two women whose bodies were stuffed in suitcases found along a rural Wisconsin highway has been identified as an Oregon woman who disappeared after moving in 2012, though she was never officially reported missing, police said Monday.

Wisconsin authorities identified the woman as Jenny Gamez, of Cottage Grove, Oregon. Investigators believe she died in late 2012 or early 2013, when she was 19.

Steven Zelich, a 52-year-old security officer, was arrested last week and charged with two counts of hiding a corpse after highway workers discovered the two suitcases while cutting grass June 5 in Town of Geneva, about 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee. The other body previously was identified as Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minnesota.

"It is one of the more horrific crimes I've been involved in" in 36 years in law enforcement, Geneva Police Chief Steven Hurley said during a news conference. "It has taken a lot of twists and turns in the past few weeks."

He said one reason for the delay in identifying Gamez was that she had told her family she was moving, and as a result, was never officially reported missing.

According to a criminal complaint, Zelich told investigators he met the women online. He said he killed Gamez in late 2012 or early 2013 in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, and Simonson in November in Rochester, Minnesota. Rochester police have said they believe Simonson died in a hotel there because she checked in with Zelich on Nov. 2, and he left alone the next day.

Gamez was identified with dental records, said Kurt Picknell, the undersheriff in Walworth County, which includes Town of Geneva. He declined to detail how investigators linked Gamez to the bodies in Wisconsin, saying the death investigation was being handled by police in Kenosha.

Walworth County District Attorney Daniel Necci has said he expects homicide charges to be filed in the counties where the women were killed. But Zelich's public defender, Travis Schwantes, said the deaths may have been accidents and perhaps something that happened during consensual sex.

Picknell said the bodies were found intact in suitcases that were a "standard" size.

Zelich had been working as a licensed private security officer for Securitas Security Services USA when he was arrested last Wednesday.

He worked for the police department in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, Wisconsin, from February 1989 until his resignation in August 2001, a few months after a prostitute told police the two had struggled when she tried to flee Zelich's home. According to a police report, Zelich told investigators the two struggled over money the woman tried to steal from him.