Steven Zelich, a 52-year-old security officer, was charged with two counts of hiding a corpse. He was arrested this week when detectives removed large, brown bags of evidence and a refrigerator from his apartment in West Allis, a Milwaukee suburb.
Highway workers discovered two suitcases containing female remains on June 5 in the Town of Geneva, some 80km southwest of Milwaukee. 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.
Simonson was found naked with a rope around her neck and a ball gag strapped in her mouth with a collar, according to a criminal complaint filed in Walworth County, Wisconsin. The other woman’s hands were bound behind her back.
Both bodies were decomposed, and Zelich told investigators he hid one for about a year and a half, moving it between his home and vehicle, the complaint says. Zelich said he met both women online, and police said in Simonson’s case it may have been through a bondage website.
Zelich told investigators he killed the unidentified woman in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, in late 2012 or early 2013 and Simonson in Rochester, Minnesota, in November, the complaint says.
Police believe Simonson died at the Microtel Inn and Suites because she checked in with Zelich on November 2, and Zelich left alone the next day, Rochester police Capt John Sherwin said. Investigators have collected evidence from the hotel and interviewed people who stayed there on those days.
Farmington police detective Sgt Lee Hollatz said Zelich had long been his “No 1 person, by far, of interest” in Simonson’s disappearance.
He discovered Simonson went to the hotel with Zelich soon after her family reported her missing on November 22, but he said all he had was a missing person’s case until the bodies were discovered. Hollatz said Simonson was identified within a day by her tattoos.
Simonson’s father, Richard Wierson, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his daughter had struggled with mental illness since adolescence and her seven children were placed in foster care with him in 2010.