July 30, 2016
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Judge to allow additional testimony in suitcase-death case

Details of similar death to be allowed


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BY JANINE ANDERSON
janderson@kenoshanews.com


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Prosecutors will be allowed to tell jurors about the other death of which Steven Zelich is accused, when the former West Allis cop comes up for trial next month.

Zelich, 54, is charged here with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse. The charges came after suitcases containing two women's bodies were found outside Lake Geneva in June 2014.

The women — Jenny Gamez, of Oregon, and Laura Simonson, of Minnesota — were linked with Zelich, and he was then arrested.

While talking with investigators, Zelich admitted killing both women, but said it was accidental, happening during "breath play" while having sex.

Gamez, he said, died in August 2012 in a Kenosha hotel. He brought her body home and kept it in his refrigerator.

In November 2013, Zelich is accused of meeting with Simonson in Minnesota, and having the same thing happen.

After killing Simonson, Zelich is believed to have started storing the women's bodies in his trunk, and then dumping them after the smell became noticeable to others.

Judge agrees with prosecution

In the local case, the state has been trying to get permission to tell the jury about Simonson and her death during Zelich's trial for Gamez's death. Twice, Judge Bruce Schroeder said no.

The state made a third attempt, with prosecutors saying they believe Zelich planned to kill Gamez all along, and said they need to talk about what he did to her before she flew from Oregon to Wisconsin, as well as how he lined up meetings with Simonson and a woman identified only as "Petra" in court documents.

This time, Schroeder said yes.

"Twice rebuffed, (the state) again returns, with a more cogent explanation and specific allegations offered to justify admission," Schroeder wrote in the one-page decision. "I am now persuaded that the evidence of the Minnesota homicide and the alleged solicitation of another woman should be admitted, for the reasons to be discussed at the next hearing."

The case is due in front of Schroeder on Tuesday for a final pre-trial hearing, ahead of the Jan. 25 trial start date.

Schroeder has said the ruling could change depending on other evidence that may be introduced at trial.


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