West Allis man arrested for connection to bodies found in suitcases

June 27, 2014

A neighbor of the former West Allis cop accused of killing two woman and stuffing their bodies into a suitcase expressed shock at the brutal murders.

LeeRoy Wagner lives in a duplex around the corner from Steven Zelich's apartment building. He said he's spent his entire adult life living in that West Allis neighborhood.

"It's a terrible thing, really," he said. "You wonder how it can happen, you know?"

Zelich, 52, of West Allis, was taken into custody at his apartment in the 8000 block of W. Lincoln Avenue, according to a news release from Town of Geneva Police Chief Steven Hurley.

Wagner said in all the 37 years he's been living in the duplex, nothing like the crime Zelich is accused of committing ever happened.

"It's a tragedy. You don't think something like that would happen around here. You expect this kind of thing to happen in some place like Iraq where bad things are happening all the time, not here."

Zelich is scheduled to appear in court today for a preliminary hearing on two related felony charges. Walworth County Circuit Court Judge Phil Koss will hear the case at 10 a.m. He was being held on $1 million bail.

One of the victims was quickly identified as Laura Simonson, 37, from Farmington, Minnesota, who was reported missing by her mother last November. The second victim was identified on Monday, June 30, as Jenny Gamez, a 21-year-old Oregon native.

Zelich, a former West Allis police officer, resigned in 2001 after an incident involving an off-duty altercation with a prostitute. Police sources told various news outlets that charges were never filed against Zelich for the incident, and various background checks throughout Zelich's employment history never raised any red flags.

The bodies of both women were found stuffed into separate suitcases in a Walworth County ditch on June 5.

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