Following the sentencing of Steven Zelich in Walworth County, the sister of Laura Simonson placed an engraved plate near the scene of where the bodies of Simonson and Jenny Gamez was discovered in the Town of Geneva three years earlier (Heather Ruenz/The Report).

Zelich, 55, receives consecutive sentences

By Jason Arndt

Less than two months after Walworth County officials sentenced so-called suitcase killer Steven Zelich to 10 years for dumping the bodies of two women he killed in the Town of Geneva, authorities released an interrogation video to nationally syndicated crime show “Crime Watch Daily.”

Zelich was sentenced to 35 years in prison and 10 years extended supervision in Kenosha County for killing Jenny Gamez, 19, of Cottage Grove, Ore. in March 2016.

Last February, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison in Minnesota for killing Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minn., to run consecutively to the Kenosha County sentence.

In late November, “Crime Watch Daily,” hosted by Chris Hanson, received the interrogation video that led to his arrest.

Steven Zelich

The release of the interrogation video is part of larger documentary, which includes interviews with local authorities, including Walworth County Sheriff’s detective Jeff Recknagel and Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley.

In the undated interrogation video, Zelich learns from two detectives that he is under arrest, but responds with little to no remorse.

“And I’m not going back to work?” Zelich asks, as he is calmly seated without restraints and still has a work-issued baton in his possession. He worked as a security officer for a private Milwaukee-area company.

“No you are not. Steve, the DA issued a warrant for your arrest and that’s on DNA evidence,” the detective is heard telling Zelich.

Zelich, an ex-cop from West Allis, then proceeds to confess and explain the details of both killings to detectives.

“I was just blown away,” Recknagel said in an interview, about Zelich’s confession to the Gamez murder.

When asked about why authorities decided to allow Zelich to have his baton during the interrogation, Recknagel said officials used it to encourage him to speak out about his crimes.

The videotaped confession is one of many items of visual evidence contained in the three-part documentary, which starts with the discovery of both suitcases on Como Road in the Town of Geneva.

Grisly discovery
When a Walworth County highway worker was mowing along the shoulder on North Como Road in June 2014, he found black and purple suitcases blocking his path, and decided to investigate.

Jenny Gamez

Upon unzipping both suitcases, the worker found the decomposing bodies of Gamez and Simonson, and immediately notified authorities.

Recknagel described the terror he and his colleagues felt after examining the suitcases.

“I called up to my boss and I said that we need to have our entire team come down, seal off this area for miles and find evidence,” he said in the interview. “We checked for miles to see if potentially there were more dead bodies. We had no idea if these were going to be the only two dead bodies.”

Recknagel said the purple suitcase, which contained Gamez’s body, revealed a mummified hand protruding from the black garbage bag.

Crime Scene Investigators then discovered both bodies were bound with rope, and that Simonson had a ball gag in her mouth, according to a criminal complaint.

“Both of them were extremely difficult to identify,” Recknagel said.

Authorities were able to positively identify Gamez using her dental records, and for Simonson, they said tattoos matched her missing persons report filed by a friend in Minnesota.

Gamez, according to a criminal complaint, was killed in 2012 at the Comfort Inn and Suites near Interstate 94 and Highway 50 in Kenosha.

Det. Vicente Correa, of the City of Kenosha Police Department, said in the documentary that Zelich encouraged Gamez to fly to Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.

From there, Zelich took her to the Kenosha area hotel, where he admitted Gamez died as a result of “breath play,” which is the intentional restriction of oxygen for the purpose of sexual arousal.

Simonson was murdered in November 2013 at a Microtel Inn in Rochester, Minn., where hotel officials had surveillance footage of Zelich checking in and out of the establishment.

In both cases, according to Zelich, the two women died accidentally during a sexual encounter involving bondage. Whilst there is nothing wrong with bondage, it is best to watch it on sites like rather than carry it out yourself or seek it from people you do not know online, as this is very unsafe and can sadly end tragically as it has in this case.

Gamez was a junior college student in Oregon, where she grew up in the state’s foster care system, and Simonson was a single mother from Farmington, Minn.

A cybertrail

Laura Simonson

Investigators found an electronic trail leading to Zelich, according to the documentary, which showed a screenshot of his “Mr. Handcuffs” online profile.

“Laura’s cyber trail leads them to a man she met on a bondage website, a guy who calls himself Mr. Handcuffs,” Hanson said.

“Cops traced this Mr. Handcuffs to an apartment on a busy street in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis.”

Once authorities saw him as a suspect, Recknagel said investigators placed him under immediate surveillance, which included applying a tracking device on his vehicle.

Recknagel and other investigators confronted Zelich at his West Allis apartment, which authorities audio
recorded, followed by visual footage of his living space.

During the initial meeting, Zelich willingly offered a DNA sample upon the request of authorities, who matched it with samples taken from the ropes that bound both women.

Zelich told investigators, according to the documentary, that he panicked after the death of Gamez and placed her in her own suitcase to take back to his West Allis apartment.

In West Allis, Zelich put Gamez in his refrigerator, which needed to be taped shut to keep her decomposing body inside.

Eventually, Zelich put her in the trunk of his vehicle, where Simonson’s body was kept.

Graveley said Zelich, who received complaints about the odor emanating from his vehicle, then put both suitcases on the shoulder of North Como Road.

We’re all safer
Since Zelich is 55, his sentencing guarantees him the rest of his life in prison, according to Graveley.

“What that means is those are all consecutive sentences. Mr. Zelich will never get out of prison and we’re all safer because of that,” he said.

As authorities in three jurisdictions close their cases, the families of both victims are left to mourn, which includes honoring them on the tree near where they were found.

According to social media, after Zelich was convicted in Walworth County, Simonson’s sister had the names of Gamez and Simonson engraved on a plaque, which was affixed to a tree near where the bodies were found.

To view the documentary, visit and search for “Zelich.”


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