Kenosha County, WI - This week, former police officer Steven Zelich pleaded guilty to killing a woman, putting her body in a suitcase, and leaving it on the side of the highway. The victim, 19-year-old Jenny Gamez, was found stuffed in a suitcase along a highway in Wisconsin in August of 2012.
Gamez was not the only woman that Zelich was accused of killing either. He has also been implicated in the murder of a 37-year-old woman from Minnesota named Laura Simonson. Simpson's body was also found in a suitcase along the same highway where Gamez was found.
Zelich has a history of troubling incidents during his time as a police officer and many of the events surrounding his career would have landed a non-police officer in jail.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Zelich was forced to resign, but never charged after a series of troubling incidents, including one in May 2001 in which a woman ran, crying, from his apartment in her underwear.
For years, Zelich stalked workers at a salon, often hanging outside and threatening the workers. In one of the complaints, the victim stated that Zelich startled her.
"She stated that he scared the heck out of her and she told him so," the report says. "His reply was that he was supposed to scare people."
The list goes on. Multiple women, two dancers and a bartender, filed complaints against Zelich for entering a gentleman's club, in uniform and demanding dates. Zelich refused to take no for an answer.
Other women in different areas describe similar incidents, including a victim who said Zelich called her at least 1,000 times.
"She stated that she has moved three times in the past eight years and changed her telephone number," the records say. "Each time this would happen Officer Zelich would have her new unlisted telephone number and address. He would call her at home and would send her birthday cards, greeting cards and Christmas cards."
After countless complaints against this stalking maniac, the department finally launched an investigation. They found that he was using the department computers to run multiple women's license plates to get their addresses, names, and numbers.
Zelich was fired, but never charged. In fact, personnel records confirm that Zelich was still given his blue privilege in spite of his crimes. The internal investigator told Zelich that had he not been a police officer, he would have been arrested and charged with disorderly conduct,according to the personnel records.
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His next stalking victims would not be so lucky as to escape unharmed.
Zelich met both of the women online and coaxed them into meeting him. When he confessed, Zelich told investigators that he played a "choking game" with Gamez, and at some point "lost control" and choked her until she died.
Zelich also admitted that he put Gamez in a suitcase and kept her in his refrigerator until he eventually threw her on the side of the road. Simpson died under completely identical circumstances, and there is significant evidence linking him to the crime.
Zelich went by the name "Mr. Handcuffs" on the online sex forum where he found his victims. Zelich’s attorney, Jonathan Smith, claims that the murder of Gamez was an accident.
“It’s been maintained that this was a non-intentional act,” Smith said.
However, FOX6 reported that Zelich agreed to plead guilty to one count of first-degree reckless homicide and one count of hiding a corpse.
"That offer finally acknowledges that this was not a negligent death -- that this was something higher than negligence that occurred," Kenosha County Deputy District Attorney Michael Graveley said.
Gravely also predicted that the former officer will be in prison for the rest of his life, saying that there was "a very high likelihood that the defendant Steven Zelich will never get out of custody."
Investigators suspect that Zelich may be a serial killer and that there may be many more victims. They have expanded their investigation to review cold cases from across the country that match the description of Zelich's crimes.
Zelich will now face a maximum prison sentence of 45 years, plus up to five more years for hiding a corpse in the case of Gamez. The case involving the murder of Simpson is separate and has not yet gone to trial.
Zelich is scheduled to be sentenced for his crimes against Gamez on March 30.
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