Woman Likely Killed in Rochester Hotel Room, Former Police Officer Arrested

Posted at: 06/26/2014 3:12 PM
Updated at: 06/26/2014 3:24 PM

Laura Simonson and Steven Zelich
Laura Simonson and Steven Zelich
Photo: Walworth County Sheriff's Office

Sketch of Woman Found Inside Suitcase
Sketch of Woman Found Inside Suitcase
Photo: Walworth County Sheriff's Office

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Police in Rochester say a Farmington, Minnesota woman whose body was found in a suitcase in Wisconsin was likely killed in a hotel room in Northwest Rochester.

That woman has been identified as 37-year-old Laura Simonson. Her mother reported her missing Novemver 22. Rochester Police say Simonson was last seen alive checking into the Microtel Inn and Suites along Highway 52 with 52-year-old Steven Zelich November 2. Zelich checked out alone the next day.

Rochester Police say Zelich met Simonson online and that he admitted being involved with her death in Rochester.

The double murder was first reported near Geneva, Wisconsin June 5 when a highway worker found two suitcases beside a road with the bodies of two women inside.

Zelich was arrested Wednesday when detectives wearing hazmat suits removed bags of evidence and a refrigerator from his apartment in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis.

Rochester Police say the other body found in the other suitcase has been tentatively identified. Authorities do not believe she's from Minnesota, and they do not believe she was killed in Minnesota.

A police sketch issued Wednesday by the Walworth County Sheriff's Office says the victim is probably a white female between the ages of 15-35, 5'2" to 5'4", weighs 120-140 pounds, has long dark hair, an overbite, two ear piercings, and a small heart tattoo on the lower left abdomen.

Walworth County Circuit Court officials say Zelich is expected to appear in court Friday. He's being held on two counts of hiding a corpse.
The county's district attorney, Daniel Necci, says formal charges are not expected Thursday because he hasn't yet received the case from investigators.

A West Allis police source tells WISN, the ABC affiliate in Milwaukee, that Zelich used to be a West Allis police officer.  WISN reports Zelich was given the opportunity to resign as an officer after allegations of off-duty misconduct.

Police sources told WISN that Zelich resigned in 2001 after a prostitute was found naked and handcuffed running away from his apartment. The sources told WISN that Zelich appeared to have had prior contacts with the prostitute, that the encounter started as consensual and that police did not believe Zelich intended to harm her.

No criminal charges were filed in that investigation and Zelich was allowed to resign.

ABC 6 News will have coverage of the developments tonight at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00.