In June 2014, the community of Walworth County, Wisconsin, was stunned when the bodies of two women were found stuffed inside suitcases by a highway. The unfortunate discovery led the police to look into missing person reports, eventually identifying the victims as Laura Simonson and Jenny Gamez. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Web of Lies: In Dark Corners’ chronicles how the killer met the women online through bondage websites and then murdered them. So, let’s find out more about this case then, shall we?
How Did Laura Simonson and Jenny Gamez Die?
Laura Simonson was born in March 1976 and lived in Farmington, Minnesota. The loving mother of seven was reported missing by her mother on November 22, 2013, and the 37-year-old was last seen about twenty days prior. Jenny, on the other hand, was from Cottage Grove, Oregon. After finishing high school, the 19-year-old attended community college before moving to California with friends.
At the time of Jenny’s disappearance in 2012, she told people she was moving to Milwaukee to study welding. In a sad turn of events, Laura and Jenny would be found together, dead. On June 5, 2014, workers on a highway in Walworth County discovered suitcases by the side of the road while cutting grass. The authorities later confirmed the decomposing remains to be Laura and Jenny’s. One of the bodies was found naked, with a gag ball in her mouth.
Who Killed Laura Simonson and Jenny Gamez?
The authorities learned that Laura had been missing for about seven months. She was last seen at a motel in Rochester, Minnesota, on November 2, 2013. The employees recognized her from the missing person reports and told the police that she had been there with another man. While the two checked in together on November 2, the man left alone the next day. This person was identified as Steven Zelich, a former police officer working in the security industry at the time.
Steven quit the force months after a sex worker claimed that a struggle ensued while she was leaving Steven’s home. The ex-officer stated that the woman tried to steal from him. Furthermore, it was reported that Steven went to strip clubs while on duty and had apparently asked a dancer out about 1000 times over eight years. Just weeks after the bodies were discovered, physical evidence connected Steven to the dead bodies.
After being arrested, Steven admitted that he met the women online through websites catered to bondage fetish. Steven claimed that after meeting Jenny, he invited her to visit Wisconsin and picked her up from the airport. Then, they checked into a motel in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where they stayed for several days. Over there, the two indulged in erotic asphyxiation. While playing a sexual game called “breath play,” Steven claimed to have lost control and choked her to death in August 2012. More than a year later, Laura was killed under similar circumstances in Rochester.
Steven then confessed to bringing the bodies back to his apartment and keeping them in the refrigerator. In Jenny’s case, he had her for over a year. Steven then put the remains in his car before dumping them off by the highway in June 2014. An ex-roommate of his stated that he once told her a disturbing secret, adding, “He said that he kept a girl for seven years in his apartment, in this crate, this cage, and he would leave there during the day when he went to work as a police officer, and he would come home on lunch and check in on her.”
The authorities had further evidence that he was in conversation with another woman online and planned to recruit her as a “permanent slave to live with him” around the same time he disposed of Jenny and Laura’s remains. The prosecution claimed that Steven preyed on vulnerable women and used his experience as a police officer to his advantage while committing the murders. However, the defense argued that the deaths were accidental and occurred during consensual sexual activity.
Where is Steven Zelich Now?
Steven first pleaded guilty to first-degree reckless homicide and hiding a corpse in Jenny’s death in Wisconsin. In March 2016, he received 35 years for reckless homicide and a concurrent-three-year term for hiding a corpse. Then, in February 2017, Steven, then 55 years old, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder with intent for killing Laura in Minnesota. For that, he received a 25-year sentence that would be served after finishing his term in Wisconsin. Finally, in late 2017, Steven was convicted on two counts of hiding a corpse in Walworth County and was handed down two consecutive five-year terms. Prison records indicate that he remains incarcerated at Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin.
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