Ex-West Allis cop gets 35 years in woman's death

Posted at 3:10 PM, Mar 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-30 20:30:40-04

A former West Allis police officer who pleaded guilty to killing a woman was sentenced to to 35 years in prison plus 10 years of extended supervision Wednesday.

Steven Zelich, 54, accused of killing 19-year old Jenny Gamez and dumping her body along a highway in Walworth County.

Prosecutors believe Zelich lured Gamez from the state of Oregon to Milwaukee using an advertisement on a bondage sex website. Deputy District Attorney Michael Graveley said Zelich then drove her south to a hotel in Kenosha County and killed her.

Graveley said Zelich confessed to killing Gamez but told investigators it was an accident.

Zelich’s defense attorney, Jonathan Smith, said Gamez’s death was unintentional.

Jenny Gamez was described in court as a 19-year-old college student from Oregon who grew up in foster care and dreamed of being a social worker.

“Those goals she had, those passions are gone at the hands of this defendant," said Michael Graveley, prosecutor.

Michael Graveley told the court that in her final living moments, Gamez was handcuffed with a gag in her mouth.

“Even though it is a traditional protection for individuals to have safe words, there were no safe words in this case," said Graveley.

“Miss Gamez and Mr. Zelich were involved in voluntarily, in a lifestyle that to some degree presents a certain amount of risk," said Jonathan Smith, defense attorney.

“If there was anything, if I could undo that, that would be the most important thing that I would do, but not an intentional act," said Steven Zelich.

Zelich was facing a charge of first degree intentional homicide but pleaded guilty to a charge of first degree reckless homicide as part of a deal reached in January.

Zelich also faces charges in Olmsted County, Minnesota, where he’s accused of killing 37-year old Laura Simonson. Additionally, he’s facing two felony charges of hiding a corpse in Walworth County, where authorities allege he dumped two women’s bodies in suitcases in June of 2014.

In January, Graveley said the length of the sentence in Kenosha County could impact whether authorities in Walworth County or Olmsted County seek to put Zelich on trial there in order to tack on more time to his prison term.