Trial set for ex-officer accused of murder

Posted at 5:20 PM, Jan 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-05 20:53:24-05

KENOSHA  -- The trial is now set for a former West Allis police officer accused of murdering a woman then stuffing her body into a suitcase.

It's a high profile case, so attorneys have called for a pool of 60 potential jurors to choose from.  When that jury is seated later this month, they'll hear from those who knew the victims, Jenny Gamez and Laura Simonson.  Steven Zelich claims their deaths were accidental.

“Certainly I think that argument all along and I think the public filings indicated that, that these were acts between consenting adults," said Jonathan Smith, defense attorney.

Gamez was allegedly murdered at a motel off I-94, her body stuffed into her own suitcase; then taken to West Allis and kept for months in Zelich's refrigerator.

“During that time he lies to investigators multiple times while still having the bodies of Jenny Gamez and Laura Simonson in his possession," said Mike Graveley, prosecutor.

In court Tuesday, there was discussion about what evidence can and cannot be admitted.  The judge ruled Kenosha County jurors will get to hear about the Laura Simonson murder in Minnesota. The bodies of both women were discovered in suitcaes along the side of the road in Walworth County last year.

“So the jury will have a chance to decide whether Mr. Zelich was obsessed with the bodies of these women and kept them for that purpose," said Graveley.

Zelich's attorney says he's had a lot of conversations with his client over the past year and thinks he's ready for the trial to begin.

“I would suspect that he is comfortable or headed in that direction and this is the way this is gonna go," said Smith.

The state tells us Steven Zelich was offered a plea deal last year, but didn't take it.