Judge: Information on other woman's death won't be allowed in trial for former officer



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KENOSHA, Wisconsin — The trial for a former police officer accused of killing a woman whose body was found in a suitcase along a rural Wisconsin highway won't include information on another woman he's suspected of killing, a judge ruled Friday.

Steven Zelich, 53, of West Allis, is charged in Kenosha County with homicide and hiding a corpse for the August 2012 killing of Jenny Gamez, a 19-year-old college student from Cottage Grove, Oregon. He's also suspected of killing Laura Simonson, 37, at a Rochester, Minnesota, hotel in November 2013.

Zelich told investigators he killed both women accidentally during sex, according to court records.

Kenosha County District Attorney Robert Zapf had asked permission to tell jurors about Simonson's death during the trial for Gamez's death. In court filings, he stated the killings are "inextricably intertwined" and establish a pattern of conduct.

But Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder said Friday that since Simonson died after Gamez, it would be improper to use the information, the Kenosha News reported. Schroeder said if Simonson had died first, it would be different.

"It's my understanding he does not dispute the defendant was involved in the homicide, in the death of Ms. Gamez, but that it happened during a sex act," Schroeder said. "It was consensual and the result of misadventure. The fact a later death (happened) during the same type of activity doesn't prove anything in this case."

Zelich's trial had been scheduled to start next month, but the judge decided Friday to push it back to November. It will last at least a week.

Charges remain open against Zelich in Walworth County, where the bodies were found. Minnesota officials have not yet filed charges related to Simonson's death.


Information from: Kenosha News, http://www.kenoshanews.com

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