Wisconsin ex-cop said deaths of women in luggage an accident

Laura Simonson, 37, is pictured in this handout photo provided by the Farmington Police Department,...

Laura Simonson, 37, is pictured in this handout photo provided by the Farmington Police Department, June 25, 2014. Steven Zelich, 52, was taken into custody on Wednesday in connection with the deaths of two women whose bodies were found in separate suitcases along a rural road earlier this month, authorities said. One of the victims was identified as Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minnesota, who was reported missing in November. REUTERS/Farmington Police Department/Handout via Reuters

Brendan O'Brien, Reuters

, Last Updated: 1:28 PM ET

ELKHORN, Wis. - A former Wisconsin police officer suspected in the deaths of two women whose bodies were found in suitcases said that he accidentally killed the women during sexual encounters, a detective testified on Thursday.

The testimony by the detective, Jeffrey Recknagel, of the Walworth County Sheriff's Office, came during a hearing in the case. Judge David Reddy ruled on Thursday that Wisconsin prosecutors have demonstrated probable cause to continue the case against Steven Zelich, 52.

Zelich is accused of hiding the bodies of two women in suitcases and dumping the luggage in a roadside ditch. He is charged with two felony counts of hiding a corpse in Walworth County, where the suitcases were found.

Investigations are continuing in another Wisconsin county and in Minnesota into the deaths of the women, who were identified as Jenny Gamez, 21, of Cottage Grove, Oregon, and Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minnesota.

Recknagel testified Thursday that Zelich had told him during questioning that he took the lives of Gamez and Simonson accidentally during sexual encounters that included bondage.

Zelich also told investigators the smell of the bodies in the suitcases was so strong that he decided he had to get rid of them and had dumped them a few days before authorities found them, Recknagel told the court.

If convicted, Zelich would face up to 10 years in prison on each of the two charges of hiding a corpse. He is being held in the Walworth County jail on a $1 million bond.


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