MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The disappearance of a Minnesota mother of seven was just a missing person case when it landed on the desk of Detective Sgt. Lee Hollatz. Seven months later, her body and that of another woman were found stuffed in suitcases along a rural Wisconsin highway, and the former police officer whom Hollatz had long considered his top person of interest is now suspected in their deaths.
Steven M. Zelich is scheduled to appear in court in Wisconsin on Friday afternoon on two counts of hiding a corpse. Authorities say Zelich, a 52-year-old security guard from West Allis, Wisconsin, met his victims online, bound and killed them and kept their bodies for months, either in his vehicle or his home, though he has not yet been charged in their deaths.
One of the women was Laura Simonson, whose family reported her missing last November. Hollatz, a police detective in the Twin Cities suburb of Farmington, Minnesota, told The Associated Press on Thursday that Zelich had been “the No. 1 person on my radar” since January. But the crucial break didn’t come until highway workers found the suitcases with the bodies on June 5 in the Town of Geneva, some 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee.
Authorities have not released the identity of the second woman but describe her as a white female with long, dark hair, a pronounced overbite and a small heart tattoo on her lower left abdomen. According to a criminal complaint, Zelich told investigators he killed her in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, in late 2012 or early 2013 and Simonson at a hotel in Rochester, Minnesota, in November.
Walworth County public defender Travis Schwantes said he would most likely be the attorney assigned to represent Zelich in Wisconsin. Schwantes declined to comment on the allegations until he’d spoken with Zelich.
Simonson, 37, of Farmington, was reported missing by her family Nov. 22. Hollatz said all he had was a missing person’s case until her body was found.
“I always saw her as vulnerable because of the mental health issues, drug use and things,” he said, though he declined to go into more details. He added: “Don’t get me wrong. Laura was a nice lady. No doubt about it.”
Hollatz tracked Simonson’s last movements to the Microtel Inn and Suites in Rochester, because employees recognized her from a crime alert he sent out. He said they remembered her because someone had been smoking in her room in violation of hotel rules.
Simonson checked in under her own name on Nov. 2. He said the hotel’s security video showed a man later identified as Zelich leaving alone the next morning, but Simonson was not seen leaving. In mid-January, Hollatz got a tip that Simonson probably was with a man named Steve Zelich from West Allis.
The West Allis Police Department, at Hollatz’s request, went to Zelich’s apartment but found no signs of Simonson. A few weeks later, after Zelich failed to respond to a letter from Hollatz, FBI and Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation agents went to talk to Zelich.
Hollatz declined to say what Zelich told the agents. But, he said, “After that interview Steven Zelich was still the No. 1 person on my radar.”
Zelich worked for the West Allis Police Department from 1989 until he resigned in 2001. He had been a licensed private security officer with Securitas Security Services USA since 2007.
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(Photo Source: AP)
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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