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 (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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