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.