ROCHESTER, Minn. (WXOW) -- The Rochester Police Department said Thursday a man arrested in connection with a double murder and one of the victims stayed at a Rochester hotel in November.
Steven M. Zelich, 52, of West Allis, Wis., was arrested Wednesday in Wisconsin. He is being held in the Walworth County Jail on two counts of hiding a corpse and is expected to appear in court on Friday. One of the bodies has been identified as Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minn. Her mother reported her missing on Nov. 22. Rochester Police Capt. John Sherwin said Simonson was last seen alive checking into the Microtel Inn and Suites on the North Frontage Road of U.S. 52 with Zelich on Nov. 2. Sherwin said Zelich checked out alone on Nov. 3 and believes Simonson was likely killed in a hotel room.
The double murder was first reported near Geneva, Wis., on June 5 when a highway worker found two suitcases beside a road with the bodies of two women inside. On June 12, agents from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension set up at the Microtel Inn and Suites in Rochester. At the time, the BCA was attempting to gather evidence in a major investigation. Police said it was the case of the two women whose bodies were found in Wisconsin in the suitcases, and the BCA was working with the Rochester Police Department on clues that one of the murders was committed in Rochester.
Police have tentatively identified the second woman killed but say she may not be from southeast Minnesota. A police sketch issued Wednesday by the Walworth County Sheriff's Department shows the victim is probably a white female between the ages of 15-35, 5'2" to 5'4", weighs 120-140 pounds, has long dark hair, an overbite, two ear piercings, and a small heart tattoo on the lower left abdomen. Capt. John Sherwin said he believes the second victim was killed in Wisconsin. WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee reports the man arrested, Steven Zelich, lives in an apartment building in West Allis, a Milwaukee suburb. On Wednesday, the Walworth County Sheriff's Department blocked off the area around the building for more than eight hours. Authorities removed evidence in dozens of brown bags, and confiscated Zelich's refrigerator.
On Thursday, Sherwin said investigators said Zelich was involved in bondage, and was looking for a sex partner. Sherwin said Zelich and Simonson had an online relationship, and police are investigating if Simonson was involved in bondage as well.
A neighbor told WTMJ she knew very little about Zelich.
"Very quiet. He leaves in the morning and I don't think he drives a car because he leaves from the front door," said neighbor Felicia Sopa. "Never would say hi or anything like that. Would just come in to his apartment and come out."
Capt. Sherwin said Zelich was interrogated Wednesday in Wisconsin and confessed to being "involved" in the murder of Simonson. Zelich will make his first appearance Friday at 1:15 p.m. in Walworth County Circuit Court.
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