As a cop by day, Steven Zelich's job was to protect and serve his community.
But by night Zelich morphed into a sadist in the underground culture of bondage, a man who got pleasure from enslaving and torturing women.
Zelich admits to killing two of those women and stuffing their bodies in suitcases and leaving them on the side of a country road.
Crime Watch Daily has never-before-seen interrogation video from when cops pulled Steven Zelich in for questioning.
April 12, 2016
A former police officer accused of killing two women during sex and putting their bodies in suitcases, then dumping them on the side of the road, has been sentenced for one of the crimes.
Steven Zelich's was sentenced to 35 years in prison on March 30. On January 25, Zelich pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree reckless homicide and one count of hiding a corpse in a plea deal. Zelich was also sentenced to 10 years extended supervision on the first charge, and three years in prison and three years extended supervision on the second charge.
It's a Crime Watch Daily update to a story we brought you about the lurid underworld of bondage and sadomasochism.
Zelich is a former cop who led a double life. By day, he was a 12-year veteran of a Wisconsin police department. By night he was a sadist.
"The first suitcase had an adult woman. She was naked. She had a gag ball in her mouth which was attached to a collar," said Walworth County Sheriff's Detective Jeffrey Recknagel.
Zelich is getting 35 years for the grisly killing of Jenny Gamez, one of two women whose bodies he stuffed in suitcases, leaving them on the side of a rural country road in Wisconsin after choking them to death during a sex game called "breath play."
"I'm very sorry this occurred," Zelich said, addressing the court. "And I'm very sorry Jenny was the victim and I wasn't able to protect her the way I was supposed to."
He pleaded guilty to one count of first degree reckless homicide with use of a dangerous weapon and one count of hiding a corpse. The former cop was originally set to stand trial, but his plea changed all that. He will now be eligible for parole when he's 88 years old.
"Really the priority in this case always was to make sure that Steven Zelich was never again out in the community at the age where he would physically be able to commit this kind of crime again," said Kenosha County Deputy District Attorney Michael Graveley.
Our Milwaukee affiliate WITI reported that Zelich met Gamez on a bondage website. The 19-year-old had traveled more than 2,000 miles from Oregon, and they met at a Wisconsin Comfort Inn.
"They spent days at the hotel," said Recknagel. "He participated in a BDSM session and during that session, he ultimately took her life."
Months later, police say Zelich met 37-year-old Laura Simonson, also on a bondage website.
"Laura and Mr. Zelich were not strangers, they had a previous relationship through the Internet," said Rochester Police Captain of Investigations John Sherwin.
Simonson and Zelich checked into a Microtel Inn. Zelich told detectives they played a "choking game" when he lost control and accidentally killed her.
"What we do know points to the deaths being caused by people meeting in a hotel room, and something going terribly awry after consensual activity," said Zelich's attorney, Travis Schwantes.
Zelich admitted he stuffed the bodies of both women in suitcases and brought them back to his apartment, where he stored them in his refrigerator, one of them for close to a year.. He later put them in the trunk of his car.
"The smell was so strong that he decided that he had to get rid of them," said Recknagel.
After the bodies of the women were discovered, detectives investigated Zelich's profile on sexual fetish websites. On his page, Zelich said he was "seeking a 24/7 slave for absolute ownership. There is nothing better than a slave, tied tight, gagged, blindfolded and hooded."
Jamie Bates was his roommate for about a year, and says Zelich was nice to her children. But one day he revealed a sickening secret.
"He said that he kept a girl for seven years in his apartment, in this crate, this cage, and he would leave there during the day when he went to work as a police officer and he would come home on lunch and check in on her," said Bates.
Frightened for her life, Bates waited for Zelich to go to work, packed up her kids and took off in a U-Haul.
"I had my children around him and to think that we all could have been victims," said Bates.
In audio recordings released to the court, you can hear the police chief confronting Zelich about abusing his position to intimidate innocent women.
"Do you think it's proper, Steve, for an officer on duty in uniform to be approaching a woman and continually asking her out for lunch?" Zelich is asked.
"My behavior was never badgering, it was very casual," Zelich says on the tape.
Zelich, police learned, has a history of terrorizing women. His own police department compiled mountains of evidence against one of their own. Documents say Zelich would often show up at strip clubs while on duty. At one club, a dancer told investigators that Zelich asked her out on dates an estimated 1,000 times over eight years.
In the coming weeks, Zelich could face charges in Minnesota for the death of the other woman, Laura Simonson. If he's found guilty, the former cop will spend the rest of his life behind bars in a cell not much bigger than a suitcase.