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Minnesota woman, second victim found dead in suitcases

Laura Jean Simonson

FARMINGTON, Minn. -- A 37-year-old Farmington woman who went missing in November has been found dead in Wisconsin, and a man was arrested Wednesday in the case.

The bodies of Laura Jean Simonson and another woman were found June 5 in suitcases near Geneva, Wis.

On Wednesday afternoon, Steven M. Zelich, 52, of West Allis, Wis., was taken into custody.

According to a June 5 Associated Press story, a highway worker came across the suitcases when he mowed grass in Geneva. The suitcases were moved to another location, but not by the highway worker. Another person spotted the cases and contacted Geneva police.

Upon opening the cases, according to Wisconsin news reports, Geneva police found the bodies of two women. One of them was identified as Simonson and the other had not yet been identified, according to a news release Wednesday from Geneva Police Chief Steven Hurley.

In December, Farmington police Detective Sgt. Lee Hollatz said Simonson was last seen by family members Nov. 1. Simonson had residences in both Farmington and St. Paul, so family members were not initially concerned when they had not seen her for several days. On Nov. 2, she left her van parked at her mother’s Farmington home.

Family members reported her missing Nov. 22. At the time of the report, Hollatz said family members indicated Simonson was having issues in her personal life. Relatives were also concerned that she may have been without the medication she was taking..

In early December, Farmington police received a tip that Simonson was spotted in the Apache Mall in Rochester. They contacted Rochester authorities but were unable to locate Simonson.

Hollatz continued to search for Simonson over the next six months, Farmington police chief Brian Lindquist said, but no leads came up until this month, when Hollatz received the call that a woman’s body matching the description of Simonson was found in Wisconsin.

Lindquist is certain Simonson’s killing did not happen in Farmington.

Geneva is a town of about 4,100 people located about 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee. West Allis is a western suburb of Milwaukee.

According Hurley’s release, the second victim is described as possibly Caucasian, between the ages of 15 and 35. She was between 5 feet 2 inches and 5 feet 4 inches tall and 120 to 140 pounds, with long, straight dark brown or black hair. She had a pronounced overbite and crooked lower teeth, two piercings in each ear and a quarter-sized heart tattoo on her lower left abdomen/pelvic area.

A cause of death has not been released.

Anyone with information regarding the second victim’s identity can call the Walworth County (Wis.) Crime Stoppers at (262) 723-2677, visit or text a tip to CRIMES (274637) and begin the message with tip4wc, followed by the tip.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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