Woman who escaped suitcase murders suspect speaks out

Jermont Terry

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Photo: Video by tmj4.com

Woman who escaped suitcase murders suspect speaks out

By Jermont Terry. CREATED Jul 1, 2014 - UPDATED: Jul 2, 2014

“I wanted to live. I wanted my life,” those are the words from a woman who claimed she encountered a tight choke hold of Steven Zelich. Zelich is arrested in charged in “The Suitcase Murders.”

The woman who did  not want to be identified told the I-Team she met Zelich at a bar in May 2001. The two talked and agreed to come to back to Zelich’s West Allis apartment on National Avenue.

Woman: “The deal was I was going to give him a private show at his place.”

Reporter: What were you going to get in exchanged for this private show?

Woman: $500.00

But once at the apartment the she claimed Zelich began to act strange.

“When I took off my clothes he decided he wanted to leave the room I was concerned why he was leaving,” explained the woman.

So she followed him and quickly spotted handcuffs.

“The moment he realized I saw the handcuffs that's when he attacked me,” she explained.

Woman: “He grabbed me and wrestled me to the ground.”

Reporter: What did he say to you?

Woman: “He told me that he was going to kill me. I said please stop what are you doing?”

A struggle lasted for minutes.

“He pretty much had one of my hands in the cuff and the other one he was trying to get but we're struggling and I’m tired begging for my life and look and see this picture,” explained the woman.

In a picture frame were two teenagers related to Zelich.

“And I said what about your family,” said the woman. She said it was enough to make Zelich ease his grip.

“When I said that to him he started crying and asked if I could forgive him and that he was so sorry,” said the woman.

She saw a chance to escape and she ran out of the apartment nude. Police reports show she ran right into officers who were on patrol.

Reporter: You’re pleading with officers and you are completely nude according to you and what happens?

Woman: “They arrested me and took me to jail. They told me I was lying.”

At the time Zelich was an officer on the West Allis Police force. He told officers the woman stole cash. Police reports show officers arrested the woman on outstanding prostitution warrants. West Allis Police conducted an internal investigation only. No criminal investigation.

“I thought is it because I'm black, what is it?”Said the woman. “Is it because he's a police officer and other cops are protecting him. I knew what just happened to me. How could police think I would lie about such a thing?”

“To my knowledge it was investigated,” said West Allis Police Chief Charles Padgett.

Padgett told the I-Team he can’t say at this point the department did anything wrong. When asked why the case wasn’t investigated criminally he replied:

“That's a question that I can't answer because I wasn't in the position at that point in time and can’t explain why decisions were made regarding that,” said Padgett.

West Allis started the internal investigation on May 31, 2001. On August 1, 2001 Zelich resigned and the case was close.

The woman wondered if they had continued to investigate would the two women found in the suitcases be alive today. 

Jermont Terry

Jermont Terry

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Jermont Terry joined the TODAY'S TMJ4 team in January 2011. He currently leads the TMJ4 I-Team as the investigative reporter.