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Women’s bodies in suitcases lead to ex-cop’s arrest

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) — A former police officer has been arrested and is a suspect in the death of at least one of two women whose bodies were stuffed into suitcases and discarded on a rural southeastern Wisconsin highway, police said Thursday.

The 52-year-old security officer was arrested Wednesday on tentative charges of hiding a corpse. The same day, detectives wearing hazmat suits removed large, brown bags of evidence and a refrigerator from the man’s apartment in West Allis, a Milwaukee suburb.

Investigators carry bags full of material from an apartment in West Allis, Wis., after picking up a suspect allegedly involved in two murders where the bodies were found in suitcases. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Gary Porter)

Highway workers discovered two suitcases containing female remains June 5 in the Town of Geneva, some 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee. Police identified one woman as Laura Simonson, 37, of Farmington, Minnesota. Authorities have yet to release the identity of the second woman but describe her as a white female with long dark hair, a pronounced overbite and a small heart tattoo on her lower left abdomen.

Farmington police Detective Sgt. Lee Hollatz told The Associated Press that the arrested man has been his “No. 1 person, by far, of interest” in Simonson’s disappearance.

The man is scheduled to appear in court Friday afternoon in Wisconsin.

Police in Rochester, Minnesota, said during a news conference Thursday that they believe Simonson was killed in a Rochester hotel in early November. She checked into the Microtel Inn and Suites with the security officer on Nov. 2, and the man checked out alone the next day, Capt. John Sherwin said.

A woman who answered the phone at the hotel said employees had been told not to talk to the media. Rochester is more than 300 miles northwest of Milwaukee.

Police have not revealed information about where the second victim was killed.

Hollatz said Simonson’s family reported her missing Nov. 22, and he learned soon after that she had been taken to the Rochester hotel by a man he identified early on as the former police officer. But Hollatz said all he had was a missing person’s case until the bodies were discovered. He said Simonson was identified within a day by her tattoos.

“I saw Laura as a vulnerable adult because of things in her life that she was dealing with,” Hollatz said.

Simonson’s father, Richard Wierson, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his daughter had placed escort ads on CraigsList. Wierson said she had struggled with mental illness since adolescence, and that her seven children were placed in foster care with him in 2010.

The suspect is a licensed private security officer who has worked for Securitas Security Services USA since 2007, according to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. Securitas spokeswoman Lynne Glovka said the company did a background check when he was hired and she was not aware of any problems while he worked there.

Karnowski reported from Minneapolis

Associated Press writer Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

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