An Oregon teenager identified Monday as one of two women whose bodies were found in suitcases in Wisconsin had a hard time after giving up her son to his father, but she was turning her life around and had won a college scholarship before she disappeared, her foster mother said.
Investigators believe Jenny Gamez was killed in Wisconsin in late 2012 or early 2013, when she was 19.
Steven Zelich, a 52-year-old security officer and former cop, was arrested last week and charged with two counts of hiding a corpse, though prosecutors say they expect homicide charges to be filed.
Gamez had moved from her home in Cottage Grove, Oregon, to be closer to a community college about 20 miles north in Eugene.
She lived with friends and visited her family, but eventually fell out of touch, said her foster mother, Lorraine Ericksen.
‘I was surprised that I didn’t hear from her,’ Ericksen said.
‘I knew she spent some time in California with friends, but her friends in Cottage Grove said she stopped texting with them, and after that we could not get in touch with her.’
She said Gamez, who had been in foster care with numerous families since she was 5, ‘was a joy to be around’.
Gamez gave birth to a son in 2008, and the boy’s father gained sole custody in 2010, court records show.
She then went to live with Ericksen.