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Kenosha man charged in West Allis woman's death

  • Associated Press
  • October 29, 2013 - 7:40 PM

KENOSHA, Wis. — A Kenosha man told police he killed his girlfriend during an argument at his home, loaded her body in her car, drove to Chicago, left the vehicle and took the train back to Wisconsin, according to a criminal complaint.

Matthew A. McDowell, 40, was charged Tuesday with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse in the death of Erin Ziemendorf, 30, of West Allis. The Kenosha News reports bail was set at $350,000. McDowell faces life in prison if convicted.

According to a criminal complaint, McDowell told police he put his hands around Ziemendorf's neck during an argument, heard a cracking sound and found she wasn't breathing. He hid her 5-foot-6-inch and 120-pound body in a duffel bag, placed it in the trunk of her car and drove across the state line into Illinois. McDowell left the car in a parking lot near a Greyhound bus station in downtown Chicago.

Chicago police found Ziemendorf's body Sunday evening, a couple of hours after McDowell turned himself in to Kenosha police.

Deputy District Attorney Mike Graveley had asked for a $500,000 cash bail.

"It takes a high degree of violence to snap a neck or strangle them," Graveley said. "The high cash bond is also necessary based on efforts to hide the body early on. He put her in a body bag and transported her with her own vehicle, and then takes a train back here. That all looks like highly deceptive acts."

Police say McDowell told them that he and Ziemendorf had been fighting about their relationship and money.

Ziemendorf leaves behind a 5-year-old son. Her ex-husband, Kevin Masullo, told WISN-TV that he had not yet told their son about his mother's death and that that would be difficult.

"She was a very caring, loving person. She was a good mom," Masullo said. He added, "You could tell that she was the happiest person that people ever met."

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