TOWN OF GENEVA, Wis. — Two bodies were found inside a pair of suitcases in a grass-choked ditch in southeastern Wisconsin, police said, touching off a search for the victims' identities and leaving neighbors shaken.
Highway workers came across the suitcases Thursday as they mowed the ditch in the Town of Geneva, about 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee. The workers moved them to the roadside, said town Police Chief Steven Hurley. A passing driver spotted the suitcases and called police, who opened them and found the bodies.
The chief said there appeared to be one body in each suitcase, but wouldn't comment on the condition of the remains or describe the size of the suitcases. He said it doesn't appear the victims were killed at the location where the suitcases were found. The ditch runs along a rural road about a quarter mile from the town's police station, but the area is remote and surrounded by rolling corn fields.
It's "very abnormal," Hurley said. "It's a very quiet town, a close-knit town. Everybody knows everybody else."
The Waukesha County Medical Examiner's Office was conducting autopsies Friday. The Walworth County Sheriff's Department and the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation were assisting town police. Investigators also were checking with other law enforcement agencies across the country for reports of missing people.
The gruesome discovery left the town of about 4,000 on the shores of Lake Como shaken.
Jim Daily, 70, owns a hay and horse farm about half a mile from where the suitcases were discovered. He came home Thursday afternoon to find the road barricaded by police. All officers would tell him was that no one was in danger, he said. He later learned about the bodies from news outlets.
Daily said the grass was tall around the ditch, so he had no idea how long the suitcases might have been there.
"I don't remember seeing anybody stopped or parked. We were as surprised as anybody else. It was a shock to all of us. You don't like finding corpses in your neighborhood," he said Friday.
Jessica Finster, 29, tends bar at the Como Inn about a mile from the where the suitcases were found. She said the discovery is particularly frightening because she closes the bar three nights a week by herself.
"That's what scares me. There are bodies in suitcases right down the street from where I work," she said. "It's kind of creepy. It's like 'CSI.' But that doesn't happen around here. I've never heard of someone in a suitcase left on the side of the road except in a fictional story."
Alysia Olcott, 19, said she had just moved two months ago to a house near the road where the bodies were found. She said she and her boyfriend were so worried Thursday night they took the unusual step of locking their windows.
"I feel very uncomfortable," she said. "I thought this was a nice little area. I never thought it would happen here," she said. "Was this a crime committed further away or was it (committed) close to home? It's pretty disturbing."
Olcott's grandmother, 59-year-old Marti Todd, was tending the bar at the In The Drink bar on Lake Como's southwestern shore. She said she didn't think someone from the area would be bold enough to dump bodies down the road from the police station.
"I can't believe someone from our community is capable of it," Todd said. "It's brazen."