Matthew McDowell pleads guilty in death of Erin Ziemendorf

KENOSHA (WITI) -- 41-year-old Matthew McDowell of Kenosha has pleaded guilty to two charges he faced in connection with the death of his girlfriend -- 30-year-old Erin Ziemendorf.

Erin Ziemendorf

Ziemendorf’s body was found in the trunk of a car near a Greyhound bus station in Chicago on October 27th, 2013.

McDowell has pleaded guilty to one count of first degree intentional homicide, and one count of hiding a corpse.

McDowell was found guilty by the court -- and had his bond revoked pending his sentencing.

A criminal complaint in the case says McDowell and his brother went to the Kenosha Police Department on Sunday evening, October 27th and McDowell told officials there he wanted to report an accidental death.

Matthew McDowell

The complaint says McDowell told officials he was at his residence in Kenosha on Saturday, October 26th -- when he got into an argument and physical confrontation with Ziemendorf, his girlfriend.

The argument was over their relationship and money, according to the complaint. The complaint says the two had been taking a break from their relationship, but were now planning a vacation to Hawaii. The complaint indicates McDowell later told his brother the argument was over Ziemendorf telling McDowell she was cheating on him.

The complaint says McDowell told officials while in the upper bedroom of the residence, Ziemendorf “bumped him,” and then grabbed his rib cage. McDowell told officials that at some point, he was pushed into a corner, stumbled, and pushed Ziemendorf back, according to the complaint.

The complaint says McDowell told officials Ziemendorf then picked up a corkscrew, swung it at him once, and then came at him.

The complaint says at some point, Ziemendorf pushed McDowell onto the bed, and placed her thumbs in his eyes.

According to the complaint, McDowell told officials that after Ziemendorf’s hands left his face, he heard a crack — and noticed that Ziemendorf was choking. McDowell told officials he became nervous and wondered if he had broken Ziemendorf’s neck due to his body weight, according to the complaint.

When McDowell got up from the bed, Ziemendorf was not breathing and was not responsive, according to the complaint.

The complaint says McDowell told officials after he realized Ziemendorf was dead, he panicked, put Ziemendorf’s body in her car, and then drove to a parking lot by the Greyhound bus station in Chicago, where he left her body inside the vehicle.

The complaint says McDowell told his brother he took the train back to Kenosha and a cab to his parents’ home. McDowell later contacted his brother to accompany him to Kenosha PD.

The Cook County Medical Examiner has said Ziemendorf died from blunt neck trauma.

“This is an injury that’s commonly seen in motor vehicle collisions — either front or rear motor vehicle collisions due to hyperflection and extension, so the amount of force is significant,” Cook County Medical Examiner, Dr. Benjamin Soriano said.

Ziemendorf’s family has been working with Sojourner Family Peace Center, which assists families affected by domestic violence.