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Former 'Jane Doe,' Peggy Lynn Johnson Schroeder laid to rest after 20 years

Posted at 2:09 PM, Mar 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-04 17:39:28-05

BELVIDERE, ILL. — After 20 years, former "Jane Doe" Peggy Lynn Johnson-Schroeder was laid to rest near her family in Belvidere, Illinois.

Johnson was 23 years old when a passerby found her body badly beaten in a Racine County cornfield in 1999. After 20 years of being an unknown victim, investigators identified the body as Johnson in November.

Wednesday would have been Peggy Lynn Johnson Schroeder's 44th birthday. Instead, her relatives spent the morning with law enforcement at a cemetery in Belvidere, Illinois.

Before being moved to a grave near her family in Illinois, Johnson was buried in Racine County. A headstone had recently been put at the grave by Draeger Langendorf Funeral Home.

Johnson was allegedly murdered by Linda Laroche, 65, in July 1999. A criminal complaint said that Schroeder was living with Laroche at the time of her death and had died at the home. The complaint said that Laroche had become abusive toward Johnson.

Johnson was known only as Jane Doe for 20 years up until a few months ago thanks to genealogy testing.

The Racine County Sheriff's Office had received a tip about a woman, identified later as Laroche, who had claimed she had killed someone back when she lived in Illinois.

On the morning of March 4, Peggy finally got a proper burial. The Racine County Sheriff's Office and several of Johnson's surviving family members attended her funeral in Belvidere.

"It's a very special day, and we're proud as a community to show her the level of respect that she deserves," said Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling.

Thanks to widespread community support Peggy was exhumed from a Racine County grave and re-buried near her mother and grandparents.

"It does feel like a peaceful end. I think the family has found some closure now that she's been identified and in her final resting place never to be disturbed again," said Sheriff Schmaling.

Current and retired Racine County investigators were there sharing mixed emotions and hugs with Peggy's family. Many of the deputies worked on her case.

Laroche, who was accused of murdering Peggy, was extradited to Wisconsin in late December.

"Although today is a milestone and we put her to rest we have a court proceeding ahead of us. We need to make certain the person responsible for this...justice is served," said Sheriff Schmaling.

The entire farewell, from the move to the new headstones for Peggy and her mother, and the prayer cards, was possible thanks to the generosity of donors.

On a day of many emotions, Peggy's family now awaits justice.

Laroche is due back in court next week.

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