RAYMOND, Wisc. — A jury unanimously found Linda LaRoche guilty of First-Degree Intentional Homicide of Peggy Lynn Johnson-Schroeder and hiding her corpse on Wednesday.
The verdict comes 23 years after Johnson-Schroeder's murder.
On July 21, 1999, Johnson-Schroeder's body was discovered in a Raymond cornfield. According to the Racine County Sheriff's Office, the 23-year-old was badly beaten, malnourished, and there was evidence she was tortured. It is also likely she had a life-threatening infection.
Johnson-Schroeder initially could not be identified, was given the name "Jane Doe' and was buried in a Racine County cemetery. The investigation then went cold.
Her body was exhumed to make additional attempts at DNA identification. In 2019, officials say through the use of forensic genealogy and extensive interviews, the victim was identified as Johnson-Schroeder.
Officials say the Draeger-Lagendorf Funeral Home was instrumental in moving her remains to her family’s burial plot in northern Illinois. The funeral home also donated a headstone for her.
The investigation determined Johnson-Schroeder was living with a family in McHenry, Illinois, prior to her death. The matriarch of the family was LaRoche, who was recently found guilty of Johnson-Schroeder's murder.
Investigators traveled to Florida and interviewed LaRoche, who officials say had inconsistent and incriminating statements about her interactions with the victim, including how Johnson-Schroeder stopped living with the family.
The Racine County Sheriff's Office worked with the Racine County District Attorney's Office to present a case to the jury and LaRoche was found guilty of killing Johnson-Schroeder and hiding her body.
“The Sheriff’s Office will never forget or stop working a cold case homicide," Sheriff Schmaling said "While the deaths of Peggy Johnson, Amber Creek, and Juanita Zdroik were once cold case homicides, these cases are shining examples of the hard work and dedication of the members of the Sheriff’s Office in creating closure for the victims’ families. I would like to thank all the professionals who assisted in bringing Peggy’s killer to justice. For anyone involved in any other homicide, you need to worry. It is not a matter of if, but when, you are held accountable.”
Anyone with information regarding a homicide or any other crime, know that you can confidentially share information with Crime Stoppers at (888) 636-9330 or contact the Racine County Joint Communication Center at (262) 886-2300.