The family of a murder victim from a 23-year-old cold case finally got justice after the suspect was found guilty this year. Now, convicted murderer Linda LaRoche will spend the rest of her life in prison.
When Johnson was 18, her mother died and left her without any parents. She had a cognitive disability, and she went to a medical clinic for help, WDJT reported.
This was then 23 year old Peggy Lynn Johnson-Schroeder. Her body was found in a cornfield in Racine County in 1999. For 20 years investigators could not identify her. DNA testing made it possible in 2019– and today a jury found her killer GUILTY of 1st degree homicide @WISN12News pic.twitter.com/qNgvxlPL32
— Courtney Sisk (@Courtney_SiskTV) March 17, 2022
It was there that Johnson met LaRoche, who was a registered nurse at the time. LaRoche saw Johnson had a disability and decided to take her in.
Sadly, LaRoche did not prove to be the guardian Johnson needed. Instead, she proceeded to abuse Johnson by beating her, burning her and forcing her to live in a crawl space over the next five years, WDJT reported.
Johnson’s remains were initially found in Raymond, Wisconsin, but she was identified only as “Jane Doe.” She was never reported missing, and no suspicion had fallen on LaRoche.
That all changed in 2019 when the Racine County Sheriff’s office received a tip from a woman who said LaRoche told her she had murdered someone “back when she lived in Illinois,” WISN-TV reported.
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Investigators learned LaRoche was living in McHenry, Illinois in 1999 with her then-husband and five children. Three of the children lived in a house with LaRoche while the other two lived nearby.
One of LaRoche’s children confirmed to investigators that Johnson had been living with them, WISN reported. Multiple children said they witnessed LaRoche abusing Johnson.
LaRoche eventually admitted to investigators she had abused Johnson from 1994 to 1999, and she told her version of the events from the night Johnson went missing.
LaRoche said she came home and found Johnson holding pills. She allegedly asked Johnson what was happening, at which point Johnson put the pills down the sink.
She told investigators she found Johnson passed out a few minutes later, so she took her outside for “fresh air.” Eventually, she admitted to driving to Wisconsin and letting Johnson out of the car, although she said Johnson was not injured.
However, LaRoche’s ex-husband told a different version of the story, WDJT reported. He said he came home and saw Johnson’s dead body on the floor, so he took the children out for ice cream while LaRoche went to dispose of the body.
The sheriff’s office and the Racine County District Attorney together presented the case against LaRoche to a jury. The jury ultimately convicted her of both the murder and hiding the body.
On May 23, LaRoche was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, WISN reported.
“The Sheriff’s Office will never forget or stop working a cold case homicide,” Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said after the conviction, WDJT-TV reported. “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.”