RACINE COUNTY, Wis. - A jury on Wednesday unanimously found Linda La Roche guilty of first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse in the 1999 death of Peggy Lynn Johnson-Schroeder.
According to the Racine County Sheriff's Office, Johnson-Schroeder's body was found in a Raymond cornfield on July 21, 1999. The initial investigation found she had been badly beaten and was malnourished. Evidence suggested she had been tortured and that she most likely had a life-threatening infection.
Johnson-Schroeder could not be identified, she was given the name "Jane Doe" and was buried in Racine County as the investigation went cold.
In 2019, through the use of forensic genealogy after her body was exhumed, as well as extensive interviews, investigators identified the Jane Doe as Johnson-Schroeder.
The sheriff's office investigation resumed and found Johnson-Schroeder was living with a family in McHenry, Illinois before her death. La Roche, the matriarch of that family, was identified as the suspect responsible for the death.
Peggy Lynn Johnson-Schroeder burial site
Investigators went to Florida and interviewed La Roche, who allegedly made inconsistent and incriminating statements about her interactions with the victim – including how she stopped living with the family.
La Roche, 66, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 23. The jury took approximately 90 minutes to reach its verdict Wednesday.
Johnson-Schroeder grew up in Illinois and was never reported missing; her mother, father and brother are all deceased. She was 23 years old at the time of her death.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said in a statement:
"The sheriff’s office will never forget or stop working a cold case homicide. 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."