Former McHenry County woman found guilty of 1999 murder
A 66-year-old woman, formerly of the McHenry area, showed no emotion Wednesday as a Wisconsin jury found her guilty of the murder of a Harvard woman whose remains were discovered alongside a Wisconsin roadway in 1999.
Linda Sue La Roche, formerly Linda Sue Johnson, was found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a body in connection with the death of Peggy Lynn Johnson-Schroeder. Sentencing is set for 1:30 p.m. May 23.
Johnson-Schroeder, 23, whom police said was cognitively impaired, had worked for La Roche as a live-in nanny from 1994 to 1999. On July 21, 1999, a man walking his dog along a road in rural Racine County discovered her tortured remains.
She went unidentified until November 2019, leaving her remain a Jane Doe for 20 years, according to the criminal complaint filed in the Racine County, Wisconsin.
"The sheriff's office will never forget or stop working a cold case homicide," Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said in a statement Wednesday.
"For anyone involved in any other homicide, you need to worry. It is not a matter of if, but when, you are held accountable."
La Roche was charged in the woman's murder after a "concerned citizen" in Florida, where La Roche was living, made a call to police. The caller said La Roche was telling people she had killed someone in Illinois where she lived with her then-husband and five children.
Johnson-Schroeder's remains showed that she had been brutalized for many years. At first, La Roche denied killing her but would later admit she was physically abusive to her for years, according to the criminal complaint.
Johnson-Schroeder's body appeared to have been dragged from a vehicle down the slight embankment and laid on the ground between rows of corn. The ground beneath her was dry.
Authorities said her entire body showed "a lot of bruising," scrapes, burns and cuts. Her body had been branded. An autopsy showed she had four cuts to her scalp caused by blunt-force trauma and she was "slightly malnourished."
Among other wounds and injuries, Johnson's ear had a "penetrating 45-degree incised wound from a sharp object," her nose was broken, she had a split lip and lacerations inside her mouth, and her throat had injuries consistent with scalding, according to the criminal complaint.
La Roche's children and ex-husband said that they had witnessed La Roche abuse Johnson-Schroeder. Leading up to La Roche's arrest, a now-adult child recounted that at times La Roche made Johnson-Schroeder sleep in the crawl space under their home and once stabbed at Johnson's head with a pitchfork.
In March 2020, Johnson-Schroeder received a proper burial, next to her mother.