Former nurse sentenced to life without parole
A former McHenry County woman, described as a "monster" Monday by prosecutors and her victim's family members, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the "barbaric" killing of a 23-year-old Harvard woman more than 20 years ago.
Linda Sue La Roche, 67, formerly known as Linda Sue Johnson, was convicted in March of the first-degree intentional homicide and hiding the body of Peggy Lynn Johnson-Schroeder.
La Roche -- who formerly lived in homes in Lakemoor and Bull Valley, made a living as a nurse and owned a business that cared for jail inmates -- was sentenced to an additional five years in prison for hiding a corpse.
Johnson-Schroeder's remains were found in a cornfield in 1999 in Raymond, Wisconsin, and went unidentified for 20 years. She was buried as a Jane Doe.
"Peggy is a daughter, stepdaughter, granddaughter, niece, step niece, friend (and) … a loving, caring, thoughtful human being, not an animal like you treated her," Johnson-Schroeder's aunt Virginia "Ginny" Schroeder Proffitt of Marengo said at Monday's sentencing hearing in a Racine County courtroom.
She and other family members wore T-shirts with a photo of Johnson-Schroeder and the words "Justice for Peggy" scrolled above.
"She was somebody," she continued. "You brutally, barbarically beat and tortured her. Her last breath was on a side of a road in a cornfield. You are a narcissist, … (a) psychotic monster."
Johnson-Schroeder, whom police said was cognitively impaired, had worked for La Roche as a live-in nanny from 1994 to 1999. The two had met at a clinic where La Roche worked shortly after Johnson-Schroeder's mother died.
The woman, 19 at the time, was initially taken in to help with La Roche's five children. La Roche's children and ex-husband testified she began to physically abuse Johnson-Schroeder, slapped her often, once stabbed her with a pitchfork and made her sleep in a crawl space, until one day she disappeared.
On July 21, 1999, a man walking his dog along a road in rural Racine County discovered her remains.
La Roche was charged in the woman's killing 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.
Johnson-Schroeder's remains showed that she had been brutalized for many years, prosecutors said.
La Roche also spoke in court Monday, proclaiming her innocence. She said she loved Johnson-Schroeder and called her "my little buddy."
"My heart and soul go out to her family," said a tearful La Roche. "Whoever did this to her is more than a monster. They don't deserve to breathe, but it is not me."
La Roche said she treated Johnson-Schroeder the same as her own children, whom she did not beat, aside from throwing a brush or putting soap in their mouths if they lied. She said that on the day she last saw Johnson-Schroeder, she had dropped her off in Wisconsin at a gas station and thought she was being picked up by a friend.
"We have a shared goal," La Roche said turning toward the the family, "to bring justice for her, and this is not justice."