Murder of Peggy Johnson

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Peggy Lynn Johnson
Peggy Johnson.jpg
Photograph of Peggy Johnson
Born
Peggy Lynn Johnson

March 4, 1976
StatusIdentified after 20 years
Diedc. July 20, 1999(1999-07-20) (aged 23)
Cause of deathHomicide by blunt force trauma
Body discoveredJuly 21, 1999
Raymond, Wisconsin
Resting placeHoly Family Cemetery, Caledonia, Wisconsin (formerly)
NationalityAmerican
Other namesPeggy Lynn Schroeder, Racine County Jane Doe, "Crystal Rae"
Known forFormerly unidentified victim of homicide
Height5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
WebsiteFacebook page

Peggy Lynn Johnson (formerly known as Racine County Jane Doe, or by the nickname "Crystal Rae"), also known by the last name Schroeder, was a young woman whose body was discovered in 1999 in the town of Raymond, Racine County, Wisconsin.[1] The victim was 23 years old at the time of her death, which had occurred after her enduring several weeks of extreme neglect and both physical and sexual abuse.[2] New developments in the case emerged after her body was exhumed on October 16, 2013, including isotope analysis.[3] In November 2019, authorities announced the victim was successfully identified after two decades. Additionally, a suspect remains in police custody for her murder. Both the victim's and the accused murderer's name were released on November 8, 2019.[4] Johnson's murder received national attention both preceding and following her identification.[5]

Discovery of the body[edit]

Johnson's body was discovered within the first rows of a cornfield on July 21, 1999, by a father and daughter walking their dogs. The location was along 92nd Street in Raymond, Wisconsin.[6] Her death had occurred within one day of the discovery of her body.[7][8] Johnson's injuries were apparent and her right arm was bent "unnaturally" behind her.[5][9] Because it had rained on the night the body was dumped, little evidence of the perpetrator was found, although it was placed at the scene about 12 hours prior, before precipitation occurred.[2][3] The witness stated the body had not been at the location the day before. Based on marks on the body, it appeared to have been dragged 25 feet from the roadside.[10]

She wore a man's shirt, gray in color, with a floral design on the front. After contacting the shirt's manufacturer, it was learned that this type of shirt was first sold in 1984.[3][11][8] She was also wearing black sweatpants. No additional clothing was found, including footwear.[7][1]

Examination[edit]

During the autopsy, multiple injuries were observed across the victim's body, and it was determined she had endured several weeks of neglect in addition to long-term physical abuse.[12][13] The victim was malnourished and suffered from an untreated infection in her left elbow.[10] The abuse increased in severity in the days immediately prior to her death, and she had also been sexually assaulted.[9][11] Potential chemical burns were identified on 25% the victim's body and road rash was also observed. Her nose was broken, as were several of her ribs, although some of the latter injuries occurred after death. A "cauliflower ear" deformity may have been caused by the recent increase of abuse she suffered, either from beating or being pulled.[7][1][14] Sharp-force trauma was also evident on the same ear.[10]

Additionally, the examination suggested the victim may have been a cognitively disabled individual. It was believed that she was most likely 18 to 35 years old. Her front incisors protruded from the mouth, and decay was present on many teeth, some of which were missing.[1][3] Her curly hair was reddish-brown, collar-length, and appeared to have blond highlights.[1] Johnson's eye color was difficult to discern, but listed as brown, green, or hazel. There were two earrings in each of her ears.[2][9] Additionally, there was evidence she may have worn glasses, despite their absence from the crime scene.[10]

Investigation[edit]

Facial reconstruction of the victim, based upon morgue photographs.

Over 50 people attended Johnson's funeral on October 27, 1999 after the autopsy and other examinations were completed.[11][15] She was interred at Holy Family Cemetery in Caledonia, Wisconsin.[16] Her gravestone read "Daughter: Jane Doe", along with the dates of discovery and burial, with the phrase "Gone, but not forgotten".[7][1]

Multiple reconstructions were created of the decedent's face to assist with visual identification of the body.[2] In 2012, a revised reconstruction was created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, replacing their original.[6][17] Another version of this facial composite exists, which depicts a differing facial rendition of how Racine County Jane Doe may have appeared in life.[3][9]

Police theorized the unidentified woman was an international visitor, a runaway child or was estranged from her family. In 2011, investigators followed a potential lead that the victim may have been Aundria Bowman (born Alexis Badger), who disappeared from her adoptive parents' house in Hamilton, Michigan on March 11, 1989. DNA profiling, via her mother Cathy, demonstrated that they were not the same person.[6] Additional missing persons such as Tina D'Ambrosio and Karen Wells were ruled out.[7][18][19][20]

Some believed that this case could be linked to the murder of Mary Kate Chamizo (née: Sunderlin), a previously unidentified victim who was discovered in Lake County, Illinois. Chamizo was also found malnourished, had poor dentition and had been beaten to death. Three were arrested in that case; one was convicted.[21][22] All three were later cleared due to new evidence.[23]

The remains were exhumed on October 16, 2013, for further study and transported to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the body had previously been examined in 1999.[1][8][24] Authorities hoped that by studying isotopic material of the bones, they would be able to tell where the woman had lived prior to her death.[11] An anthropologist from Tennessee was employed to conduct the tests.[6]

Although the murder remained unsolved at the time, investigators stated they hoped that the case will eventually come to a close. A press conference in 2013 explained they had uncovered more clues.[1][3]

"All of us [present] here, who have investigated the deaths of individuals during the course of our careers, have seen many troubling things. However, the utter, barbaric brutality inflicted on this young woman is something none of us will never forget."

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling, addressing the media to announce the formal identification of Peggy Lynn Johnson and her alleged murderer, Linda La Roche.[10] November 8, 2019.[25]

It was announced on July 19, 2015, that the examination of the remains had been completed and that they would be reburied on the 16th anniversary of Johnson's discovery.[26] Authorities stated they had indeed uncovered new leads from the exhumation, but they declined to state any details.[27]

On October 20, 2016, it was announced that chemical isotope testing performed by the Smithsonian on a sample of her hair and bone suggested she was potentially from or spent several years of her life in Alaska, Montana or portions of southern Canada. Authorities did not comment on what testing the results are from, whether recent with hair or history from bone.[28] Additionally, it was revealed the victim or her murderer(s) were possibly from southeastern New England, such as New Hampshire and New Jersey.[19] The police department planned on seeking forensic genetic genealogy organizations to identify potential relatives of the victim.[6]

Identification and arrest of Linda La Roche[edit]

Mugshot of Linda La Roche, taken in Lee County, Florida after her arrest.

On November 7, 2019, the Racine County Sheriff's Office announced that Sheriff Christopher Schmaling would hold a Media Briefing the following day to release information about Racine County Jane Doe's identity and the name of the individual in custody for her death. The announcement stated that "both the victim and the individual in custody have substantial ties to a northwestern Chicago suburb."[29][4]

On November 8, 2019, Racine County authorities identified the victim, through DNA comparison, as Peggy Lynn Johnson, 23, of McHenry, Illinois. Her accused killer was identified as a 63-year-old nurse, Linda Sue La Roche. La Roche owned her own nursing practice, established in 1997, which provided health care to at least two Illinois correctional facilities, without displaying any questionable or inadequate behavior.[30] Johnson was never reported missing, although an aunt placed a personal ad in a December 1999 issue of Northwest Herald requesting Johnson contact her.[16][5]

La Roche was arrested on November 5, 2019, in Cape Coral, Florida, where she resided since 2013.[30] The warrant was listed as $1 million.[10] She reportedly confessed to killing someone during her stay in Illinois to various individuals, one of which alerted police on September 23, 2019.[16] According to a criminal complaint, La Roche was charged with first-degree intentional homicide and concealment of a corpse. Authorities state the maximum penalty would be life in prison.[31] At the time she was charged with murdering Peggy Johnson, she was facing legal proceedings after causing a vehicle accident while intoxicated.[30]

Johnson was reportedly last seen by classmates at a 1994 homecoming dance in Harvard, Illinois.[5] The victim and her accused killer first encountered each other in 1994 at a medical clinic Johnson worked at.[32] She became homeless at age 18 after her mother's death; her brother and father had previously died.[5] Johnson agreed to serve as a housekeeper for La Roche in exchange for room and board. The emotional and physical abuse against Johnson took place over a significant period of time before her death, presumably since moving into the residence. As indicated by the autopsy, she was subjected to a poor living environment and was not well-nourished.[16][32] Instances of La Roche's abuse toward Johnson were confirmed by her children, one of which the victim confided in after being asked about a bruise to the face.[10]

Despite friends and classmates of Johnson describing her as mild-mannered and "quiet," the suspect claimed the victim repeatedly stole from the residence, including medication, and invited males over without permission.[6][10] La Roche's now-ex-husband stated he had come home in July 1999 to find Johnson lying unresponsive, which the suspect claimed resulted from an overdose.[32] La Roche admitted to having stored medication in the cellar of their residence, where Johnson was allegedly forced to sleep, and that she witnessed seeing Johnson "faint" after emptying pill containers in their bathroom sink.[30] Johnson allegedly expired after being taken outside for better air quality. La Roche instructed her then-husband to take their children away for an outing so she could dispose of the body.[10] Paramedics were not called and La Roche did not provide medical assistance to the victim, despite her occupation as a nurse. The autopsy of Johnson's body disputed the alleged overdose, as toxicology tests proved negative. La Roche informed her husband upon his return that the victim regained consciousness, after which she gave two different accounts of leaving Johnson with her grandmother or abandoning her, unharmed, along a roadway in Wisconsin.[16] Johnson's grandmother denied ever meeting members of the La Roche family, let alone seeing the decedent on the day in question.[10]

Police explained they planned to exhume Johnson's body once again, and reinter her next to her mother in Belvidere, Illinois.[33][32]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Handelman, Ben (October 25, 2013). "Racine Jane Doe investigation continues with new leads". Fox News. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d "Case File 199UFWI". The Doe Network. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Anderson, Mike (October 17, 2013). "Investigators still believe Racine County Jane Doe case can be solved". WISN. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Racine Co. Sheriff to reveal ID of 1999 homicide victim, body found in cornfield in Raymond". FOX6Now.com. Fox News. November 7, 2019. Retrieved November 8, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e Rogan, Adam (December 19, 2019). "Who was Peggy Johnson? And why didn't anyone say she was missing for 20 years?". Journal Times. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Rogan, Adam (November 10, 2019). "20 years, 3 months, 18 days. Here's how Racine's Jane Doe case was solved". Journal Times. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e Tenuta, Marci Laehr (August 8, 2011). "Authorities continue working 12-year-old homicide case 'that burns in all of our minds'". Journal Times. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c "Racine Jane Doe body exhumed 14 years later". ABC News. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d "Police release new photo of Jane Doe found in 1999". WISN. December 12, 2012. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Flancher, Faye (November 7, 2019). "State of Wisconsin vs. Linda Sue La Roche" (PDF). Circuit Court of Racine County. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d Leshchinskaya, Nastacia (May 20, 2013). "Unsolved Murder Spotlight: The Racine County Jane Doe". Crimelibrary.com. Archived from the original on April 17, 2014. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  12. ^ Bauter, Alison (December 12, 2012). "Who is she? Updated image of 1999 Jane Doe released". The Journal Times. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
  13. ^ "Who is Racine County Jane Doe, Tortured, Killed in 1999?". Cold Case USA. Blogger. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
  14. ^ "Jane Doe's Body Exhumed". Racine County Sheriff Department. 2014. Archived from the original on April 19, 2013. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  15. ^ "Racine County Jane Doe, WI". Archived from the original on August 20, 2010. Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  16. ^ a b c d e Rogan, Adam; Torres, Ricardo (November 8, 2019). "Her name is Peggy: The events that led to the death of Racine County's Jane Doe". The Journal Times. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  17. ^ Bohr, Nick (December 12, 2012). "New image released of Jane Doe found in Racine in 1999". WISN 12 News. ABC. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  18. ^ "Racine County, Wisconsin Jane Doe 7/21/1999". December 16, 2012. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  19. ^ a b "NamUs UP # 4741". NamUs.org. National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  20. ^ "Case File 184DFMI". The Doe Network. Retrieved June 4, 2014.
  21. ^ Tunkieicz, Jenny (July 21, 2000). "Investigators find ties between Jane Doe, Illinois case". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  22. ^ "Identified - Index 5". doenetwork.org. The Doe Network. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  23. ^ Mills, Dan Hinkel, Steve. "New medical evidence undercuts Lake County murder case". Lake County News-Sun. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  24. ^ Jones, Stephanie (October 16, 2013). "Jane Doe's body exhumed for testing; Sheriff 'determined' to ID her". The Journal Times. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
  25. ^ "Illinois Nurse Charged with Beating, Killing Woman in 1999". Chicago Sun-Times. November 8, 2019. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  26. ^ "Jane Doe to be reinterred on July 21st, 2015". Racine Uncovered News. July 19, 2015. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  27. ^ Bohr, Nick (July 21, 2015). "Racine County Jane Doe reburied". NowCast. ABC. Retrieved July 24, 2015.
  28. ^ "New information learned about Racine County Jane Doe's past". ABC 12 WISN. January 4, 2017. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  29. ^ "Racine County Sheriffs Office Facebook page".
  30. ^ a b c d Rogan, Adam (November 18, 2019). "Jane Doe's alleged killer ran medical business, lost jail contracts after accusations made public". Journal Times. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  31. ^ Rogan, Adam (November 18, 2019). "Woman accused of killing Racine's Jane Doe weighed in on Casey Anthony trial in 2011". Journal Times. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  32. ^ a b c d Garza, Jesse (November 8, 2019). "Racine County authorities announce identity of cold case homicide victim; suspect arrested in Florida". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  33. ^ "Illinois Nurse Charged in 1999 Beating Death of Woman". usnews.com. Retrieved November 8, 2019.