For 20 years, officials had no opinion about the names of either the victim or the suspect in the cold case murder of a young lady whose battered body was found in 1999 on the edge of a Wisconsin cornfield by a dog walker.
Then came a tip 7 weeks ago that a Florida woman “was telling people that she had killed a woman back when she was in Illinois,”.
The sheriff’s office in Racine County, Wisconsin, stood out to investigate — and after an officer spoke with one of the suspect’s children, who recalled her mom’s alleged years-long abuse of the cognitively injured victim, they arrested 64-year-old Linda Sue LaRoche on doubt of murder.
With the capture, authorities also publicly recognized Jane Doe found in the field. She was Peggy Lynn Johnson, 23, who had moved in with the suspect’s house in McHenry, Illinois, in 1994 at around age 18 after her mom died, leaving her apart when she went to a medical clinic looking for help.
LaRoche, a recorded nurse at the clinic, “recognized Peggy’s disability and brought her into her home,” said Schmaling.
What happened was five years of “long-term and horrific abuse at the hand of Linda LaRoche,” he told.
“The deal was that Peggy would act as a nanny and caretaker in exchange for living in the house,” according to the criminal complaint charging LaRoche with one count of first-degree voluntary homicide and one count of hiding a body.
“Laroche’s children recollect that Laroche was very rude to Peggy and that it was not uncommon for Peggy to have signs of wounds from Laroche,” according to the complaint. “At times when not serving for the family, Peggy would be made to sleep and stay in a crawl space below the home. Laroche was verbally and emotionally brutal to Peggy, at times yelling at her like an animal. One recalled Laroche hitting at Peggy’s head with a pitchfork, one remembered Laroche slapping Peggy in the head and face.”
“They all recollected seeing Peggy with wounds and one even asked Peggy what had happened to her later noticing a black eye,” the complaint told. “Peggy told the child, who was then a grown-up, that Laroche had knocked her.”
LaRoche’s ex-husband, identified in the complaint by his initials “RWJ,” also allegedly verified the abuse. He remembered that on the last day he saw the victim, he back to the residence from work “and saw Peggy on the ground dead. Laroche told him Peggy had overdosed and she was going to take her aside from their house so they would not be involved,” according to the complaint.
LaRoche led her husband to take their children out for ice cream, and when LaRoche came more than two hours later, she was without Peggy, he said.
He never saw the young lady again, he told prosecutors.
The dead body was found on July 21, 1999, in a cornfield off a road in Raymond, Wisconsin.