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Woman accused of killing housekeeper and dumping her body in a Wisconsin cornfield in 1999 found guilty of homicide, hiding corpse

Tracing family trees to catch killers
Tracing family trees to catch killers 01:56

A woman accused of killing her housekeeper and dumping her body in a southern Wisconsin cornfield in 1999 has been found guilty of criminal charges. A jury in Racine County on Wednesday found 66-year-old Linda La Roche guilty of first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse.

For nearly two decades the victim was known only as Jane Doe. Advances in DNA technology eventually led to her identification as 23-year-old Peggy Lynn Johnson.

She lived with La Roche and her family at their home in McHenry, Illinois where she worked as a nanny and housekeeper.

The Racine County Sheriff's Office said after La Roche was identified as the prime suspect, investigators traveled to Florida and interviewed LaRoche. They said she made "incriminating statements about her interactions with Peggy" before she was arrested.

On today’s date, Wednesday, March 16, 2022, a jury unanimously found Linda LaRoche guilty of the First-Degree...

Posted by Racine County Sheriffs Office on Wednesday, March 16, 2022

La Roche was accused of physically abusing Johnson for years. An autopsy report said Johnson died from sepsis pneumonia due to infection from injuries she suffered during chronic abuse.

According to the criminal complaint, a passer-by found Johnson's beaten body while walking his dog in Raymond, which is about 40 miles northeast of McHenry.

An autopsy showed she was malnourished, had been struck in the head shortly before death, and had a broken nose and broken ribs, some of which were broken after death and some that had been previously broken and were healing. Johnson had also been burned, possibly with a chemical, over 25% of her body, and had branding marks on her body.

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said the victim had been "barbarically" brutalized over a long period of time.

Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo said during closing statements that she believed La Roche was jealous of Johnson, who was loved by the family.

Community donations helped move Peggy's remains to her family's burial plot in northern Illinois, the Sheriff Schmaling told WDJT-TV in 2020. The Draeger-Lagendorf Funeral Home even donated a headstone, the sheriff said.

"I would like to thank all the professionals who assisted in bringing Peggy's killer to justice," Schmaling said in a statement on Wednesday.

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