Suspect is charged with murder in 20-year-old case

By Jennifer Eisenbart

Correspondent

The trail may have gone cold, but as Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said Friday morning, the Jane Doe case from 1999 never grew dust.

“Over the last 20 years, we have dedicated thousands of investigative hours to bring this heartbreaking murder to its resolution,” he said. “That date has arrived today.”

Linda Laroche

The sheriff announced during an eight-minute press conference that the body found in a cornfield in the Town of Raymond July 21, 1999, belonged to Peggy Lynn Johnson, a 23-year old woman from McHenry, Ill. Johnson, who was born March 4, 1976, was cognitively impaired and was taken into the home of Linda Laroche, a nurse who is now charged with Johnson’s murder.

For the last 20 years, Johnson had been known merely as Jane Doe. She was buried in Caledonia at Holy Family Cemetery under that name, and according to Schmaling, was preceded in death by her mother, father and brother. She has a sister but the two had never met.

Peggy Lynn Johnson

According to the sheriff, following her mother’s death, Peggy went looking for help at a medical clinic in McHenry, and met Laroche, who took Peggy into her home.

“Peggy lived with Laroche in McHenry for the last five years of her life,” Schmaling read from a prepared statement Friday. “There she suffered long-term, horrific abuse at the hands of Linda Laroche.”

Laroche was taken into custody by members of the Racine County Sheriff’s Department in Cape Coral, Florida, Tuesday. According to Schmaling, she is not fighting extradition and will be returned to the state of Wisconsin.

Schmaling and former Racine County Sheriffs Bill McReynolds and Bob Carlson, as well as Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson and numerous members of the sheriff’s department were present at the press conference.

After the brief news conference, Schmaling said he would not take questions, explaining that the investigation is “very active” and ongoing.

He did, however, explain that neither Johnson nor Laroche’s names had come up previously in the investigation, and a missing person’s report had never been filed for Johnson.

The cold case has been, according to Schmaling, under investigation since the body was found in 1999. Johnson’s body had sustained what Schmaling called “utterly barbaric brutality.”

The criminal complaint released at the press briefing detailed numerous injuries, but the cause of death was listed as sepsis pneumonia from chronic abuse.

   For updates and complete details of the criminal complaint, see the Nov. 14-15 editions of the Burlington Standard Press, Westine Report and Waterford Post.