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RACINE – The woman who killed her cognitively disabled housekeeper in 1999 and dumped her body in a field in Raymond will spend the rest of her life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Linda LaRoche, 66, formerly of Cape Coral, Fla., was sentenced Monday by Racine County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Boyle after a jury found her guilty in March of first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse.

An unsolved mystery for two decades

For over 20 years, Racine County Sheriff’s investigators worked to identify the remains of a young woman found by a man walking his dog in a Racine County cornfield. She didn’t have any ID, and her body showed signs of blunt force trauma, sexual abuse, and her left ear was badly battered, commonly referred to as “cauliflower ear”. Despite scientific advances in forensic identification over the years, discovering the young woman’s identity proved frustrating until 2019 when a new methodology for testing DNA revealed her name: Peggy Lynn Johnson-Schroeder, 23, of McHenry, Ill.

Johnson-Schroeder’s father left the family, her mother was deceased, and she was described as cognitively impaired. The two met when Johnson-Schroeder was 18 and homeless at a free clinic where LaRoche worked as a nurse. Johnson-Schroeder was offered a job as LaRoche’s live-in housekeeper and lived with LaRoche for five years. At the time, LaRoche lived with her then-husband and three of her five children.

According to the criminal complaint against LaRoche, Johnson-Schroeder died with a broken nose, multiple fractured ribs, and burns to over 25 percent of her body. She was also malnourished and died as a result of “sepsis pneumonia as a result of infection from injuries sustained from chronic abuse”.

Concerned neighbor turns in LaRoche

A concerned neighbor in Florida contacted authorities because they heard LaRoche talk about killing someone when she lived in Illinois. After she was arrested and extradited to Wisconsin, LaRoche’s story changed several times, but she finally admitted to abusing Johnson-Schroeder and placing her body between two rows of corn in Racine County.

Johnson-Schroeder’s body was exhumed and re-buried with the rest of her family in McHenry, IL.

In addition to the life sentence she received, LaRoche was also sentenced to five years in prison for hiding Johnson-Schroeder’s body.

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