LaRoche, 66, formerly of Florida, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 23 before Judge Timothy Boyle.
The body of Johnson-Schroeder was found by passersby in a cornfield in Raymond in July 1999. The Racine County Sheriff’s Office initial investigation found that the young woman had been badly beaten and was malnourished. Because authorities were unable to identify her via missing persons files or arrest records, she was buried as “Jane Doe” in a local cemetery.
In 2019, using modern DNA testing methods, authorities discovered Johnson-Schoeder’s identity. Investigators found that she had lived in McHenry County, Ill. Her father had abandoned the family, her mother was deceased and she was described in court records as being cognately disabled.
Johnson-Schroder met LaRoche at a free clinic where the older woman worked as a nurse. LaRoche offered Johnson-Schoeder a job as a live-in housekeeper.
Sheriff’s Office investigators found that LaRoche physically abused Johnson-Schoeder over a lengthy period of time. The abuse eventually led to her death at age 23. LaRoche was accused of dumping Johnson-Schroeder in the Racine County field.
Based on the investigation, the Racine County District Attorney’s Office in 2019 charged LaRoche with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse. LaRoche, who had moved to Florida, was extradited to Wisconsin to stand trial.
Johnson-Schroder’s body was exhumed from the “Jane Doe” grave and reburied in her family’s burial plot in Northern Illinois. Draeger-Langendorf Funeral Home was instrumental in moving the young woman’s remains and donated the headstone.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling issued the following statement at the jury trial’s conclusion Wednesday afternoon:
“The sheriff’s office will never forget or stop working a cold case homicide. While the deaths of Peggy Johnson, Amber Creek, and Juanita Zdroik were once cold case homicides, these cases are shining examples of the hard work and dedication of the members of the Sheriff’s Office in creating closure for the victims’ families. I would like to thank all the professionals who assisted in bringing Peggy’s killer to justice. For anyone involved in any other homicide, you need to worry. It is not a matter of if, but when, you are held accountable.”
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