Tag Archives: Jane Doe

Finally, Justice for Jane Doe. Rest in Peace, Peggy.

More than 20 years after she was laid to rest as Jane Doe, a cognitively disabled Illinois woman found murdered in Racine County has been identified and her alleged killer was arrested in Florida. Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling announced that deputies arrested a former Illinois nurse and charged her with murdering 23-year-old Peggy Lynn Johnson of McHenry, Ill.

“She suffered from significant injuries and had been brutalized by many means over a long period of time,” Schmaling said at a news conference on Nov. 8. From Fox6 Milwaukee:

RACINE — Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling on Friday, Nov. 8 revealed the identity of the young woman whose brutally abused body was found in a cornfield in the Town of Raymond in 1999. Jane Doe has been identified as Peggy Lynn Johnson.

Linda Laroche, 64, has been taken into custody in connection with her death. She is facing one count of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of hiding a corpse.

“This is a day of mixed emotions, ladies and gentlemen,” said Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling. “We are very proud today by the fact that we can finally offer some closure and some peace.”

More of the heartbreaking detail from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“In September Racine County sheriff’s investigators received a tip that LaRoche, who was living in Cape Coral, had been telling people that she killed a woman when she was living in Illinois with her then-husband and three of her five children.

After LaRoche met Johnson, who was a senior in high school at the time, she took her in because she was homeless, under an agreement that Johnson would act as a nanny and housekeeper in exchange for living with the family.

Now grown, LaRoche’s children told investigators that their mother was very abusive toward Johnson, who was forced to stay and sleep in a crawl space beneath their home.

LaRoche’s ex-husband confirmed the abuse, describing LaRoche as a “force to be reckoned with.”

LaRoche is being held by the Lee County, Fla., sheriff’s office on a $1 million bond, based on an arrest warrant filed in Racine County Circuit Court.

Peggy Lynn Johnson, 1976-1999
Peggy Lynn Johnson, murder victim (1976-1999). Racine County Sheriff’s Office Photo.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Racine County, Peggy suffered horrific abuse over an extended period of time. Her nose was broken. She had chemical-type burns over a 25 percent of her body. She had eight fractured ribs, which the medical examiner said were created after death. Four lacerations showed blunt trauma to the head. She had a penetrating wound to the left ear. The throat and upper chest areas showed evidence of burns or scald injuries. Her lower lip was split open on both ends. A number of the injuries were inflicted shortly before death.

“Laroche was verbally and emotionally cruel to Peggy, at times screaming at her like an animal,” the criminal complaint said. LaRoche’s children provided detectives with this information: “One recalled Laroche stabbing at Peggy’s head with a pitchfork, one recalled Laroche slapping Peggy in the head and face. They all recalled seeing Peggy with injuries and one even asked Peggy what had happened to her after noticing a black eye. Peggy told the child, who was then an adult, that Laroche had punched her.”

The details are horrifying and sickening. Read the criminal complaint here.

Diane Colligan, mother of Peggy Lynn Johnson
Diane M. (Colligan) Schroeder, mother of Peggy Johnson, died in 1994.

Peggy was born on March 4, 1976 in Woodstock, Ill., according to online family trees at Ancestry.com. Her mother, Diane M. (Colligan) Schroeder, was a graduate of Marengo Community High School in McHenry County, Ill. Her high school yearbook photo shows a striking resemblance to her daughter. Diane died on Nov. 26, 1994 in Harvard, Ill., at age 41. She was employed at a nursing home at the time of her death. She had a son (half-brother to Peggy), Jesse A. Schroeder, who died in June 1998 at age 18. After her mother’s death, Peggy ended up homeless, which is why she crossed paths with the nurse LaRoche.

We wrote about this case in July 2015 when “Jane Doe” was re-interred at Holy Family Catholic Cemetery in Caledonia, Wis. At the time I was director of Racine Catholic Cemeteries. Jane was initially buried at the cemetery in October 1999, but had been disinterred in 2013 for forensic testing at the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office. Sheriff’s deputies served as pall bearers that day as Peggy was reburied in a donated casket and cemetery vault.

Solemn Procession
Investigator Tracy Hintz (center) was on the case for more than 16 years.

LaRoche has waived extradition to Wisconsin and will face one count of first-degree intentional homicide and a felony charge of hiding a corpse. If she is indeed guilty of the charges, she shall also face the Just Judge. May God have mercy on her soul; the very mercy she denied to an innocent homeless woman who turned to her for help.

There are tentative plans to disinter Peggy’s body so she can be buried near her mother and grandparents (Ellis J. Colligan and Zella M. Colligan Parker) at Highland Garden of Memories cemetery in Belvidere, Ill.

Click here to watch a soloist sing Amazing Grace at the committal service for Peggy on July 21, 2015.

IMG_2622sm
My cemetery grounds crew did a nice job sodding and finishing Jane’s grave after her re-interment.

16 Years Later, Welcoming Young Jane Home Again

I had the honor and privilege on July 21 to be a witness as we welcomed a special young lady home. She is called Jane, but one day we hope to know her real name. Sixteen years to the day after her beaten body was found in rural Racine County, Jane Doe again found rest at Holy Family Catholic Cemetery in Caledonia, Wisconsin.

In my day job as director of Racine Catholic Cemeteries, I had the task of making sure this little country cemetery was looking its best for the noon committal of Jane’s body. From October 1999 until October 2013, Jane lay at rest on the western edge of Holy Family Catholic Cemetery.

This composite image shows what Jane Doe might have looked like.
This 2012 composite image from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows what Jane Doe might have looked like.

But for the past 22 months, she was at the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office as police gathered new forensic evidence and conducted new tests. The murder investigation is still very active. The Racine County Sheriff’s Department is determined to not only identify Jane, but to arrest her killer or killers. Investigators say Jane was serially abused and tortured in the weeks leading up to her death. She was found on July 21, 1999 at the edge of a cornfield in the Town of Raymond.

The most poignant scene on this beautiful sunny day was that of Tracy Hintz standing alongside the casket throughout the committal service. Hintz is the Racine County Sheriff’s Department lead investigator on the Jane Doe case. She is much more to Jane, who was between 18 and 25 when she was murdered. Tracy is her advocate, protector, guardian and champion. She rode in the hearse from Draeger-Langendorf Funeral Home in Racine to Milwaukee, then back again to Holy Family Catholic Cemetery. It seemed she did not want to let Jane go; not without a proper goodbye. That goodbye can’t come until the day the world know’s Jane’s real name.

Tracy wiped a silent tear and momentarily stepped away from Jane’s casket. This case is deeply personal for her. Thank God for that. Look at Tracy’s face and you can see it. She will identify Jane. She will arrest her killer. Then she can return to this beautiful place, point Heavenward and whisper a goodbye and a thank you.

It was a special day to welcome this young lady back. You are loved, Jane. Be assured of that. And you are home.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

Click here to watch a soloist sing Amazing Grace at the committal service for Jane Doe.