The Racine County, Wis. Sheriff announced Friday that a Jane Doe found brutally abused and murdered in a cornfield in 1999 has been identified as Peggy Lynn Johnson, a young woman from McHenry.
Linda Sue La Roche, 64, who now lives in Cape Coral, Florida, was charged with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse in connection with Johnson’s death.
The Racine County Sheriff’s Office said that on July 21, 1999, a woman walking along 92nd Street between 6 and 7 Mile Road in Raymond, Wisconsin discovered a young woman’s body lying discarded in a cornfield several feet from the roadway.
“She suffered from significant injuries and had been brutalized by many means over a long period of time,” Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said at a press conference Friday morning.
“All of us here that have investigated deaths of individuals over the course of our careers have seen many trouble things, however, the utter barbaric brutality inflicted on this young woman is something none of us will ever forget,” Schmaling said.
Investigators spent thousands of hours over the past 20 years trying to identify the woman’s body and find her killer, Schmaling said.
Johnson’s DNA was submitted to a nationwide unidentified victims database and her body was exhumed in 2013 for more advanced forensic testing.
“She was born on March 4, 1976. She was 23 years old when she was murdered. She was born and raise in McHenry, Illinois. Her mother, father and her brother are all deceased. She has a sister whom she has never met,” Schmaling said.
Authorities said that after Johnson’s mother died, Johnson, who was approximately 18 years old and cognitively impaired, went looking for help at a medical clinic in McHenry.
She met La Roche, a registered nurse at the clinic, who took her into her home. Johnson lived with La Roche in McHenry for the last five years of her life.
“There she suffered long time and horrific abuse at the hand of Linda La Roche, ” Schmaling said, adding that on Tuesday police took La Roche into custody in Cape Coral, Florida.
Authorities previously said that Johnson had suffered blunt force trauma and burns to her body. She also showed signs of being malnourished and sexually abused. Johnson had never been listed as a missing person.
La Roche waived extradition and will soon be back in Racine County, authorities said.