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Peggy Lynn Johnson was known for more than two decades simply as Jane Doe, a woman who in 1999 had been brutally beaten to death and dumped in a Wisconsin cornfield.
All that changed Friday when the Racine County Sheriff’s Office announced the identity of that 23-year-old woman who was slain on July 21, 1999, and disclosed her alleged killer: Linda Laroche.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling described in a press conference how Laroche, now 64, is suspected of causing the “utter barbaric brutality inflicted on this young woman,” calling it “something none of us will never forget.”
Laroche was charged with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse. She has waived extradition and is in the process of being moved to Racine, Wisconsin from Cape Coral, Florida to face trial.
Johnson’s badly beaten corpse was found lying on 92nd Street by a man walking a dog in Raymond, Wisconsin, according to the criminal posted online by The Racine County Eye.
An autopsy performed on Johnson’s corpse showed she had suffered blunt trauma to the head. She also had a broken nose and multiple fractured ribs and burn marks covering 25 percent of her body.
The body was “heavily bruised” and suffered “road rash,” likely from being “dragged from a vehicle down the slight embankment on the ground in-between the first and second row of corn,” according to the complaint.
In September, a tipster reached out to the Racine County Sheriff's Office investigators alleging that Laroche, a registered nurse, was “telling people she had killed a woman back when she lived in Illinois.”
Sheriff Schmaling said the 18-year-old Johnson was "cognitively impaired" and had been homeless, with both her parents dead, when she sought help at a medical clinic where Laroche worked.
Laroche “recognized Peggy's disability and took her into her home," Schmaling said.
For a few years, Johnson worked as a housekeeper and live-in nanny for Laroche’s five children.
Investigators interviewed Laroche’s now-adult family and they allegedly confirmed that Laroche “was abusive to Peggy," that their mother "punched" her.
“Peggy lived with Laroche,” Schmaling said. “There she suffered long-term and horrific abuse at the hand of Laroche.”
"She suffered from significant injuries and had been brutalized by many means over a long period of time," he added.
The complaint described Johnson suffering black eyes, stabbings to the head and being screamed at “like an animal” by the “verbally and emotionally cruel” Laroche.
Laroche’s husband, referred to in the complaint by the initials, “RWJ”, considered Laroche “a force to be reckoned with.”
On the night of Johnson’s death, he told investigators that he found Johnson on the ground “lifeless.”
“Laroche told him [Johnson] had overdosed. … Laroche told him to take the kids out for ice cream,” according to the complaint.
Laroche’s husband said “he never saw Peggy again” after that moment.
When investigators confronted Laroche about Johnson’s death, they say she confirmed that she had taken Johnson into her home in 1994 and accused her of stealing medications from a crawl space she'd kept them in.
On the night Johnson died, Laroche said she caught Johnson “standing at the kitchen counter with pills in her hands,” the complaint states. Laroche said Johnson dumped the pills into the kitchen sink and then fainted.
The registered nurse told investigators “she thought about calling an ambulance but didn’t.”
Laroche said that Johnson eventually regained consciousness, but she decided she “couldn’t handle Peggy anymore” and claimed to have left her in the care of her grandmother, who they'd arranged to meet a restaurant in the area, according to the complaint.
Except authorities had already interviewed Johnson’s grandmother and she told them “she had never met Laroche or her husband.”
Then the accused killer told investigators "she was not sure who the person was that she left Peggy with,” according to the complaint.
The next day, Laroche had an entirely different story for investigators. She told them that she'd driven Johnson to Wisconsin and “admitted letting Peggy out of the car in a rural area and leaving her by the side of the road.”
Laroche claimed that Johnson “was not injured at all when she dropped her off” and that “something must have happened to her after she dropped her off.”
This new version isn't consistent with the autopsy, authorities say.
Plans are already in the works to exhume Johnson’s body so she can be laid to rest in a plot next to her mother in Belvidere, Illinois.
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