Linda LaRoche is a 64-year-old former nurse and jail medical company provider accused in the murder of Peggy Lynn Johnson, who, for decades, was known only as the “Jane Doe” whose brutalized body was found abandoned 20 years ago in a Racine County, Wisconsin cornfield.
In Cape Coral, Florida, where she had moved from McHenry, Illinois, LaRoche painted a picture of a family-oriented woman who donated money to charities and liked wearing garish jewelry. In September, she posted a graphic on her Facebook page that read, “Do the right thing, even when no one is watching. It’s called integrity.” She wrote on Facebook that she founded a company that obtained government contracts to explore the psychology of criminals and run medical care in jails.
The DeKalb County, Illinois sheriff confirmed to Heavy in an interview that LaRoche’s company, Guardian Correctional Care, Inc., was contracted to offer medical services for inmates in the jail there, receiving $18,000 a month. Sheriff Roger A. Scott said the company’s contract would be terminated now that authorities there realized LaRoche is newly accused in the decades-old murder. “It’s obviously shocking to us,” he said, adding that LaRoche, as the company owner, did scheduling matters and the like but wasn’t on the actual jail floor with inmates. The company had staff that did that, and the sheriff believes they did a good job. He said the company was also contracted with other counties over the years and worked with DeKalb County since at least 2000.
LaRoche and her company are also named in a recent civil lawsuit alleging that an inmate who committed suicide in the Boone County, Illinois jail did not receive adequate medical care from Guardian, which was also contracted to that jail. An inspection report in 2017 from that county says Guardian provided its facility medical care for inmates.
Scott said he met LaRoche in the office several times in a business capacity, and there was “no indication” of anything aberrant. He said she came across as “kind.”
On November 8, 2019, Racine County authorities announced that they had finally identified Johnson and, as a result, her alleged killer. Sheriff Christopher Schmaling revealed both names in a dramatic news conference in which he emphasized that officials, some of whom are now retired, tirelessly pursued justice in the case, never stopping their efforts to identify the young woman whose battered body was discovered “lying discarded in a cornfield.”
Johnson will now get a proper burial next to her mother in Illinois, Schmaling said. Johnson’s body was found in 1999 in the Town of Raymond.
Booking records show that Linda Sue LaRoche is currently being held in the Lee County Jail in Florida. Her last known address was given as Cape Coral, Florida. Her date of birth is October 1955. She was arrested on November 5, 2019. She is also facing DUI accusations, the booking sheet reveals. Online records show LaRoche with addresses in Illinois until about 2012, when she has addresses in Florida.
There is a Facebook page devoted to the Jane Doe.
According to that page, Johnson’s body was first exhumed in 2013 as part of determined efforts to give her a name. Throughout the years, Johnson was sometimes given the name “Crystal Rae.” She has an entry in NamUs, a national database that attempts to link missing people with unidentified remains.
“Do I have family? Am I your daughter? Your neighbor? Your classmate? Your student? Did we meet in a bar? A nightclub? Who am I? Why hasn’t someone come forward to claim me, identify me?” read a missing person’s blog post on Johnson in 2009. It now turns out, though, that she was never reported missing, although it’s not clear why. The Wisconsin sheriff shared actual photos of the young woman whose face was previously known only through an artist’s rendering.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Linda LaRoche, Who Wrote That She Was Owner of a Correctional Care Organization That Had Government Contracts to Explore the ‘Psyche’ of Accused Criminals, Filled Her Facebook Page With Donations & Family Photos
Down in Florida, Linda LaRoche seemed to be living a content life, dressing up for nights out or posing for pictures with family members. On Facebook, LaRoche has a now eerie profile statement. It reads, “Above all be honest be kind, treat people with love and forgiveness don’t tolerate disrespect ??❤️.”
She also gives the following biographical information:
• Owner/CEO at Guardian Correctional Care
• Studied at College of Lake County
• Studied Pre-medical & Biology at Harper College, U of W-LaCrosse
• Went to Central High LaCrosse, Wisconsin
• Lives in Cape Coral, Florida
• From La Crosse, Wisconsin
Guardian Correctional Care doesn’t come up in Florida corporation registration records, but it does come up in Illinois’s database, and the name Linda LaRoche of Cape Coral, Florida, is listed as the president. The company was incorporated in 2003 but is currently listed as “not in good standing” in Illinois. Her name is given as Linda Johnson LaRoche in those records; online records also show her with the Johnson name.
On Facebook, LaRoche wrote that the company was located in Bull Valley, Illinois. “Guardian is a Forensic Medical Co. I began this company in 1997 and am contracted by the government to do all the medical and psyche for criminals or the accused. I also do some expert witness work in relationship to forensic medicine,” she wrote.
A 2017 DeKalb County jail inspection report by the Illinois Department of Corrections states “Medical services are provided by Guardian Correctional Care.” Only one company comes up under that name in Illinois corporate records.
Sheriff Scott of DeKalb County told Heavy that LaRoche’s company delivered medical care to sick inmates through nurses and a doctor on staff, but didn’t do psych evals. He said the company was chosen through a bidding process years ago and that the jail wanted to go with a “good local service” rather than a more expensive national firm.
However, a civil lawsuit on behalf of the estate of a deceased inmate in Boone County, Illinois named LaRoche and LaRoche’s company as among the defendants. Justin Clubb was being held in the Boone County jail on accusations of theft when he killed himself. The suit, filed by attorneys Julie Herrera and Steven Molitor, alleges that Clubb was denied adequate medical care in the jail.
It says that Clubb hanged himself in 2017 “after spending a week suffering from extreme drug withdrawal symptoms, insomnia, malnutrition, hallucinations, extreme stomach pain, vomiting, anxiety, and panic.” He had made “repeated requests for medical attention,” according to the lawsuit, which states that the “Boone County Sheriff contracted with Guardian Correctional Care, Inc., to provide essential government services, namely medical care, to detainees at the jail.”
The October 2019 suit alleges that Guardian “is merely a façade for LaRoche’s personal operation and LaRoche extensively comingles business and personal assets. For example, on information and belief, Guardian is the owner of her personal home.”
According to her posts on Facebook, LaRoche sometimes visited Wisconsin.
She wrote in 2016, “I was pretty healthy than it was last spring. But I’m feeling pretty good now . I’m still up in door County recuperating but I’m doing well.” She posted on Facebook about donating to cancer and ocean cleanup fundraisers. In fact, her page is pretty much an endless string of such donations, at least what is visible. She posted a 2017 photo of a log cabin style mansion, writing, “My horse ranch in northern Illinois ❤️.”
Under one photo showing her with an orange-like tan, a friend joked, “I’ve always LOVED Linda LaRoche in inmate orange ?❤️❤️❤️,” to which LaRoche responded, “Yes, and with our job we saw a lot of orange modeled.???.” A friend wrote three years ago, “Miss seeing you around the jail. Hope you are doing good ?.” LaRoche responded, “Oh thanks I do miss the jail but I’m doing fine I had a health crisis the summer but I’m doing well.” She wrote that she had suffered sepsis in another post.
2. LaRoche Was an Illinois Nurse Who Took Johnson Into Her Home But Abused Her, the Sheriff Says & the Complaint Alleges LaRoche Treated Johnson Like an ‘Animal’
In May 2019, LaRoche posted a throwback photo of herself in a nurse’s uniform (above) and wrote, “Happy Nurses Week ❤️”
Two retired Racine County sheriffs were also present at the November 8, 2019 news conference, as was the district attorney. “This is a day of mixed emotions for all of us in this room,” said the current sheriff. “We are angered by this senseless and brutal murder of this young woman, and we want justice served.”
At the same time, he said authorities are proud that they can finally offer some closure and “some peace” in the long lingering case. He described Johnson’s murder as a “heinous crime” that unfolded 20 years before when the young woman’s body was discovered bearing “significant injuries.” The sheriff said she had been “brutalized by many means.”
Johnson, said the sheriff, was born and raised in McHenry, Illinois. Her mother, father and brother are all deceased. She has a sister whom she has never met.
After her mother died, Peggy, then 18 and cognitively impaired and on her own, went searching for help at a medical clinic in Illinois. It was there that she met Linda LaRoche, who was a registered nurse.
“After her mother died, Peggy was approximately 18 years old, cognitively impaired, on her own, and went searching for help at a medical clinic in McHenry, Illinois. There, she met a registered nurse named Linda LaRoche, who recognized Peggy’s disability and took her into her home,” said the sheriff.
“She suffered long-term horrific abuse at the hand of Linda LaRoche,” alleged Schmaling.
He said that authorities had “worked to bring this heartbreaking murder to resolution.” LaRoche was taken into custody in Cape Coral, Florida. She has waived extradition and will soon be back in Racine, Wisconsin “to be held accountable for what she has done,” he said.
According to NBC, LaRoche’s children allegedly told authorities that LaRoche took Johnson into her home because she was homeless, and Johnson “acted as a nanny and housekeeper.” The criminal complaint alleged that LaRoche’s children admitted LaRoche was abusive to Johnson, allegedly making “her sleep in a crawl space under the home, screamed at her like an animal, stabbed her with a pitchfork, and slapped her often.”
3. LaRoche, Who Was Married for Years & Allegedly Confessed to Dropping Johnson Off on a Wisconsin Road, Once Wrote About the Casey Anthony Verdict on Facebook
Posts on Facebook show that LaRoche has been married for many years. Many photos show her enjoying Florida life, decked out in jewelry. “As you can tell I love jewelry,” she wrote with one photo. Other photos indicate she has adult children. Her husband’s Facebook page shows him with Linda out to dinner and sailing on boats.
There is an ongoing Florida court case in the names of LaRoche and her current husband for “dissolution without children.” It was filed on September 17, 2019 and it lists her business. LaRoche’s husband was the plaintiff. A September 18 notation in the court records refers to “Standing Temporary Order for Dissolution of Marriage.”
LaRoche has been married twice, records show.
According to NBC, citing authorities, LaRoche’s former husband allegedly said he had come home from work to find Johnson lying “lifeless on the ground, and LaRoche claimed to him that Johnson had overdosed and she would remove the body ‘so they would not be involved.'” While LaRoche was gone with Johnson’s body, the earlier husband allegedly stated he took their kids out for ice cream, NBC reported. LaRoche allegedly told investigators that she found Johnson standing in the kitchen with pills and then saw her faint. The complaint alleges that LaRoche claims she turned Peggy over to her grandmother.
However, LaRoche then changed her story, eventually confessing that she left Peggy on the side of a Wisconsin road, the criminal complaint alleges. She claimed that she wasn’t injured at that time, but the autopsy report found broken bones and old wounds, it contends.
LaRoche posted a rant about the high-profile Casey Anthony verdict on Facebook, writing, “The most troubling part of the Casey Anthony case is the short amount of time the jury took to find her ‘not guilty’……there had to have been compelling reasons for that…now I am upset with my self for not realizing this sooner, do I believe she is not guilty?”
LaRoche continued: “I can’t say that but I do believe that the circumstantial evidence sucked…like the tattoo that they said meant that she was happy for her freedom…come on ..talk about b.s….. and you may have to question the forensic scientist hired by the state who admitted that he had never tested for chloroform fumes before and had no procedure to do it but made up the process…I have to say he was a terrible witness and showed the state had really blown it. I for one am glad that the jury was able to hear both sides not just the media.”
4. Johnson’s Injuries Showed ‘Utter Barbaric Brutality,’ the Sheriff Says
The Racine County sheriff described the wounds inflicted on Johnson as “utter barbaric brutality…it’s something none of us will ever forget.” Thousands of hours were expended trying to identify the Jane Doe and bring her killer to justice. According to the Racine Journal Times, Johnson’s wounds were many: “burns and blunt force trauma to much of her body, a nose fracture, cuts to the head, abrasions to the forehead, a heavily battered left ear, and…signs of being both sexually abused and malnourished.”
Jane Doe’s DNA was entered into a victim’s database and into genealogical sites. Her body was exhumed for chemical testing done by the Smithsonian. “Year after year after year, we plugged away at this case, never giving up,” Schmaling said.
That led, at last, to identity: The victim is Peggy Lynn Johnson, who was born March 4, 1976. At the time of her death, she was 23. She was murdered, Schmaling revealed. He did not specify how authorities were able to identify Johnson or her alleged killer.
The sheriff revealed that neither the names of LaRoche nor Johnson had ever come up before in the long-standing investigation into the Jane Doe, who is currently buried under that name in Caledonia, Wisconsin. Authorities hope that burying her with her mother, and under her real name, will bring “some level of peace.”
5. People in Racine Never Gave Up Caring for the Then Unknown ‘Jane Doe’
For years, people in Wisconsin have tended to Johnson’s grave.
The Racine County sheriff repeated that “never giving up” was the philosophy of the Racine County sheriffs in the room.
A posting by an investigator on the Jane Doe Facebook page revealed that, on July 21, 1999, “a body of a white female homicide victim was discovered on the edge of a cornfield located on 92nd Street in Racine County.”
She was 5’08”, 120 pounds with short brown hair. “Her ears were double pierced and her left ear had a deformation consistent with ‘cauliflower ear.’ Her teeth were in poor condition with her front teeth slightly protruding. She was found clothed in black sweatpants and a man’s grey country western-style shirt. The shirt had pearlized snap buttons and a red floral pattern.”
“This female suffered severe abuse prior to her death,” the post stated. WISN-TV previously reported that the cause of death was blunt force trauma.