BELVIDERE – Twenty-three years after her death, Peggy Lynn Johnson-Schroeder received a proper funeral and a headstone with her name on it.
Johnson-Schroeder was reburied Wednesday at the Highland Garden of Memories in Belvidere. Last year, authorities identified her as the Jane Doe whose body was discovered on the side of a Wisconsin road in 1999.
Police, in turn, arrested former McHenry nurse Linda Sue LaRoche, formerly Linda Sue Johnson, on first-degree murder charges tied to the young woman's death. Locals hosted funeral services for Johnson-Schroeder and buried her as "Jane Doe" shortly after her body was discovered. On Wednesday, however, surrounded by friends and family, Johnson-Schroeder was buried next to her mother, Diane Marie Schroeder, and grandparents.
“A life was cut so short and so brutal but to have her family there and the local appreciation and the closure, you could just feel it in the air,” Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said. “The closure was there.”
Relatives from both sides of Johnson-Schroeder’s family came to pay their respects Wednesday, including a handful of people who traveled from Tennessee, Schmaling said.
The family, while appreciative of the community’s support, has asked for privacy at this time, the sheriff said.
“What’s really interesting is how our community pulled together,” Schmaling said. “We had individuals donating money across the country to pay for this expense, which means a lot to us, because Peggy’s mom was left unmarked here and so was her grandmother.”
The community successfully raised enough money to cover the cost of moving Johnson-Schroeder to Belvidere and buy new headstones for all three women, Schmaling said.
Those who knew Johnson-Schroeder as a teenage girl living in Harvard have described her as outgoing, goofy, caring and "always laughing." Muffled cries could be heard as friends and family placed flowers on top of the young woman's casket and her mother's grave marker Wednesday.
“In terms of it being her birthday it’s a very special day and we’re proud as a community to be able to show her the love and respect that she deserves,” Schmaling said.
Officers hugged one another as the services came to a close, but work isn’t through for the Racine County Sheriff’s Department.
“We need to make certain that the person responsible for this – that justice is served,” Schmaling said.