McHenry woman identified as victim of 1999 cold case murder in Wisconsin

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RACINE COUNTY, Wis. (WIFR) -- A woman born and raised in McHenry, Illinois, was identified as the victim of a 1999 cold case murder in Racine County, Wisconsin.

Photos courtesy: CBS 58 and Lee County Sheriff's Office (Florida)

Peggy Lynn Johnson was 23 years old at the time of her death, according to Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling.

Johnson's body was found in July 21, 1999, along a Racine County road in the town of Raymond.

According to a criminal complaint, Johnson sustained trauma and had been sexually assaulted. She was malnourished, had road rash across her torso and suffered a broken ribs and nose.

Her death was ruled as a homicide by sepsis pneumonia as a result of infection from injuries sustained from chronic abuse.

The Racine County Sheriff's Office pursued thousands of leads over the past 20 years to identify Johnson. She was previously referred to as "Jane Doe" while the case was under investigation.

Linda La Roche, 64, of Cape Coral, Florida, was arrested Tuesday in connection to the death. She was charged with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse.

According to the sheriff's office, La Roche met Johnson at a medical clinic in McHenry when Johnson was around 18 years old.

La Roche then took Johnson into her home.

Johnson lived with La Roche for five years and suffered long-term and horrific abuse, according to the sheriff's office.

La Roche admitted that she drove Johnson to Wisconsin and let her out of the car in a rural area, per the criminal complaint.

She asserted that Peggy was not injured when she was dropped off, contradicting information from an autopsy regarding the condition of her body, according to the criminal complaint.

After examining more than 1,000 missing person cases and seeking information from agencies in several states, the sheriff's office identified La Roche as the suspect.

Johnson's DNA was entered into a nationwide unidentified victims database. DNA submitted for genealogical testing. Her body was also exhumed for chemical isotope testing.

Johnson's mother, father and brother are all deceased. She also has a sister she has never met, according to the sheriff's office.

Officials plan to exhume Johnson's body from its resting place in Caledonia, Wisconsin. She will be reburied next to her mother in Belvidere, Illinois.

Watch a stream of the news conference below announcing details on the case, via CBS 58: