Nurse charged in cognitively impaired woman's death

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RACINE, Wis. (AP) - A criminal complaint says a cognitively impaired Illinois woman whose beaten body was dumped in southeastern Wisconsin in 1999 suffered burns, beatings, abrasions, lacerations and broken bones at the hands of a nurse who employed her as a nanny and housekeeper.

The victim's identity had been a mystery since her body was found in a Racine County cornfield, but officials on Friday identified her as 23-year-old Peggy Lynn Johnson. A criminal complaint charges 63-year-old Linda La Roche in Johnson's death.

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said Friday that Johnson met La Roche when she went to a medical clinic in McHenry, Illinois, seeking help after her mother died and La Roche, recognizing Johnson's disability, took her into her home.

The complaint says Johnson suffered burns, blunt force trauma to much of her body, a fractured nose and had "branding marks" that were inflicted within five days of her death. Schmaling says the abuse occurred over a long period of time.

An autopsy shows Johnson died of an infection sustained from chronic abuse and that the manner of death was a homicide.