On July 21, 1999, the body of an unidentified woman was discovered in the town of Raymond in Racine County, Wisconsin, 25 miles south of Milwaukee. The victim was between 18-35 years old. The authorities dubbed her Crystal Rae.
The Racine County Jane Doe, AKA “Crystal Rae,” appeared to have been neglected and even tortured for much of her life. Her death had been caused by multiple injuries, including burns and beatings. She had endured weeks of neglect and abuse.
Crystal Rae had visible bruises and cuts across her body, a fractured nose, and a “cauliflower ear” deformity. Several of her teeth were missing, and most that remained were decayed. Her front incisors also protruded. She had been malnourished and sexually abused. A check with area doctors and dentists failed to produce her identity.
The woman found in Racine County remained a Jane Doe for over 20 years. In November 2019, however, DNA and forensic testing finally revealed her name.
Although she was younger than the projected age, fourteen-year-old Aundria Bowman was believed by many to be Crystal Rae. Aundria was initially thought to have run away from her adoptive parents’ home in Hamilton, Michigan, on March 11, 1989. Shortly before her disappearance, she had accused her adoptive father, Dennis Bowman, of abusing her.
DNA samples from Aundria’s birth mother determined she was not the Racine County Jane Doe.
In November 2019, Dennis Bowman was arrested for the September 1980 murder of 25-year-old newlywed Kathleen Doyle in Norfolk, Virginia. While incarcerated, he confessed to Aundria’s murder, and her remains were subsequently recovered from the family’s property, concealed beneath a layer of concrete.
Bowman has been charged with the murders of Kathleen Doyle and his adoptive daughter, Aundria. Legal proceedings in both cases are commencing.
Twenty-three-year-old Karen Wells disappeared from Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1994, and 34-year-old Tina D’Ambrosio vanished from Phoenix, Arizona, in 1996.
Both women could be the Racine County Jane Doe, but DNA testing ruled them out as well. Both are still missing.
For many years, some investigators believed the murders of Crystal Rae and 34-year-old Mary Kate Chamizo were related.
Mary Kate disappeared on September 4, 1999, from Forest Preserve, part of Cook County, Illinois, seven weeks after discovering Crystal Rae’s body. Mary Kate’s remains were found on December 9 in Carpentersville, approximately 30 miles away. Her remains were not positively identified until 2006. Her husband confessed to beating her to death, but the confession was later discredited because of his mental illness.
In 2000, a man was convicted of Mary Kate’s murder but was released from prison after testing showed Mary Kate had died earlier than previously believed. This man, who also had a history of mental illness, wasn’t even in Illinois at the time.
The murder of Mary Kate Chamizo was reopened but remains unsolved.
Crystal Rae’s remains were exhumed in 2013 for further study.
In 2016, a chemical isotope test on Crystal Rae’s hair and bone samples suggested she may have been from southern Canada, Alaska, or the northwestern United States.
The findings led many to speculate she may be Nyleen Marshall, who disappeared from Montana in 1983 when she was four years old.
Crystal Rae, AKA the Racine County Jane Doe, was given a funeral at the Holy Family Catholic Cemetery in Raymond, Wisconsin. Over 50 people paid their respects to the troubled young woman they never knew.
Residents hoped a name would one day be placed on her tombstone. That day came last November.
In November 2019, DNA tests identified Crystal Rae, AKA the Racine County Jane Doe, as 23-year-old Peggy Johnson of McHenry, Illinois, a northwest Chicago suburb approximately 40 miles south of where her body was found.
Peggy became the ward of a nursing caretaker after becoming cognitively disabled at age 18. She was last seen at a homecoming dance in Harvard, Illinois, in 1994, five years before Crystal Rae’s discovery. She was never reported missing.
The caretaker who assumed custody of Peggy was Linda LaRoche. She is believed to have inflicted physical abuse on Peggy and allegedly confessed to several friends to have killed her.
LaRoche is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and concealment of a corpse. Authorities state the maximum penalty is life in prison.
When she was charged with murdering Peggy Johnson, LaRoche was facing charges of causing a vehicular accident while intoxicated in Florida, where she had lived since 2013.
After over 20 years, a name was finally engraved on the Racine County Jane Doe’s tombstone.
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Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)
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