It all started in 2017, when police responded to what initially appeared to be a standard house fire in Morrison, Ill. That was before a Whiteside County detective discovered the body of 53-year-old Peggy Schroeder inside the house.
Investigators later learned then-15-year-old Anna Schroeder — adopted daughter of Peggy Schroeder, the victim — shot and killed her mother over a dispute regarding Anna’s relationship with Rachel Helm. That was before law enforcement says Anna set the house on fire in an attempt to hide the murder and destroy the evidence.
A couple of weeks after the murder, Anna’s then-girlfriend Rachel Helm went to the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Office to provide information on Anna’s whereabouts, the gun used and the victim’s cell phone.
Texts from June and early July 2017 between the teenage girls describe plans to murder Anna’s mother so they “could be together.” Throughout the case, the texts have been shown along with Anna’s internet search history that includes searches like “Does someone die when shot in the head” and “Children killing their parents.”
Whiteside County Detective Molina read text messages uncovered during the investigation.
“These are not verbatim. Anna said, ‘I want them dead I want to kill my mother.’ Rachel responds, ‘I do too I will help you.'” Molina read from text transcripts between Schroeder and Helm presented in court.
Anna Schroeder, now 19, was initially charged with first-degree murder, arson, and concealing a homicide, but accepted a plea and now faces four to 20 years for just one count of second degree murder.
Today marks the first day of Anna’s sentencing hearing. Prosecution called Whiteside County Detective Molina — who followed the case from the very beginning — to the stand to read through details of the crime again before concluding the day with a victim impact statement from the victim’s sister, Charlene Wilkinson.
“I try to mask the pain by working by keeping myself busy, but I miss her every day, I just I’m having a hard time knowing what to do with myself because she was always there,” Wilkinson said.
The sentencing hearing will resume Friday morning when a judge will determine Anna’s sentence — she was tried in adult court — so she faces between four and 20 years in prison.
“A part of me has died,” Wilkinson said when asked how she felt about losing her sister.