Editor’s note: Although it is not illegal to do so, in general, it is the policy of Sauk Valley Media not to report the names of juvenile defendants. In this case, however, SVM is publishing their names because of the severity of the crimes.
STERLING – Citing the “vast amount” of discovery documents he must examine – well over 1,000 pages, with many more to come – the attorney defending the 15-year-old Morrison girl accused of killing her mother has asked for more time before arguing against a motion seeking to try her as an adult.
With no objection from Whiteside County State’s Attorney Terry Costello – except for a mild admonition that such cases always come with reams of discovery as the investigation proceeds – defense attorney Jim Mertes was granted a 6-week continuance.
Anna Schroeder, who appeared in court in a dark gray T-shirt and black pants, carrying a sweatshirt, her blonde roots beginning to show through her mussy black hair – will have another pretrial conference on Oct. 24.
In the meantime, she will remain in custody at Mary Davis Detention Home in Galesburg, where her co-defendant, her 15-year-old girlfriend, Rachel Helm, of Rock Falls, also is housed. The two girls, by court order, are being kept apart.
At Schroeder’s last pretrial hearing on Aug. 29, Mertes told Judge Trish Joyce that he could not address Costello’s motion because he hadn’t yet been given all the discovery materials – evidence, interviews, photographs and other information gathered during an investigation.
Schroeder is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, concealment of homicidal death, and arson. If convicted of murder as a minor, she could serve until she is 21.
Because she is younger than 16, state law dictates that proceedings begin in juvenile court. As of Jan.1, 2016, defendants 16 or older automatically can be tried as adults if charged with first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault or aggravated battery with a firearm.
Helm, of Rock Falls, is charged with arson and concealing a homicidal death. A motion to try her as an adult also is pending; her next appearance is Sept. 26.
She is represented by Sterling attorney Michael Lancaster.
According to investigators:
Anna had Peggy Sue Schroeder, 53, who was her adoptive mother, put a towel over her face then shot her in the forehead with her own .38 after she arrived at her home at 805 W. Park St. from her job at Wahl Clipper Service Center in Sterling.
She and Helm, who arrived after Schroeder texted her a photo of her mom’s body as proof she killed her, tried to clean up the house before deciding to set it on fire to conceal the crime.
They dyed their hair, and the next morning, on July 8, Helm set fire to the bed sheet with which they had covered Peggy’s body and to the sheets in Anna’s room. Then the girls walked to Grove Hill Cemetery where they hid Anna’s phone and the gun.
Helm told her mother that day what she and Schroeder had done; her subsequent confession to Whiteside County sheriff’s deputies lead to their arrest.
Schroeder, who was at her father’s home in Walnut by then, was taken to the Bureau County Sheriff’s Department for questioning, where she broke down and also confessed, investigators said.
Daryl Schroeder sat behind his daughter in court Tuesday, hands folded in his lap.
He and Peggy, who was hearing impaired, adopted Anna and her sister, Kaylene Schroeder, about 11 years ago, when Kaylene was 7 and Anna was 4. They divorced in 2012.
No motive for the shooting has been released.