Judge tosses Illinois teen’s confession in mother’s killing

January 7, 2020 GMT

MORRISON, Ill. (AP) — A western Illinois judge has thrown out the confession of a teenage girl accused of fatally shooting her mother, ruling that investigators should have stopped questioning the then-15-year-old once she told them “I don’t want to talk anymore.”

Whiteside County Circuit Court Judge Trish Senneff ruled that Anna Schroeder’s confession was improperly obtained and will not be allowed at her murder trial. The judge said in her ruling that Schroeder’s confession came after she told investigators she did not want to say anything else, Sauk Valley Media reported.

Schroeder, now 17, was charged as an adult in the July 2017 killing of her 53-year-old mother, Peggy Schroeder. Her body was found in a burning home in Morrison, about 130 miles (209 kilometers) west of Chicago.

Schroeder’s trial was scheduled to begin Jan. 16, but it was canceled Monday and the judge has set a pretrial conference for Wednesday. She’s charged with two counts of first-degree murder, arson and the concealment of a homicide.

Senneff issued her ruling on Schroeder’s confession on Dec. 16 via email to State’s Attorney Terry Costello and Schoeder’s two defense attorneys after hearing their arguments on Dec. 10.

The judge wrote that investigators were under no obligation to stop the interview when Schroeder did not clearly invoke her right to an attorney when asked, instead making the “ambiguous statement” of “‘Mm, I don’t know.’”

But Senneff wrote that “the problem with this interrogation arose the minute that Anna exercised her right to remain silent and cut off questioning by unequivocally stating ‘I don’t want to talk anymore.’”

“At that point, reviewing courts have held that all questioning should have immediately ceased.”

Anna Schoeder’s girlfriend — 17-year-old Rachel Helm — has been charged as an adult with arson and concealing a homicide. Her trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 18.

Schroeder and Helm allegedly spent two days trying to clean the murder scene before setting the house on fire to conceal the crime. Both teens went to authorities after Helm told her mother what had transpired.

Helm believed that Peggy Schroeder disapproved of the girls’ romantic relationship and planned to end it, and Helm repeatedly urged Schroeder via text to kill her mother so they could be together, investigators have said.

Both girls are being held at a juvenile detention facility in Galesburg.