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Schroeder makes first appearance in adult court

July 3, 2018 GMT

MORRISON – On a day when most kids would be bugging their parents to take them to get that all-important teen ticket to freedom, their driver’s license, Anna Schroeder instead is under lock and key and looking at spending a good portion of her life in prison.

The girl who admitted shooting her 53-year-old mother in the head a year ago come Friday turns 16 Tuesday.

In her first appearance since her June 21 transfer to adult court, Rock Island County-based Associate Judge Gregory G. Chickris found the state indeed had probable cause to charge Schroeder with two counts of first-degree murder, arson and concealment of a homicidal death in the July 6 shooting of Peggy Schroeder at their Morrison home.

She faces a mandatory 20 to 60 years without parole or any good-time reduction for murder, 3 to 7 years for arson, and to 2 to 5 years for concealment. Bond is set at $1 million; because of her age, she is being held at the Mary Davis Detention Home in Galesburg.

Chickris made his decision after hearing from the lead investigator, Whiteside County Sheriff’s Detective David Molina, who, as he had in her juvenile proceedings, testified to the events that lead up to the shooting, including the part played by her accomplice and girlfriend, Rachel Helm, 16, of Rock Falls.

Helm, also 15 at the time of the shooting, is charged with concealment of homicidal death and arson. She was transferred to adult court on April 5, and is being held on $250,000 bond, also at Mary Davis. The girls are ordered to have no contact.

Under questioning from Whiteside County State’s Attorney Terry Costello and defense attorney James Mertes of Sterling, Molina testified:

Rachel, who believed Peggy Schroeder disapproved of their romantic relationship and planned to end it, repeatedly urged Schroeder via text to kill her mother so they could be together.

Anna Googled how to open a gun case, used a screwdriver to open the case containing her mother’s handgun, and fired it out her bedroom window to make sure it was loaded and worked. When her mom came home from work that Thursday afternoon, Anna met her in the living room, told her she had a surprise for her, had her put a small towel over her face, then shot her in the head.

She sent a text to Rachel telling her what she’d done, then a picture of her mother’s body as proof. Rachel got a ride to Anna’s house, and the girls spent the next 2 days, among other things, trying to clean up the blood and using Peggy’s debit card to buy food, hair dye, more cleaning supplies, and provisions – two cans of Spaghettios, a lighter to start campfires and a knife to ward off coyotes – to run away.

Friday, they dragged Peggy’s body to her bedroom and covered it with a sheet, and Saturday morning decided to set the house on fire to hide the crime. Rachel set the sheets covering the body and the sheets in Anna’s room afire, and the girls left.

They left the loaded gun in its case, leaned up against a headstone in a nearby cemetery, and threw Peggy’s cellphone in the trash in a nearby park. Rachel went home to Rock Falls, Anna, who went with her, was picked up by her family and taken to her dad Daryl Schroeder’s house in Walnut.

That night, Rachel told her mom, Lois Holland, what they had done, and the two of them went to the Sheriff’s Department to report the crime. Anna was picked up at her father’s house, taken to the Bureau County Sheriff’s Department for questioning, and confessed.

Anna will be arraigned Aug. 15; Rachel, who pleaded not guilty on April 16, has a pretrial hearing Aug. 29.