MORRISON – It was a routine plea in a case that's anything but ordinary.
Anna Schroeder, now 16, pleaded not guilty this morning to killing her mother and, along with her girlfriend, trying to hide the crime by setting their Morrison house on fire.
Schroeder is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, for which she could be sentenced to 20 to 60 years in prison, without parole or any good-time reduction, plus, at the judge's discretion, 25 years more for using a gun.
She faces 3 to 7 years for her role in setting sheets, including the one that shrouded her mother's body, on fire, an arson, and 2 to 5 years for trying to conceal a homicidal death.
Her next hearing is Sept. 26; the trial will begin Oct. 15 or 16, depending on the court's schedule.
Schroeder has admitted shooting her mother, 53-year-old Peggy Schroeder, in the head a little over a year ago, on July 6, 2017. She was transferred to adult court from juvenile court on June 21; Judge Trish Joyce still presides.
Her bond is set at $1 million. Because of her age – she turned 16 on July 3 – she is being held at the Mary Davis Detention Home in Galesburg.
Her accomplice and girlfriend, Rachel Helm, 16, of Rock Falls, is charged with concealment of homicidal death and arson; she has admitted to lighting the fire.
Helm, also 15 at the time of the crime, 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.
Whiteside County Sheriff's Detective David Molina, the lead investigator, has testified that:
Helm believed Peggy Schroeder disapproved of the girls' romantic relationship and planned to end it, and repeatedly urged Schroeder via text to kill her mother so they could be together.
Using her mother's gun, Schroeder met her mother in the living room as she returned from work, told her she had a surprise for her, persuaded her to cover her face with a small towel then shot her in the head.
She texted Helm and sent her a picture of her mother's body to let her know what she'd done, Helm got a ride to Morrison, and the girls spent the next 2 days, in the home, with the body, trying to clean up the blood, and planning to run away.
Helm went home to Rock Falls, Schroeder to her father's home in Walnut. That night, Helm told her mother what they'd done, and they went to the Sheriff's Department to report the crime. The taped interview was played during a hearing on whether to transfer her from juvenile court.
Schroeder was picked up at her father's house that night, taken to the Bureau County Sheriff's Department for questioning, and confessed. The audio of her confession was played during her transfer hearing.
Helm's next hearing is Aug. 29; her trial is set for Sept. 18.