Officials announce charges in Anamosa prison killings, victims identified

The two people investigators say were responsible for the killings had been planning to escape for some time.
Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 3:39 PM CDT
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ANAMOSA, Iowa (KCRG) - Officials with the state of Iowa provided additional information on the killings of two Anamosa State Penitentiary employees, including identifying the people involved.

Lorena Schulte, 50, a registered nurse and employee with the prison since July 2007, and Robert McFarland, a correctional officer with the prison since October 2008, were killed in the incident.

Thomas Woodard, 39, and Michael Dutcher, 28, have been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, and one count of second-degree kidnapping.

Thomas Woodard, left, 39, and Michael Dutcher, 28, right.
Thomas Woodard, left, 39, and Michael Dutcher, 28, right.(Courtesy: Iowa Department of Corrections)

According to Richard Rahn, the special agent in charge at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the incident took place at around 10:18 a.m. Woodard and Dutcher were attempting to escape the facility, first by breaking the glass on a window and using a mechanical grinder to try to break the bars blocking the window. They were not successful in their attempts, according to Rahn.

While attempting the escape, Schulte and McFarland, who were present in the break room of the prison’s infirmary, attempted to stop their escape. Rahn said that Schulte and McFarland both received blunt-force trauma to the back of their heads.

Through interviews with the accused, Woodard and Dutcher both admitted to being present in the room at the time of the deaths. Eyewitnesses identified Dutcher as being allegedly involved in killing Schulte. Woodard told investigators that he was involved in the deaths of the two employees, according to officials.

Another inmate, McKinley Roby, was attempting to render aid to the prison employees when he was also struck in the back of the head, according to Rahn. He was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Lorie Matthes, another employee at the facility, also attempted to help the victims, but was grabbed by Dutcher and held against her will. Rahn said that she was told “she would be next” if she did not cooperate.

The two hammers and grinder were acquired by the inmates which were part of a work program inside the facility. They had pretended to need access to the infirmary rooms to repair equipment, according to officials.

The inmates had been planning the attempted escape for a while, rather than it being a spur-of-the-moment idea, according to Rahn.

The investigation into the killings is ongoing.

“Two public servants were taken from this world”

Officials expressed their grief at the Wednesday briefing. Beth Skinner, with the Iowa Department of Corrections, called the incident “an act that can only be described as pure evil.”

“To have these two people taken from us in an act of senseless violence is nothing short of tragic,” Skinner said.

Skinner said that each of the over 3,400 employees of the state’s department of corrections likely were feeling the pain of the deaths of their fellow employees. She said thanks for the outpouring of support from people in Iowa and around the nation.

“Please keep the men and the women of Iowa Corrections in your thoughts,” Skinner said. “Those here in Anamosa, as they deal with the loss of their team members, and those who wear the badge, who risk their job every day.”

KCRG-TV9's Kristin Rogers reports on how officials and the community in and near Anamosa are reacting to the deaths of two employees on Tuesday.

McFarland, in addition to being a corrections officer, was also a member of the Ely volunteer fire department, previously having served in a similar capacity with the cities of Oelwein and Brandon. Aaron Cooper, the department’s fire chief, described McFarland as a hero, saying that he was always willing to contribute and get the little things done that nobody else wanted to do.

Robert McFarland, 46, a correctional officer at the Anamosa State Penitentiary who was killed...
Robert McFarland, 46, a correctional officer at the Anamosa State Penitentiary who was killed in the line of duty on Tuesday, March 23, 2021.(Courtesy Photo)

Watch the entire briefing from state officials below:

Anamosa Prison Press Conference

WATCH: Officials provide more information from the Anamosa state prison after the death of two employees on Tuesday.

Posted by KCRG-TV9 on Wednesday, March 24, 2021

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