Woodard guilty plea a rarity in prosecutor’s decades-long career

Prosecutors say victims’ families supported plea deal
Published: Aug. 7, 2021 at 8:39 PM CDT
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ANAMOSA, Iowa (KCRG) - One of the men charged with killing two prison workers at the Anamosa State Penitentiary last March has pleaded guilty to all four charges.

Thomas Woodard pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree kidnapping, and one charge of attempted murder.

Woodard and another inmate, Michael Dutcher, are charged with killing Robert McFarland and Lorena Schulte by hitting them with a hammer while attempting to escape Anamosa State Penitentiary.

Scott Brown, prosecutor and Assistant Iowa Attorney General, described the events Friday morning as rare.

“I have been a prosecutor for almost 30 years and never had anybody plead guilty to a Class A felony,” he added. “It is rare but it does happen.”

Woodard will now spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. After his sentencing, he will be transferred to the Nebraska prison system to serve his sentence. Brown mentioned Nebraska was one of several options the Department of Corrections had on where to send Woodard.

“Because of populations and things of that nature they do have an interstate compact with a number of states where they transfer prisoners back and forth,” Brown said. “It was not really that he just wanted to go to Nebraska, it was kind of a range of options that we had and Nebraska happened to be the one that was able to take him.”

The victims’ families were present at the plea hearing at the Jones County courthouse. Brown said they supported the plea deal and would be present at all stages of the proceedings.

“The agreement that we came to with the defense, we would not have done it without their support and they definitely supported us in exploring this,” Brown said. “They would have been one of the first groups we would have spoken to about doing this before we ever even set things into motion.”

Woodard now awaits sentencing. The date for that hearing is yet to be determined. Michael Dutcher, the other man charged with killing McFarland and Schulte, has pleaded not guilty and opted for a bench trial.

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