Two inmates at the Anamosa State Penitentiary have been charged with two charges of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of kidnapping in the first degree, according to Special Agent in Charge Rick Rahr of the Division of Criminal Investigation and a press release from the Jones County Attorney’s Office.
The charges come the day after an attack March 23 that left two staff members dead.
According to the press release, the Jones County Sheriff’s Office, in consultation with the Jones County Attorney, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, filed charges on Michael Aaron Dutcher, 28, and Thomas Allan Woodard, 39, March 24. The charges stem from actions that led to the deaths of Registered Nurse Lorena Schulte, 50, Correctional Officer Robert McFarland, 46, the injuring of inmate McKinley Roby and attempted kidnapping of staff member Lorie Matthes.
In a press conference held outside the front doors of the penitentiary March 24, Rahr said that Dutcher and Woodard attempted an escape from the infirmary break room by smashing the glass of the windows and attempting to grind down the bars with a grinder—an effort that was unsuccessful.
Schulte and McFarland were attacked with the hammers when they attempted to stop their escape, causing blunt force trauma to the back of their heads. Schulte died at the scene and McFarland died en route to the hospital, according to Rahr. Schulte had been employed at the prison since July 30, 2007, and McFarland since October 20, 2008.
The pair also attacked Roby with the hammers and Rahr said during the press conference it was believed he attempted to render aid to both Schulte and McFarland. He also suffered blunt force trauma to the back of the head. Roby was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospital for treatment of multiple skull fractures.
Matthes attempted to render aid to Schulte and McFarland when she was grabbed by Dutcher and told, “she would be next if she didn’t cooperate,” according to Rahr. She was then held against her will and released when Dutcher ran out of the break room and was apprehended by staff.
“I will tell you that both Ms. Schulte and McFarland are heroes,” Rahr said. “They did everything they could to help each other, but by their actions they were able to save Ms. Matthes' life. They need to be recognized for the things that they did.”
Rahr said the exact length of the incident was unknown, but short.
The pair gained access to the break room under the guise of trying to repair some equipment, according to Rahr. Anamosa State Penitentiary Warden Jeremy Larsen said they were still in the review process for determining how the tools were obtained. The tools used in the incident would have been “supervised” tools, requiring supervision by staff at all time.
While the investigation is still ongoing, it is not believed at this time that there were any other accomplices to the escape attempt, which Rahr said had been planned for some time. The prison is on restricted lockdown and are assessing on a daily basis when it would be safe to open movement back up, Iowa Department of Corrections Director Dr. Beth Skinner said.
Skinner opened the press conference offering condolences to the families of both penitentiary team members killed in the attack and said every resource was being made available to get justice for the victims, their families and the department.
“It is my sincere belief that those involved in taking these lives will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Skinner said, before ending her statement with an emotional plea.
“Please keep the men and women of Iowa corrections in your thoughts…those here at Anamosa, as they deal with the loss of their team members, for all those that wear the badge.”
Dutcher was at the facility after being sentenced to 50 years for two counts robbery in the first degree, robbery in the second degree, ongoing criminal conduct—criminal network and prohibited acts. He had been at the penitentiary since May 14, 2015, and was scheduled to be released April, 18, 2057. Woodard was at the facility for robbery in the first degree and burglary in the first degree. He was sentenced to 25 years and arrived Jan. 13, 2017, with an anticipated release date of March 10, 2029. If convicted on the murder charges, both would have a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. This case will be prosecuted jointly by the Office of the Jones County Attorney and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
Following the press conference, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees released a statement on the deaths of Schulte and McFarland.
“The AFSCME family is grieving today over the loss of these two dedicated members, public employees and Iowans. Both Lorena and Robert embodied the spirit that defines AFSCME members. They worked hard, cared about their fellow brothers and sisters, and took pride in doing their part to keep our communities safe. Their loss is nothing short of a tragedy. I know I speak for all AFSCME members here in Iowa and across the country when I say that we stand with their families and loved ones during this awful time, and will do everything in our power to make sure no other member will ever lose their life in service to our state.” AFSCME Council 61 President Danny Homan said.
“We hope that in this time of grief, members of the public will give the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives the privacy and time necessary to absorb this tragic loss.”