Anamosa, IA – Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) Correctional Officer Robert “Bob” McFarland and Registered Nurse Lorena Schulte were murdered in the line of duty while working inside the Anamosa State Penitentiary on Wednesday morning.
The violent attack occurred in the historic prison’s infirmary at approximately 10:15 a.m. on March 23, the DOC said in a press release on Wednesday morning.
The suspects, 28-year-old Michael Dutcher and 39-year-old Thomas Woodard, were allegedly trying to escape the facility when they attacked Schulte and Correctional Officer McFarland, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Richard Rahn said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
“It had been planned by them for some time,” SAC Rahn said.
According to investigators, Dutcher and Woodard were each armed with hammers they obtained from a work program inside the prison.
They then headed to the infirmary’s break room area under the “ruse” they were repairing equipment, SAC Rahn said.
Once inside, the inmates allegedly shattered a window and used a grinder in an attempt to cut the bars on the windows in order to escape.
“They were completely unsuccessful in their attempts,” SAC Rahn noted.
When Schulte, 50, and Correctional Officer McFarland, 46, tried to stop the inmates’ escape attempt, Dutcher and Woodard bludgeoned them to death with the hammers, according to investigators.
Prison inmate McKinley Roby was trying to render aid to the gravely injured prison employees when one of the suspects bashed him in the back of the head with a hammer, SAC Rahn said.
A third employee, Lorie Mathis, was grabbed by Dutcher as she tried to help the injured victims and was told “she would be next” if she didn’t cooperate, according to investigators.
SAC Rahn said the suspects “held her against her will,” but that she was ultimately able to escape.
Woodard and Dutcher were apprehended inside the prison.
Schulte succumbed to her injuries at the scene, and Correctional Officer McFarland died while being transported to the hospital, SAC Rahn said.
Investigators said they both died due to blunt-force trauma.
Roby was rushed to the hospital with head injuries, and has since been stabilized.
“Mr. Roby certainly did everything he could to save those two, and I will tell you that both Ms. Schulte and McFarland are heroes,” SAC Rahn told reporters. “They did everything they could to help each other, and by their actions, they were able to save Ms. Mathis’ life…They gave up their lives and ended up saving a life.”
Investigators recovered two hammers and the grinder from the break room after the attack, according to SAC Rahn.
Woodard and Dutcher allegedly admitted to having been present in the break room when Schulte and Corrections Officer McFarland died, SAC Rahn said, noting that Woodard also confessed to being involved in their deaths.
Woodard and Dutcher have both been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Schulte and Correctional Officer McFarland.
They have also been charged with attempted murder for the attack on Roby, as well as second-degree kidnapping for grabbing Mathis and holding her against her will, SAC Rahn said.
“Two wonderful people had their lives taken while simply trying to do their jobs here in Anamosa,” Iowa DOC Director Beth Skinner said at the news conference. “One, a nurse whose main mission was to help care for and heal the sick. One, an officer whose main mission was to help keep this facility safe in order for men here to have a safe and rehabilitative environment.”
Schulte had served as a nurse at the prison facility since July of 2007, Director Skinner said.
Correctional Officer McFarland had been serving at the penitentiary since Oct. 20, 2008.
He leaves behind his wife and children, according to the director.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the Correctional Officer McFarland and Schulte, The Gazette reported.
“Today, our state grieves the loss of two public servants who were attacked while on duty at the Anamosa State Penitentiary,” Reynolds said in a statement. “My prayers and deepest condolences are with their families, friends, and colleagues as they begin to cope with this senseless tragedy. We will exhaust every available resource to deliver justice to those who committed this act and bring a sense of closure and peace to the victims’ families.”
News of the murders rocked the town of 5,400 residents, many of whom have either worked at the prison or know someone who has, according to the Des Moines Register.
“The corrections facility has been here for many, many years. It doesn’t take long for every family to have someone who has worked there,” Anamosa Mayor Rod Smith told the Des Moines Register Tuesday evening. “Any loss of life in a small community touches everyone. You try to support the families and close friends of the deceased and be there for them.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Iowa Department of Corrections Correctional Officer Robert “Bob” McFarland and Registered Nurse Lorena Schulte, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, heroes. We’ll hold the line from here.