Second Inmate Gets Life Term for Killing Iowa Prison Workers

ANAMOSA, Iowa—A second inmate received a life sentence Wednesday for the beating deaths of two Iowa prison workers during a failed escape attempt in March.

Michael Dutcher, 28, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Anamosa State Penitentiary correctional officer Robert McFarland and nurse Lorena Schulte. He also pleaded guilty to kidnapping another prison worker during the failed escape and to attempted murder for the beating of an inmate who tried to stop the attack.

Judge Fae Hoover-Grinde sentenced Dutcher to serve back-to-back life sentences plus another 50 years behind bars, in what she called an attempt to provide solace to the victims’ families. She told Dutcher, whose trial had been scheduled to start next week, that she couldn’t imagine a worse crime.

Hoover-Grinde last month sentenced inmate Thomas Woodard to life in prison for his role in the attacks. Both inmates had been serving time at the Anamosa prison for armed robbery convictions.

Investigators say the inmates got into the prison infirmary by claiming they were performing maintenance work, then accessed a break room where they used a handheld power saw to try to cut through the bars on a window. They used hammers to beat 50-year-old Schulte and 46-year-old McFarland to death and to seriously injure inmate McKinley Roby.

The pair, who also held prison dental assistant Lorie Matthes as a hostage, had accessed the tools from a prison work program. Matthes was able to be freed, and the pair was arrested soon afterward.

Matthes, a 29-year employee of the Iowa Department of Corrections, recalled in a victim impact statement how Dutcher grabbed her out of a hallway and forced her into the break room. She said the attack altered her life “physically, emotionally and mentally,” explaining that she suffered broken ribs and other injuries and she still struggles with the mental harm.

“The evilness that took place that day will never be forgotten,” she said.

Schulte’s sisters and parents described her as a doting aunt and loyal daughter who had looked forward to spending time with family and traveling during retirement.

Roby told Dutcher that he will suffer “lifelong scars and trauma” from the attack.