Two ASP employees honored as heroes

Director of Department of Corrections Beth Skinner addresses the crowd on March 24 in front of the Anamosa State Penitentiary, a day after two staff members were murdered by inmates attempting to escape. Skinner got emotional honoring Officer Robert McFarland and Nurse Lorena Schulte. Standing behind Skinner are Warden Jeremy Larson, DCI Special Agent Richard Rahn, and former warden Bill Sperfslage. (Photos by Pete Temple)

Registered Nurse Lorena Schulte

Correctional Officer Robert McFarland

DCI Special Agent Richard Rahn said both McFarland and Schulte were heroes in their attempts to save one another, as well as save the life of fellow staff member Lori Matthes.

The front of the prison was decorated in flowers, balloons, and signs honoring the loss of two staff members on March 23.

Michael Dutcher

Thomas Woodard
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Two staff members who worked at the Anamosa State Penitentiary (ASP) died as a result of their injuries on Tuesday, March 23.

     Correctional Officer Robert McFarland, 46, of Ely; and Registered Nurse Lorena Schulte, 50, of Cedar Rapids were attacked by two inmates in a failed attempt to escape from the prison.

     McFarland had been employed at the ASP since Oct. 20, 2008.

     “He faithfully served to keep the inmates and his brothers and sisters who wear the badge safe throughout his career,” praised Beth Skinner, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections.

     Schulte was with the ASP since July 30, 2007.

     “She faithfully served to keep our incarcerated individuals healthy,” said Skinner.

     According to the affidavit provided by the Iowa DCI (Division of Criminal Investigation), a 911 call went out ay 10:18 a.m. requesting multiple ambulances at the prison “for victims involved in an assault.”

     Both McFarland and Schulte received severe rear skull fractures and were pronounced at the scene inside the infirmary of the prison.

     Inmates Thomas Woodard, 39, and Michael Dutcher, 31, were armed with hammers and a grinder under a ruse to make some equipment repairs in the breakroom inside the infirmary.

     Also attacked was inmate McKinley Roby. He received blunt-force trauma to the back of his head as well, and was transported to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for his injuries.

     “He went to render aid to the victims and help out as much as he could,” said DCI Special Agent in Charge Richard Rahn during the Wednesday, March 24 press conference in front of the prison. “As a result, he sustained injuries from the two defendants. Mr. Roby certainly did everything he could to save those two (McFarland and Schulte).”

     A third staff member was also injured, Lori Matthes. She attempted to assist her fellow co-workers.

     “In doing so,” continued Rahn, “she was grabbed by Dutcher. Matthes was told that she would be next if she didn’t cooperate. She was held against her will. After a period of time, she was then released when Dutcher ran out of the breakroom.”

     Rahn said there is no doubt in his mind that McFarland and Schulte are heroes.

     “They’re heroes. They did everything they could to help each other. By their actions, they were able to save Matthes’ life. They need to be recognized for the things that they did at that point in time. They gave up their lives and ended up saving another life. Because of their actions, Mattes was able to escape.”

     Skinner also spoke during the press conference and was seen getting quite emotional in honoring McFarland and Schulte.

     “The outpouring of support across our state and our country has been truly overwhelming,” she said. “I call this event a tragedy because this is truly at the heart of what took place yesterday (March 23). Two wonderful people had their lives taken while they were simply trying to do their jobs here in Anamosa.

     “One, a nurse, whose main mission was to help heal our sick,” continued Skinner. “One, an officer, whose mission was to help keep this facility safe in order for men here to have a safe and rehabilitative environment. To have these two people taken form us in an act of senseless violence is nothing short of tragic.”

     Skinner said the 3,416 employees within the Iowa prisons were all hurting after hearing news of the losses.

     “While we’re grieving the loss of our staff right now, our commitment to our mission has not waivered,” she said. “We are here to make Iowa a safer place; that has not changed.”

     Skinner also paid homage to those who work day in and day out serving inside the prisons.

     “Every day, the men and women of this department put on their uniforms and enter these facilities where, while not common, have acts of violence occur here where they work,” she said. “Our brothers and sisters in law enforcement know what I mean what I say we take inherent risk in our work so hopefully Iowans can feel safer in their communities.”

     Rahn said the investigation is ongoing and DCI and the Iowa Department of Public Safety continue to interview inmates and staff and collect evidence. But, he did outline the course of events on March 23…

     Dutcher and Woodard attempted to escape by shattering the glass of a window within the infirmary. This gave them access to the bars, for which they planned to use the grinder to saw through. He said they were far from successful in their attempts, and never posed a threat to the community.

     When interviewed, “Woodard made admissions that placed him in the room at the time of the killings and witnesses identified Woodward as the person who attacked and killed Schulte, shared Rahn. “Dutcher also made admissions that also placed him in the room, concerning his involvement in the death of both victims, including admitting responsibility in causing the deaths.”

     Due to the extreme nature of the incident, the ASP was placed on lockdown and restricted movement.

     Both Dutcher and Woodard were charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder (related to the injuries Roby sustained), and one count of 2nd degree kidnapping (related to ASP staff member Lori Matthes). First degree murder charges carry a mandatory life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.

     Dutcher has been in prison since 2015, serving a 50-year sentence for first degree robbery and ongoing criminal conduct. His release date was 2057.

     Woodward has been in prison since 2017, serving a 25-year sentence for first degree robbery and burglary. His release date was 2029.

     “The incidenthad been planned for some time,” noted Rahn.

     As to why these inmates had access to the tools that they did, both Rahn and ASP Warden Jeremy Larson said it was allowed as part of the work program within the prison, aside from IPI (Iowa Prison Industries).

     “We do have tool control policies and procedures in place,” Larson said. “All tools are obviously checked in and checked out. After an incident, we review how things happened, how the process worked, were policies and procedures followed or not.

     “Any time an incarcerated individual needs to check out a tool, a staff witnesses that and signs off on that,” continued Larson. “When they check it back in, they sign off on that as well.

     “There are different levels of tools, so our policies and procedures dictate that. If it’s a dangerous tool, it has to be witnessed by a staff at all times.”

     Skinner said much remains to be further reviewed and assessed.

     In her closing statement, Skinner praised the ASP staff for their cooperation under these extreme circumstances.

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

     “I’ve been here the last two days, and the Anamosa team has been nothing but extraordinary. They have been strong. They have come together as a team. Of course there is a lot of heartbreak, a lot of sadness. We will do everything we can at the Iowa Department of Corrections to look into this and fully investigate and research all of our practices around this incident.”

     Upon hearing news of the ASP incident, Gov. Kim Reynolds released the following statement: “Our state grieves the loss of two public servants who were attacked while on duty. My prayers and deepest condolences are with their families, friends, and colleagues as they begin to cope with the senseless tragedy. We will exhaust every available resource to deliver justice to those who commitment this act and bring a sense of closure and peace to the victims’ families.”

     Reynolds also ordered that all flags be flown at half-staff to honor and remember McFarland and Schulte.

     In a release from Jones County Attorney Kristofer Lyons, the case against Woodard and Dutcher will be prosecuted jointly by the Office of the Jones County Attorney and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.


Subscriber Login