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‘An act of pure evil’: Inmate accused in Anamosa penitentiary deaths from Omaha-metro

Thomas Woodard was sentenced for robberies in Bellevue, Plattsmouth
Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 2:55 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2021 at 4:59 PM CDT
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ANAMOSA, Iowa (WOWT) - One of two inmates allegedly involved in the attempted escape at an Iowa state penitentiary on Tuesday had ties to the Omaha-metro.

Iowa officials on Wednesday shared details of Tuesday’s attack at the Anamosa State Penitentiary, about 25 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids, left nurse Lorena Schulte and corrections officer Robert McFarland dead after blunt force trauma to the back of the head.

Schulte, 50, died at the prison, officials said, and McFarland, 46, died en route to the hospital.

The incident turned out to be a failed attempted escape the inmates had been planning for some time, said special agent Richard Rahn, head of the investigation into the incident now underway by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

Inmates Thomas Woodard and Michael Dutcher shattered glass in the infirmary breakroom to access bars and use a grinder — but they didn’t get far.

“There were no concerns about escape,” Rahn said. “They were completely unsuccessful in their attempts.”

He said the inmates used hammers to kill the staffers who were trying to stop the escape. He said the hammers and grinder were obtained after the inmates gained entry to the breakroom “under a ruse of repairing equipment.” Generally locked up, the tools were available to inmates participating in work programs at the facility, officials said.

Schulte had been a nurse at the prison since 2007, keeping the inmates healthy, said Beth Skinner, head of Iowa Department of Corrections. McFarland had worked there since 2008, keeping everyone safe, she said.

“Two wonderful people had their lives taken while they were simply trying to do their jobs here in Anamosa... by an act that can only be described as pure evil,” Skinner said.

Prison staffer Lori Mathias tried to help Schulte and McFarland and was grabbed by Dutcher, and was told “she would be next if she didn’t cooperate, and she was held against her will,” Rahn said. She was later released, he said, when Dutcher ran out of the breakout “covered in blood.”

Inmate McKinley Roby also suffered blunt force trauma to the back of the head while attempting to render aid to the other victims. He was being treated at the University of Iowa hospital and was in stable condition, Rahn said.

Schulte and McFarland died trying to help each other and the other two victims, he said.

“They’re heroes. They did everything they could to help each other, but by their actions, they were able to save Mathias’ life,” he said.

Dutcher, 28, was serving a 50-year sentence that began in 2015. Woodward, 39, was serving a 25-year sentence for robbery and burglary. Each now face multiple charges, including two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder relating to inmate Roby, and one count of second-degree kidnapping relating to staffer Mathias.

Rahn said Woodard admitted being in the room, and that witnesses said he attacked and killed Schulte. He said Dutcher admitted being in the room and causing the deaths.

“If convicted, first-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole,” Rahn said.

The investigation is ongoing, Rahn said.

The last known incident of a death of a prison staffer was 1975, when a staff member was murdered at her home, Skinner said. The incident remains under investigation.

Omaha area connection

6 News discovered that Woodard is formerly from the Omaha-metro area. The 25-year sentence he was serving was for a home invasion and robbery in Sioux City in 2014 — but it doesn’t end there.

In December 2012, Woodard and Joseph Lackriet robbed a credit union in Plattsmouth, assaulting a bank employee — and they did it again in Bellevue in 2013. Lackriet is also in prison serving time for crimes in Iowa.

Watch Wednesday’s news conference

Managing Editor Kevin Westhues and Investigative Reporter Brian Mastre contributed to this report.

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