You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.

Michael Dutcher pleads guilty to Anamosa Penitentiary staff killings, sentenced to life in prison

  • Updated
  • 0
Michael Dutcher

JONES COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) -- The second of the two inmates charged with killing two Anamosa State Prison workers in March pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday.

The combined plea and sentencing hearing for Michael Dutcher was at 9 a.m. at the Jones County Courthouse. 

Dutcher's bench trial was previously set for September, 21, but he has now pleaded guilty similar to the other inmate charged with the killings, Thomas Woodard. Woodard was sentenced to life in prison in August for the killings of nurse Lorena Schulte and correctional officer Robert McFarland during an attempted escape with Dutcher.

Dutcher pleaded guilty to the same charges as Woodard: two counts of First Degree Murder, Second Degree Kidnapping, and Attempted Murder.

The two inmates killed Schulte and McFarland on March 23 and also injured another inmate, McKinley Roby, who tried to help Schulte and McFarland and holding another prison worker, Lori Mathis, hostage. Investigators say the two tried to escape with the help of tools they had acquired through their part in the prison's work program.

Dutcher admitted to acting with malice aforethought and said that McFarland and Schulte, who were hit in the back of the head with a hammer, died as a result of their attempted escape. He says he was an active participant in the plan and the attempt to escape as well as aiding and abetting Woodard.

Eleven victim impact statements were read during the hearing on Wednesday, including family members of both victims.

In a statement evoking similar emotions as her statement at Woodard's sentencing hearing, Robert McFarland's wife said that he worked to help inmates improve upon their lives. She expressed hatred towards Dutcher for his actions.

"You killed the best father," Sarah McFarland said to Dutcher during her statement. "You took our youngest son's dad from him one week before his birthday...I hate you more than anything for taking Robert from us. I hope you rot in hell."

Lorena Schulte's mother Stephanie read how she and her husband adopted Lorena at the age of 12 from El Salvador. She said that Lorena always looked to help the people around her, which was apparent in her work as a nurse.

"As Lorena's parents, we will not be able to listen to her corny jokes or hear her happy laughter...Anything we do as a family from this point forward will now have to be experienced without Lorena," Stephanie Schulte said. "This is a loss from which we will never recover."

Lorena's mother also said how with Dutcher's sentencing, her family can begin the process of life without her.

"You have heard this before at the sentencing on Mr. Woodard in August," she said. "The difference is that with this sentencing, our lives will finally be out of upheaval mode. For the past six months, we have been in turmoil."

Similar to Woodard, Dutcher had previously pleaded not guilty to the murders and also waived his right to a jury trialCourt documents showed Dutcher was going to claim during his bench trial that he killed Schulte and McFarland in self-defense, or in defense of others despite it being during an attempted escape.