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Second Inmate Sentenced To Two Life Terms For Anamosa Prison Killings

Michael Aaron Dutcher is lead from the courtroom after his plea and sentence hearing in Jones County District Court at the Jones County Courthouse in Anamosa on Wednesday.

A second inmate has pleaded guilty to the killings of two staff members at the Anamosa State Penitentiary in March and will spend the rest of his life in prison. At a hearing at the Jones County Courthouse in Anamosa Wednesday, Michael Dutcher was sentenced to two life terms, to be served consecutively.

Handcuffed and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and a bulletproof vest, 28-year-old Dutcher pleaded guilty to four counts, sitting in the courtroom that looked out onto the prison where the gruesome crimes were carried out.

As was the case for the sentencing hearing of Dutcher’s co-defendant Thomas Woodard last month, the courtroom was packed with the victims’ family members, friends and colleagues, many of them wearing Iowa Department of Corrections credentials and t-shirts emblazoned with the words “ASP Strong” and “Stronger Together."

Eleven of the victims’ loved ones gave heart-wrenching statements about their lost family members, at times choking back tears as they relayed the life-altering loss they have suffered. McFarland and Schulte were so much more than DOC employees, their loved ones explained.

McFarland, known affectionately to many as Bobby Mac, was a loving father, ready to offer a steady hand and a listening ear, as well as a longtime volunteer with the Ely Fire Station.

His widow, Sara McFarland, told Dutcher that while he has taken so much away from her and her family, he can’t take away the memories of “our hero."

“I greatly miss him holding my hand. I miss him laying next to me at night, talking about how our days went. And you took that from me,” McFarland said. “There is a lot about Robert you couldn’t take from us. Our love from him. The fact that he was always our hero. He was a hero in life and he died a hero.”

Schulte, who was adopted from El Salvador, had a “determined spirit” and a caregiver’s heart, putting herself through night school while working fulltime in order to become a nurse. Holidays and family celebrations often included Schulte’s friends and acquaintances who might otherwise be alone if not for her friendship.

“Anything we do as a family from this point forward will now have to be experienced without Lorena,” said her mother, Stephanie Schulte. “This is the loss from which we will never recover. We will always have an emptiness in our hearts and an eternal void in our lives.”

Isabell Schulte, the older sister of Lorena Schulte, gives her victim impact statement during the plea and sentence hearing of Michael Aaron Dutcher in court Wednesday.

In pleading guilty Wednesday, Dutcher admitted that he and Woodard had conspired to escape the sprawling stone fortress. Armed with prison-issued hammers, the men beat Schulte and Correctional McFarland to death in the breakroom of the infirmary.

In their desperate attempt to escape, the men also attacked and kidnapped longtime DOC employee Lorie Matthes, who suffered broken ribs and developed pneumonia in both lungs as a result of her injuries. The men also bludgeoned inmate McKinley Roby, who investigators say attempted to render aid to the victims.

In a victim statement read on her behalf by another DOC employee, Matthes said that while her body may have healed, she struggles on a daily basis with “mental wounds that are still open and fresh."

“Never have I ever had to witness or go through such a horrific tragedy as I was put through on that day. It is forever embedded in my head. And the evilness that took place on that dreadful day will not be forgotten,” her statement reads.

“When you grabbed me out of that hallway and forced me into the breakroom, you stole from me a part of my life that is now forever changed,” Matthes’ statement continued.

McKinley Roby, the inmate who survived the attack, also penned a victim impact statement which was read on his behalf.

“The tragic and senseless demonstration which took place March 23, 2021 will never be erased from my mind,” Roby’s statement reads. “I pray you realize the tremendous amount of hurt that you placed upon my family and loved ones, as well as the McFarlands and Schultes, along with the Matthes family.”

Sara McFarland (center), wife of corrections officer Robert McFarland, is comforted as she listens to victim impact statements.

The impassioned testimony from loved ones makes clear that the brutal attacks have sent ripples of trauma through generations of family members, who say they will live out their lives with an “eternal void."

Schulte’s sister Gretchen Dixon says her killing has been especially hard on Dixon’s young children. While Schulte was a devoted nurse, a loving sister, daughter and friend, Dixon said that perhaps her favorite role was being an aunt to Dixon’s three daughters.

“No words will fully be able to express who she was and how her murder has impacted our lives and our children,” Dixon said. “Weeks of crying on and off all day. Nightmares. Screaming in the night while they grieve for her loss. This is our current reality.”

McFarland’s sister Kayleen LaPointe told the court that the loss of her beloved brother has uprooted her life. Dutcher’s life sentence won’t erase her suffering, she said.

“It does not take away my pain, my anger or my depression. It does not make going to work any easier. It does not get back the job that I left. It does not repair the relationship with family members because of fights…caused due to what you did,” LaPointe said.

With Dutcher's hearing Wednesday, both men have now pleaded guilty to two counts each of first degree murder, one count each of second degree kidnapping and one count each of attempted murder. In addition to the two life terms, the men were also sentenced to two terms each of 25 years and ordered to pay restitution to the victims and their families.

Dutcher is slated to serve his time in Missouri. Woodard will serve his in Nebraska.

Asked during the sentencing hearing whether he had anything to say to the victims and their families, Dutcher declined.

“No. I got nothing,” Dutcher said.

As he was leaving the courtroom Wednesday, Dutcher appeared to wink and flash some sort of hand signal toward a television cameraman and a photojournalist covering the hearing.

Then he was led away, to spend the rest of his life in prison.