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Inmate charged with killing Iowa CO, nurse will claim self-defense

Michael Dutcher’s bench trial for the March killings is set for August 3

Anamosa State Penitentiary memorial

A woman adjusts a sign next to memorials to the two Anamosa State Penitentiary staff who were killed in an escape attempt.

Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette via AP

By Trish Mehaffey
The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — An Anamosa inmate, charged with killing a prison officer and a registered nurse in March, will claim at trial the slayings were in self-defense or in defense of others.

Michael Dutcher, 28, who has pleaded not guilty, is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and attempted murder. He previously waived his right to a jury trial and will have a bench or non-jury trial on Aug. 3 in Jones County District Court. Sixth Judicial District Judge Fae Hoover will decide the verdict.

Dutcher filed his justification defense Wednesday.

Thomas Allen Woodard, 39, who has pleaded not guilty to the same charges, will stand trial Sept. 21 in Linn County or possibly another county if accepted.

Woodard asked for the trial to be moved out of Jones and it was moved to Linn, but his lawyers are concerned Woodard can’t receive a fair trial in Linn because of pretrial publicity and because the two people killed are from Linn County. At this time, no other counties have accepted the request from Linn, citing a backlog in cases due to the pandemic.

The two inmates are accused of killing correctional officer Robert McFarland, 46, of Ely, and registered nurse Lorena Schulte, 50, of Cedar Rapids, during what authorities said was a failed attempt to escape from the Anamosa State Penitentiary on March 23.

According to court documents, the inmates are accused of attacking the two prison workers with hammers. McFarland and Schulte suffered severe head injuries and were found lying on the breakroom floor.

An inmate, McKinley Roby, suffered blunt force injuries to his head while he attempted to help staff members.

The assault started about 10 a.m. when Woodard and Dutcher went to the infirmary under the pretense of fixing something, Rick Rahn, an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation special agent in charge, previously has said.

The men had access to hammers and a metal grinder because they had checked them out from the prison maintenance area. They were being supervised by McFarland.

At some point, they rushed into an employee breakroom off the infirmary and used the hammers to break the glass on a window, Rahn said. They also unsuccessfully attempted to use the grinder on the metal bars on the windows.

Another prison staff member, Lori Mathis, was located in an adjacent room in the unit. When she walked into the breakroom she was “grabbed by Dutcher with Woodard present,” according to the criminal complaints. Mathis was told “she would be next if she did not cooperate.”

Mathis was held against her will for a time before she was released and Dutcher ran out of the breakroom, according to the complaint.

The complaint stated multiple staff members saw Dutcher, who appeared to be covered in blood, running from the area of the breakroom before he was captured.

According to the complaint, Dutcher made admissions that placed him in the breakroom at the time of the attack and about his involvement in the attack on both staff members.

Woodard also made admissions that place him in the breakroom, and a witness identified him as the person who attacked Schulte, the complaint stated.

Dutcher has been incarcerated since 2015 and was serving 50 years for robbing a Holstein bank and two Sioux City motels, according to prison records.

(c)2021 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

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