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PICTURED: Two 'pure evil' inmates who 'stole hammers from Iowa prison workshop and bludgeoned a nurse and corrections officer to death in failed bid to escape infirmary'

 New details emerged on Wednesday about a savage attack on a nurse and a correctional officer at an Iowa state prison, where officials say two inmates armed with stolen hammers bludgeoned the two staffers to death in a botched escape attempt.  

Violence broke out at around 10.15am at the state penitentiary in the eastern Iowa city of Anamosa, which houses some of Iowa’s most dangerous criminals. 

During a press conference on Wednesday, Beth Skinner, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, identified the victims of the attack as registered nurse Lorena Schulte, 50, and corrections officer Robert McFarland, 46.  

Thomas Woodard, 38
Michael Dutcher, 28

Iowa prison inmates Thomas Woodard, 38 (left), and Michael Dutcher, 28 (right), have been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly bludgeoning to death a nurse and a guard

A woman adjusts a sign next to the memorials for the two slain prison staff

A woman adjusts a sign next to the memorials for the two slain prison staff 

'Two wonderful people had their lives taken for simply trying to do their jobs here at Anamosa,' said Skinner, who called the attack on the two public servants an act of 'pure evil.' 

Richard Rahn, a special agent with the Iowa Department of Public Safety's Division of Criminal Investigation, identified the suspects as Thomas Woodard, 39, and Michael Dutcher, 28.

According to Rahn, the two inmates had stolen two hammers and a mechanical grinder from the prison workshop and entered a break room in the Anamosa infirmary under the guise of repairing some equipment.

While they were inside, they allegedly broke a windowpane and tried to grind down metal bars on the window in a failed attempt to break out of the prison.

Rahn said that the inmates had been planning the escape for quite some time and it was not a spontaneous act.  

Schulte and McFarland tried to prevent the inmates from escaping and were killed with hammer blows to the back of the head.

When another inmate McKinley Roby, who was present in the infirmary, tried to help the victims, Woodard and Dutcher allegedly struck him on the head, leaving the man with injuries requiring hospitalization.

According to the DCI agent, the inmates then grabbed another nurse, Lori Mathis, and held her against her will, threatening her that 'she will be next' if she does not cooperate.

Dutcher was found covered in blood in the courtyard and taken into custody. His alleged accomplice was discovered in the break room.  

Both men were charged with two counts of first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder and second-degree kidnapping. 

Beth Skinner, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, identified the victims of the attack as registered nurse Lorena Schulte, 50, and corrections officer Robert McFarland, 46

Beth Skinner, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, identified the victims of the attack as registered nurse Lorena Schulte, 50, and corrections officer Robert McFarland, 46

The criminal count of first-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

Officials said both suspects made statements admitting to their involvement in Schulte and McFarland's killings.  

Woodard was convicted in 2017 of burglary and robbery charges, and was sentenced to 25 years. He was eight years from his projected release date.

Dutcher was sentenced in 2015 to 50 years in prison on a robbery conviction.

The head of the Iowa Department of Corrections said that nurse Schulte had been with the department since July 2007, while officer McFarland had worked at the prison since October 2008. He leaves behind a wife and children. 

'To have these two people taken in an act of senseless violence is nothing short of tragic,' Skinner told reporters.  

The attack took place on Tuesday in the infirmary at Anamosa State Penitentiary in Iowa during a botched prison break attempt

The attack took place on Tuesday in the infirmary at Anamosa State Penitentiary in Iowa during a botched prison break attempt

The deaths are believed to be the first time an Iowa prison staff member has been killed by an inmate since 1969, when Iowa State Penitentiary officer Sam Reed was assaulted and stabbed by inmate Edward N. Clark. Inmates took a dozen staff members hostage during a 1981 riot at that prison but none were killed.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said the state was grieving the deaths of 'two public servants who were attacked while on duty at the Anamosa State Penitentiary.'

'My prayers and deepest condolences are with their families, friends, and colleagues as they begin to cope with this senseless tragedy,' she said. 'We will exhaust every available resource to deliver justice to those who committed this act and bring a sense of closure and peace to the victims’ families.'

The prison houses about 945 inmates in both maximum- and medium-security wings and has around 320 staff members.

More than 1,000 inmates and staff at the prison have tested positive for coronavirus in the last year, including during a major outbreak that briefly made Jones County one of the nation’s worst hot spots.

Six have died of complications from the virus, the most at any prison in Iowa, according to department data. But as of Tuesday, no inmates or staff at the prison were known to be positive.

AFSCME Council 61 President Danny Homan, whose union represents Iowa correctional employees, said the workers were the first killed by an inmate since he started at the union in 1988. He said he was still gathering information about what happened.

'No one should ever have to go to work and worry about whether they will come home or not,' Homan said in a statement. 'Unfortunately for two Iowans who had committed their lives to keeping our communities safe, they won’t be going home tonight.' 

The union president told the Associated Press the infirmary attack was a failure of the system. 

'I don’t know how or why or any particulars,' Homan said. 'But somebody failed because those two employees are not getting to go home this evening.'

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