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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ANAMOSA — A grieving wife told the Anamosa inmate who killed her husband during a failed prison escape that she hoped he would “rot in hell” for taking away “their hero.”
“We will love him forever,” Sara McFarland of her husband, correctional officer Robert McFarland, 46, of Ely, during the Wednesday sentencing of Michael Dutcher in Jones County District Court. He was an “amazing, loving and caring” husband and father, who she misses lying next to each night.
Dutcher, 28, was scheduled to go on trial next week in the slayings of McFarland and registered nurse Lorena Schulte, but pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of first-degree murder and to one count each of attempted murder and second-degree kidnapping.
His plea followed the guilty plea last month of inmate Thomas Woodard, 34, to the same charges.
Schulte, 50, of Cedar Rapids, and McFarland, 46, of Ely, were bludgeoned to death March 23 with hammers. The two inmates, being supervised by McFarland, had checked out the hammers and a metal grinder from the prison maintenance area. They were planning to cut through bars with the metal grinder, but the bars held.
Schulte’s mother, Stephanie Schulte, read a statement Wednesday from her and her husband, George, saying their adopted daughter had a determined spirit after coming to this country from El Salvador, sent by her biological father who was worried about her safety.
Their daughter, Schulte said, always tried to help everyone, which led her to pursue criminal justice and then nursing in college.
She said the family misses Lorena’s “corny jokes and laughter” and won’t be able to take trips with her they had planned. “We will have to experience this without her.”
In the plea, Dutcher admitted that he and Woodard attempted to escape from prison and that he had planned the escape with Woodard. He also admitted to McFarland and Schulte being bludgeoned by hammers.
Dutcher confirmed he moved Lori Mathes, a prison dental assistant, from a hallway into the break room without her consent. He did this to confine her and prevent her from notifying other prison staff of the escape attempt.
Dutcher said he was armed with a hammer at the time and held it over Mathes’ head, threatening to injure her.
He also admitted to grabbing McKinley Roby, another inmate, and “definitely” admitted to assaulting him with a hammer. Dutcher also said Woodard told him he planned to take someone hostage or kill someone if needed during their escape attempt.
During the plea, when Dutcher was asked if he wanted to say anything, he said, “No. I got nothing.”
Sixth Judicial District Judge Hoover sentenced Dutcher immediately, as part of the plea agreement, to two life sentences without parole and 25 years each for attempted murder and second-degree kidnapping.
Hoover noted she had no discretion on the prison terms but she could run all the sentences consecutively, just as she did last month for Woodard.
Dutcher, as part of the plea agreement, asked to serve his sentences in Missouri. Woodard asked to serve his time in Nebraska. The prosecution previously said the two would have been sent out of state regardless of their requests because they had killed Iowa correctional staff.
Dutcher, as he left the courtroom, winked and made a hand gesture toward the television camera and news photographer covering the hearing.
Family, friends and co-workers of McFarland, Schulte and Mathes, wearing their “Stronger Together” T-shirts, as they did last month during Woodard’s sentencing, again packed the courtroom, and lined up outside after the hearing to watch Dutcher being led by deputies back to prison.
More impact statements
Colton Apfelback, McFarland’s stepson, told Dutcher March 23 was the worst day of his life. McFarland was not only took a “great father” but a “great man from the community.” His father worked as a correctional officer to help “you guys, and you don’t even care. I hope you have fun living behind the walls.”
McFarland’s son, Casen McFarland, said in a statement read by another person that he was “mad someone had done this to my dad. I hope you are shamed by it.”
McFarland, an Ely volunteer firefighter, “made a positive impact for those around him,” his mother, Cathie McFarland, said. “You may have taken his life but (you) won’t take away the good he did.”
Kayleen LaPointe, McFarland’s sister, said her brother was and always will be a hero. He stayed alive long enough to stop Dutcher and Woodard from escaping by notifying others. Her prayer is that Dutcher remembers her brother when he encounters other correctional officers.
“I hope this haunts you for the rest of your life,” she said.
David McFarland, Robert’s brother, said his little brother wouldn’t say he was a hero because he was just doing his job, but he “will always be my hero.”
He told Dutcher “today is judgment day,” but he should be more worried about his “final judgment with God.”
Gretchen Dixon, Schulte’s sister, said receiving that phone call of her sister’s death changed her life forever. It was difficult to tell their parents what had happened.
She also had to tell her four children, who were close to their aunt, their “favorite person.” She was supposed to be there for them when they became teenagers. Now, all the things they used to do together, which brought so much joy, becomes painful memories.
Mathes, the dental assistant who was held hostage, told Dutcher that when he grabbed her in a hallway and pulled her into the breakroom, it “changed me forever.” She added that she didn’t believe he had “an ounce of remorse” for his role in the “horrific tragedy” of March 23.
Mathes, a 29-year correctional employee, said her physical wounds from the assault — including broken ribs, torn meniscus and leg bruises — will heal but her mental wounds are still “open and fresh.”
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