He killed two prison employees during a failed prison escape. He will now spend life behind bars.

Source: Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations; MEGA

Sep. 7 2021, Published 2:36 p.m. ET

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An inmate retrieved a hammer and metal grinder to escape from an Iowa prison, instead he used it to murder two employees.

The inmate will now spend the rest of his life behind bars.

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In Iowa, 6th District Judge Fae Hoover-Grinde sentenced Thomas Woodard last month to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the brutal murder of correctional officer Robert McFarland and nurse Lorena Schulte. Woodard pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and second-degree kidnapping.

The condition of the plea allows the defendant to be transferred to his home state of Nebraska to serve his sentence.

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Before the 38-year-old Woodard was sentenced, he admitted his intent to kill McFarland. Still, he described the killing of Schulte as collateral damage while trying to control the situation during the botched escape attempt.

Woodard also pleaded guilty to the attempt to commit murder of McKinley Roby, an inmate working at the prison infirmary who had tried to help the officers during the assault. Woodard believed Roby was a snitch and a pedophile, hence why he told the court he had every intention to kill Roby and wished he had the chance. Roby was serving a 25-year sentence for a third-degree sexual assault as a classified habitual sexual offender.

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According to prosecutors, on March 23, Woodard and another inmate Michael Dutcher, 29, planned to escape from the penitentiary, disguised as part of the maintenance crew designated to work at the infirmary. Woodard worked with the prison maintenance crew, while Dutcher worked at the woodyard of the Iowa Prison Industries. Both men had been serving long-term sentences for robbery.


Armed with a hammer and a metal grinder, both defendants charmed their way into the infirmary breakroom. Upon entry, they accosted McFarland and Schulte and bludgeoned both employees to death with a hammer. Dental Assistant Lori Mathis walked upon the men while investigating the commotion, then she was taken hostage and threatened to meet the same fate as her fallen counterparts. Later, prison authorities arrested the defendants as they tried cutting the infirmary window bars.

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"They were not successful whatsoever in making any success when grinding the bars down, and there are no concerns about escape, in terms of them being able to climb out the window. Mr. Roby certainly did everything he could to save those two," said Richard Rahn, an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations special agent in charge during a conference, according to Des Moines Register.

McFarland’s family described the officer as a devoted family man who believed in second chances and loved helping inmates.

"You didn't murder an officer who didn't care. Robert wanted to be a correctional officer to help the inmates. He wanted to help you guys make good decisions so you don't go back to prison. He treated you guys with respect. The fact that you hit him with a hammer like you could've cared less about him, makes me more angry than I've ever been in my life," said the victim’s wife Sara McFarland, according to KWWL News.

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Dutcher claimed the victims’ death was a result of self-defense. Hence, he pleaded not guilty. His trial was scheduled to begin on Aug. 3. However, his lawyers requested a postponement from the court for ample time to prepare their defense. So now, his trial is set for Sep. 21.

In addition, Hoover-Grinde ordered Woodard to pay McFarland and Schulte’s estates $150,000 each and $300 to Mathis.


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