On March 23, 2021, Iowa Department of Corrections Officer Robert McFarland and prison nurse Lorena Schulte were murdered by two inmates attempting to escape the Anamosa State Penitentiary.
One inmate, identified as McKinley Roby, attempted to help Officer McFarland and Ms. Schulte and was beaten for his troubles. He survived the attack.
The two inmates smashed the infirmary window and used a grinder to remove the bars so they could escape. They used hammers taken from a prison work program as well, and used them to murder Robert McFarland and Lorena Schulte.
“They were not successful whatsoever in making any success with grinding the bars down,” said Richard Rahn, a Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent.
Inmates Michael Dutcher and Thomas Woodard face two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and second-degree kidnapping while attempting to escape the prison.
Dutcher was originally sentenced for two counts of robbery among other charges and was sentenced to 50 years.
Woodard was serving on robbery and burglary charges for 25 years.
Clearly they thought they had nothing to lose. Now they will never breathe free air again.
At a press conference the day after the murders, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said,
Yesterday at the Anamosa State Penitentiary, two correctional facility employees tragically lost their lives with attacks. I’m going to ask all Iowans to join me in lifting up their grieving families, friends and colleagues in prayer.
It’s hard to understand, such a senseless loss, but it’s my hope that the prayers of our state may offer some sense of peace and comfort during this difficult time. I also want to recognize the leadership and the staff at the Anamosa facility, and the Department of Corrections.
This is an extremely difficult situation. You’ve lost two of your own. And I want you to know that all of us stand united and ready to support you. I also want to acknowledge and thank the Department of Public Safety’s Division of Criminal Investigation, whose team is on the ground, and working hard to ensure that justice is realized.
We will have more details about the situation and the progress of the investigation later. This will be shared at a press conference in Anamosa, and until then, we ask for your patience and respect for the families.
On March 27th, hundreds of representatives from law enforcement agencies and fire departments joined Saturday’s procession that began in Des Moines. Tributes to McFarland appeared along the route heading to Cedar Rapids with firefighters, law enforcement, and corrections officials gathering at several overpasses to pay their respects as the procession passed.
“The procession honoring Lt. Robert McFarland, who lost his life in the Anamosa State Penitentiary attack, was held today and traveled past the Ely Fire Department where he volunteered for years. Firefighters, law enforcement, and members of the community gathered to pay respects,” wrote reporter Becky Phelps.
The procession for Lorena Schulte took place on Friday, March 26th, with tributes along the route from Des Moines to Cedar Rapids.
Lorena was born on September 20, 1970, in San Salvador, El Salvador. She was adopted and brought to the United States in 1982. Lorena graduated from Regis High School. She obtained a degree in criminal justice and earned her RN from Kirkwood Community College. Lorena worked at Anamosa State Penitentiary.
She had a green thumb, was a lifelong learner, and enjoyed cooking. Lorena had fun trying out new recipes on her family. She loved being an aunt and was beloved in return. Lorena will be deeply missed.
She is survived by her parents, Stephanie and George Schulte; and siblings, Isabel, Gretchen (Nick) Dixon, and Milton (Lisa) Schulte.
McFarland, of Ely, was born in Vinton and graduated from Independence High School in 1993. He met his wife while working at US Cellular in Marion, and the couple had three sons together.
He began working as a correctional officer at Anamosa in 2008 and was a lieutenant with the Ely Volunteer Fire Department. He previously worked with Oelwein and Brandon fire departments.
“Bob enjoyed spending time at his second home, the Ely Fire Station, as well as tinkering with many different forms of technology. Family time was very important, and he looked forward to having his nieces and nephews visit,” his obituary said.
McVey, the former correctional officer at Anamosa, said McFarland was a level-headed and helpful guy.
“He would do anything for anybody, which isn’t always easy to do in that line of work,” she said.
Ely Fire Chief Aaron Cooper called McFarland a hero — “We can’t say enough good things about him.”
“He was the type of guy who was here as much as he could be,” he said. “He loved the fire service since he was a kid and spent pretty much all his time that he could down here working on equipment, doing paperwork, doing whatever was needed to help our department, help our community.”
Officer Robert McFarland is survived by his wife and three children.