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Inmate accused in prison worker killings pleads not guilty

April 12, 2021 GMT

ANAMOSA, Iowa (AP) — One of two inmates accused of killing two prison workers at the Anamosa State Penitentiary last month has pleaded not guilty to charges in the case.

Michael Dutcher filed a written plead ahead of Monday’s scheduled court appearance, which has been postponed at the request of attorneys for the other inmate accused, Thomas Woodard Jr., television station WHO-TV reported.

Both men are charged with first-degree murder and other counts in the March 23 slayings of nurse Lorena Schulte and correctional officer Robert McFarland. Authorities have said the workers were killed during a failed escape attempt by Dutcher and Woodard. Both inmates were serving time for armed robbery convictions at the time of the killings.

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Authorities have said Dutcher had a long history of disruptive behavior and threats and violence toward prison staff that resulted in discipline, while Woodard had only one blemish on his record: a 2018 assault of another inmate.

Investigators say the pair used hammers to beat Schulte, 50, and McFarland, 46, to death and to seriously injure an inmate who tried to stop the attack. They also say the two briefly held another female employee as a hostage.