Corrections officer Jayme Biendl had repeatedly complained to her supervisors about working alone in the chapel at the Monroe prison. The 5-foot-3, 130-pound officer also complained that security cameras in the area didn’t work.
Late Saturday, her worst fears were realized when she was strangled in the chapel.
“She was feeling unsafe about this because she’s off in the chapel and often times supervising lots of inmates, and she had let her supervisors know that she was not feeling safe,” said Tracey Thompson, secretary-treasurer for the state corrections officers union Teamsters Local 117. “My understanding is there were repeated complaints.”
Biendl, 34, was pronounced dead at the Washington State Reformatory Unit in the prison complex at 10:49 p.m. It is the first slaying of a corrections staff member at Monroe and the first killing of an officer in a state prison since 1979. Officials from the Department of Corrections (DOC) and Monroe police identified the suspect as Byron Scherf, 52, a “three-strikes,” 200-pound repeat rapist serving life without the possibility of parole.
Scherf entered the state prison system in 1997 as a high-security prisoner, but he qualified for medium-security in 2009 because of good behavior , said Scott Frakes, Monroe prison superintendent.
Frakes said Monroe police say Biendl showed no visible signs of sexual assault. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner will make the final determination. On Sunday, Monroe police obtained two search warrants related to their investigation, including one to search Scherf for physical evidence.