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Guard murdered at Monroe prison

In January 2011, Monroe correctional officer Jayme Biendl was killed in the prison’s chapel. Inmate Byron Scherf later confessed to the crime, but then recanted. A trial was held in May 2013.

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EVERETT — The state has settled a lawsuit with the family of slain Monroe corrections officer Jayme Biendl for $900,000, documents by the state Attorney General’s Office showed Friday.

Biendl’s family had filed suit in Snohomish County Superior Court against the state Department of Corrections and the Monroe prison’s former superintendent over her murder at the prison.

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Corrections officer Jayme Biendl was strangled Jan. 29, 2011, by an inmate while at her post in the Monroe prison chapel.

The lawsuit alleged  numerous system failures enabled an inmate convicted of violent rape to work as a volunteer in the chapel and be in a position to kill Biendl on Jan. 29, 2011.

Biendl was strangled while at her post in the prison chapel in Monroe. Byron Scherf was sentenced to die for the murder. He is appealing his conviction.

The lawsuit blamed the state and former Monroe prison Superintendent Scott Frakes for not doing enough to protect Biendl.  The suit stated it was “highly predictable” that lapses in safety at the prison and with Scherf would “cause harm to employees.”

Records provided Friday by the state Attorney General’s Office show the agreement to dismiss the lawsuit was filed Tuesday, March 4, and that he state agreed to pay Biendl’s family $900,000.

The Everett Herald said that in a statement released to the newspaper, Biendl’s siblings said: “This settlement may bring closure, but it won’t bring Jayme back. There is no amount of money that can replace the loss our family has endured. We have been on an emotional roller coaster these past three years and worry that our mom and dad cannot take the emotions of fighting the state for another two to five years.”

The Herald noted that the family had filed a claim with the state in July in which they said it was too early to quantify damages but they were expected to exceed $5 million.

EVERETT — Overcome with emotion, family and friends of Monroe Corrections Officer Jaime Biendl were elated with the guilty verdict of Byron Scherf.  After six days in the courtroom, jurors took less than an hour to make their decision that Biendl’s murder was premeditated.

scherf“This was a day like any other for her,” said Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Ed Stemler.  “She was planning to go home and he was planning to kill her.  He knew already before the inmates were gone from the chapel, that this was not going to be like any other day for Jaime Biendl.  He knew he was going to take her life that night.”

On Wednesday, jurors heard Scherf’s video confession recorded just days after the murder.

“She stomped on my foot and that’s how my foot got messed up.  At some point she bit my finger pretty good.  I tried to take her out a couple times with my arm around her neck like that and it wasn’t working.  Somehow she got her hands on her radio then she tried to key her radio for help but I don’t think she keyed it, but I got a hold of it swung it over my shoulder like that,” said Scherf.

Scherf said he then took a microphone cable and wrapped it around Biendl’s neck until she stopped breathing.  His attorney said it was an act of rage, after Biendl made a rude comment about his wife but that the murder was not pre-planned.

“If a husband gets an insurance policy for $5 million out on his wife and then kills her a week later, that is evidence of premeditation. What is the evidence of premeditation here?” asked defense attorney Jon Scott.

The jury took less than an hour to make its decision.  They will be back in court on Monday to deliberate whether Scherf will receive the death penalty or life in prison without parole.  Before the Jan. 29, 2011,  murder, he was already serving a life sentence for raping two women and setting one of them on fire.

scherfEVERETT, Wash. – Byron Scherf was found guilty in the murder of prison guard Jayme Biendl.

Scherf was accused of attacking and killing Biendl in the Monroe prison chapel in January 2011. In court on Wednesday, jurors were shown video interviews of Scherf confessing to the crime. His legal team fought to keep the video out of court, hoping to disprove that the crime was premeditated.

The convicted rapist was serving a life sentence at the time Biendl was killed.

scherfEVERETT, Wash– Defense attorneys for Byron Scherf are expected to wrap up their case Thursday, with closing arguments to begin shortly afterword.

Scherf is accused of attacking and killing Monroe correctional officer Jayme Biendl in a prison chapel in January 2011. In court on Wednesday, jurors were shown video interviews of Scherf confessing to the crime. His legal team fought to keep the video out of court, hoping to disprove that the crime was premeditated.

The convicted rapist was serving a life sentence at the time Biendl was killed.

Prosecutors are now seeking the death penalty.

 

scherfEVERETT, Wash– A trial for the inmate accused of killing a Monroe correctional officer is underway.

Byron Scherf, a convicted rapist, is accused of strangling Jayme Biendl in a prison sanctuary in January 2011. He was serving a life sentence at the time of the crime.

Scherf has already admitted to killing Biendl, claiming she made an inappropriate comment about his wife. D

uring opening arguments Wednesday, prosecutors claim Scherf planned to kill Biendl by taking steps to guarantee he would be alone with her in one of the few places without surveillance cameras.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. The trial is expected to last three weeks.

The Washington State Reformatory at the prison in Monroe is home to some of the state’s most dangerous criminals.

Inmates like Kwan Mak, Brian Bassett and Kenneth Hovland are housed there. Mak gunned down 13 people in Seattle’s 1983 Wah-Mee massacre. Bassett slaughtered his entire family in McCleary in 1995. Hovland kidnapped and murdered 16-year-old Brenda Jones in 1981.

Jones was walking to Lynnwood High School for a field trip when Hovland grabbed her, drove her to a swampy area, then raped, strangled and stabbed her.

“It needs to be taken very seriously that they are very dangerous people, and somewhere along the line the people making decisions have forgotten,” said Terry Hutchins, a nurse at the Monroe Correctional Complex.

Hutchins lost one of her good friends 18 months ago when Monroe inmate Byron Scherf strangled guard Jayme Biendl to death in the prison chapel. Scherf was serving a life sentence for raping two women and setting one of them on fire. Despite that violent history, he was allowed to volunteer in the chapel where Jayme worked alone, because he had been a “model prisoner” for 10 years.

That kind of thinking may have cost Biendl her life, so the state Department of Corrections said it was time for a change.

“Just because you can maintain appropriate behavior for the last 10years doesn’t mean you’re safe to be put in a situation where you might capitalize on the opportunity to harm staff,” said Monroe Associate Superintendent David Bustonaby during a tour of the prison last November.

Bustonaby committed to reviewing the files of all life-without-parole inmates working in areas under limited surveillance and promised that offenders who had committed violent predatory crimes against strangers would no longer be assigned to those jobs.

The same day, Corrections Program Manager Michele Wood told Q13 Fox News they would take it a step further.

“We’re moving to a minimum, medium custody (of) offenders who are within five years of being released,” said Wood. “A lot of our life-without-parole offenders have been removed from the Reformatory. We still have a few of them.”

Last month, Bustonaby was asked again if those inmates had been transferred.

“Yes. We determined we needed to look at a shorter-term offender who is more transitional and reduce our number of life-without-parole offenders here,” said Bustonaby.

Q13 FOX News requested a list of all the life-without-parole inmates still incarcerated at the Reformatory who work in jobs outside a security area known as Gate 7, and it was discovered that 75 men determined to be too dangerous to ever be let out of prison were still working as groundskeepers, plumbers, carpenters, etc.

Of those 75 offenders, nearly half are convicted killers and rapists. Most work in a building classified as LVLSP, which means low visibility, low staff presence.

Bustonaby was shown a copy of the list and asked why those inmates were still working there.

“When we reviewed it, I’m not sure exactly why these particular ones were left, but we do find that a population of offenders serving life have a stabilizing effect. This is their home. They’re able to encourage inmates to say, ‘We don’t want to go on lockdown. This is my life, don’t mess with it,’ ” said Bustonaby.

Teamsters Local 117 President Tracey Thompson says this is a huge risk for her corrections officers.

“Why the department is continuing to allow those inmates into those areas where there are tools and scissors and potential weapons that can be used against our staff is beyond me,” said Thompson.

Q13 FOX News found that on at least two occasions, even though counselors at the prison denied the job applications of lifers they felt they were too dangerous to work outside Gate 7, Bustonaby overruled them and approved the applications. Before Q13 received this paperwork he denied ever doing such a thing.

“We have to put our staff safety ahead, and at Monroe being the associate (superintendent) I could override something like that, but I really could not bring myself to do that,” said Bustonaby.

When he was asked this week to clarify, Bustonaby said he approved two inmates because they had completed anger-management classes.

Ultimately, Bustonaby said he feels it’s critical to keep inmates productively occupied. The union said those jobs should go to inmates who will eventually apply those skills in the outside world, not to lifers with nothing to lose.

Thompson, the union’s local president, was asked, “What message do you think this is sending to the offenders?”

“Oh, ‘Free pass for you,’ ” Thompson replied. “You can engage in horrid crimes out there and we`ll give you all sorts of privileges while you’re in here. It creates a huge moral issue for the staff inside the prison. They just see that it’s always about the offenders getting something at the expense of the staff.”

Bustonaby said he feels the prison is safer than it was when Biendl was killed.

“I do. I feel the culture here is that people are really on point, people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and they’re really striving to improve the processes and the work they do,” said Bustonaby.

Recently, the union sent a survey to its membership asking if they feel safer on the job now than they did 18 months ago; 70 percent of them reported they did not.

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