Everett, WA – A convicted rapist and kidnapper who murdered a Monroe Prison correctional officer as an inmate will no longer face execution for his brutal crime.
Monroe State Prison Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl, 34, was strangled to death by inmate Byron Scherf on Jan. 29, 2011, The Herald reported.
Scherf, who was serving a life sentence for kidnapping and raping a real estate agent outside Spokane, confessed to the murder, and said that he deserved to be executed for killing Corrections Officer Biendl.
His criminal history stretched back to 1973, when he broke into a residence as a minor, The Herald reported.
Five years later, he picked up a hitchhiker and took her into the woods, where he held her down at knife point.
He kidnapped another woman in Tacoma in 1981, raped her, and doused her blanket-wrapped body in gasoline.
Although he set her on fire, the woman managed to escape.
Scherf was ultimately paroled, but struck again in October of 1995, when he kidnapped and raped a real estate agent in Spokane.
He told his victim that he planned to bury her in the woods, but she also managed to survive.
Scherf was sentenced to life in prison in that case.
The convicted rapist told detectives that he became upset with Corrections Officer Biendl after she allegedly made a comment about his wife that he considered to be disrespectful, according to the Associated Press.
He said he initially planned to hurt her, but that he decided to kill her inside the prison chapel as the day went on.
Correctional Officer Biendl tried to reason with him, and told him to remember that he has a wife to think about, Scherf said.
“[Her eyes] just got as big as silver dollars” when he attacked her, he added.
According to Scherf, Correctional Officer Biendl fought for her life – kicking, biting, and fighting with him for several minutes.
Ultimately, he grabbed the cord to an amplifier and wrapped it around her neck, then used about “75 percent” of his strength to pull the cord tight, he explained.
As they continued to fight, Scherf tore Correctional Officer Biendl’s radio microphone from her shoulder.
She tried to use the radio on her hip to call for help, but Scherf said he wasn’t sure the device was even working.
“Help, help, please help,” she said, according to Scherf.
In 2013, a jury convicted him of first-degree aggravated murder in less than a half hour, KIRO reported.
Within three hours, they recommended that he be sentenced to death.
“I’ve been waiting 837 days exactly to hear those words that he’s got the death penalty,” Correctional Officer Biendl’s sister, Lisa Hamm, told KIRO at the time. “And I’m going to continue to count, until he’s finally dead.”
But the Washington Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in October of 2018, ruling it unconstitutional, KING reported.
As a result, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel had no choice but to sentence Scherf to life in prison for Correctional Officer Biendl’s murder.
“The Supreme Court has spoken,” Appel said in court. “You will not be punished for the killing of Jayme Biendl.”
The slain correctional officer’s family denounced the Supreme Court’s ruling, and said that justice was not served.
“We are angry about the Supreme Court ruling,” the family said in a statement to The Herald. “Jayme’s murderer was serving life without parole when he strangled her. This literally means that he got away with murder of an innocent person and that action has no consequence for him.”
Even Scherf seemed to recognize that a life sentence was not a punishment – he specifically addressed the issue with police during his confession in February of 2011.
“If I get a life sentence and she’s [dead] then there’s no punishment attached to it because I already have a life sentence,” he told them, according to The Herald.
“I ask you to charge Aggravated 1st Degree Murder [w/the death penalty] at my arraignment I WILL plead guilty!” he wrote to prosecutors days later.
That didn’t stop Scherf from appealing his conviction later, however.
Washington State Senator Keith Wagoner has introduced a new bill in an attempt to put capital punishment back on the table for convicted murderers who kill someone while serving time, but Senate Law and Justice Committee Democratic chairman Jamie Pederson has already struck it down.
“I don’t have any interest in trying to re-institute the death penalty for a fourth time,” Pederson told The Herald, adding that the bill won’t even get a hearing. “We are going to hear a bill to abolish the death penalty.”
Wagoner said that he is disappointed – but not surprised – by Pederson’s reaction.
“I know that this is a very divisive issue that many people feel very strongly about, but I believe there must be consequences for incarcerated individuals who commit murder,” he said. “I believe justice wasn’t served in this case.”
“There are no consequences for continuing to hurt people. There [are] supposed to be consequences for heinous behavior,” Wagoner continued. “Our corrections officers are no longer protected and neither are the other offenders.”