Jayme Biendl, 34, a graduate of the 1995 class at Granite Falls High School, was found dead inside the chapel of the Monroe Correctional Facility where she has worked as a correctional officer since 2002.
Biendl was found unresponsive inside the chapel, which was her post, at around 10:20 p.m. on Saturday night. She received CPR but was pronounced dead at 10:49 p.m.
It was reported that Biendl had been strangled but there was no evidence of sexual assault.
Her body was discovered over an hour after a routine prison count was conducted and it was revealed that inmate Byron Scherf, 52, was missing. The count took place around 9:15 p.m. Scherf was found inside the lobby of the chapel before Biendl’s body was discovered.
An hour after finding Scherf, officers completed an equipment inventory and discovered that one of the officer’s keys and radio were missing. Staff members immediately went to Biendl’s post and found her.
Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon was in contact with the DOC.
“This tragedy is an offense to all who work to keep this community safe and to all who call Snohomish County home. Snohomish County Government stands ready to assist the State of Washington and the Monroe Police Department during this challenging period,” Reardon said. “Correctional officers play an invaluable role in maintaining public safety. Each and every minute of their work day puts them in harm’s way for the protection of our community. They are an integral piece of our law and justice system and their security must be a top priority.”
Biendl was well respected by her peers and was chosen as corrections officer of the year at Monroe in 2008. Scherf reportedly declined to speak to prison officials and asked for a lawyer. He was serving a life sentence under Washington state’s “three strikes” law.
Scherf was convicted of first-degree rape and kidnapping in 1997 after he attacked a real estate agent who was showing him a house she was selling in the Spokane area. He forced her into his trunk at knife-point and proceeded to take her to the woods where he then raped her.
He was already on parole for the 1981 kidnapping and rape of a waitress in Pierce County and a 1978 assault. During the 1981 kidnapping, Scherf also poured gasoline on the waitress and set her on fire. She escaped through a window on the second floor of the building she was in.
Mourners including friends and co-workers of Biendl gathered outside of the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe to honor her memory on Sunday night.
Scherf was being held in isolation inside the prison.
The Herald reported that this is the first on-duty death caused by an inmate in the 100-year history of the Monroe facility.