Inmate admits to killing officer, according to court papers
Byron Scherf said he strangled Jayme Biendl because he was angry at what she said to him.
Byron Scherf, 52, declined to speak with investigators on the night Biendl was found strangled inside the chapel of the Washington State Reformatory. He asked detectives on Wednesday for a chance to tell them what happened on Jan. 29.
After acknowledging and waiving his right to remain silent, Scherf admitted to the killing, according to a search warrant made public Friday morning.
“I’ll just get right to the point. I’m responsible for the death of the correctional officer at the Monroe, uh, correctional facility,” Scherf is quoted as saying during a videotaped interview. “I strangled her to death on Jan. 29 at approximately 8:40 p.m. in the chapel.”
Scherf reportedly told detectives he was angry at Biendl because of a conversation they had about 8:15 to 8:25 while he was working in the chapel that evening. The search warrant says nothing about the substance of the conversation.
Scherf said the more he thought about it, the more he resolved to hurt the officer. Initially he was going to wait around until everyone left the chapel and “just, you know, beat her up,” Scherf allegedly told detectives.
“I got to the point where I knew I was going to kill her,” he said.
Scherf said that he was in the inmate office at the chapel just off the foyer. He recalled Biendl telling him to leave about 8:30 p.m. He said he told her he was shutting things down for the night, but acknowledged to detectives that he was just stalling and waiting for her to clear everyone else out of the chapel, according to the search warrant.
He said he walked back into the sanctuary and came up behind Biendl as she moved toward the stage.
Scherf detailed a struggle that lasted about four minutes. Biendl tried, and apparently failed, to radio for help, in part because Scherf disabled her communications equipment, according to court papers. First, he said, he ripped off the microphone clipped to her shoulder.
Multiple corrections officers told investigators that about 8:35 p.m. some sort of noise came over the radio system used at the reformatory. The descriptions varied. Some said they heard a clicking sound; others dead air or something that sounded like a muffled scream.
Scherf told investigators Biendl stomped on his foot trying to get free. She also bit his finger. He said he tried to pick her up by the neck but she fought him off.
Biendl at one point reached for the radio still attached to her duty belt, and yelled “Help! Help! Help!” Scherf told detectives. He grabbed the radio and threw it over his shoulder, according to the search warrant.
Biendl continued to fight Scherf after he threw her on the ground. He said he tried to choke her but “it didn’t work.” He told detectives that’s when he grabbed an amplifier cable that was lying on the ground and fatally choked the officer.
Scherf claimed that the next thing he recalled was sitting in a chair outside the sanctuary.
He became emotional when detectives asked him if he had remorse.
“Yeah, I’m certainly sorry,” he said.
The search warrant was obtained to look for trace evidence that would be expected to have been left behind inside the chapel if the fight happened as Scherf described.
Several search warrants have been sought during the course of the investigation. Detectives have spent hours searching the prison chapel and Scherf’s cell as well as meticulously photographing Scherf’s body, documenting injuries they believe he received fighting Biendl.
In some of the warrants, detectives reported evidence that suggests Scherf planned the attack prior to Jan. 29. Among the items found hidden in the chapel were shoelaces and ointments they believe could have been intended for use as an attacker’s “rape kit.” They were found in an area where Scherf was described as sometimes sitting when he participated in chapel services.
Biendl spent the past five years working as the chapel’s lone corrections officer, although chaplains and volunteers often were there during her shifts. Scherf volunteered as a porter, working as both a janitor and clerk.
Two days before Biendl was killed Scherf submitted a prayer request, according to a search warrant. Scherf asked fellow inmates to pray for him as he was dealing with “very pressing temptations.”
The request made reference to a biblical passage and Scherf also wrote, “I pray the Holy Spirit will help me to see the way of escape.”
Corrections officers discovered that Scherf was missing from his cell during a head count. A few minutes later he was discovered sitting in a chair in the foyer of the chapel. He told officers that he’d planned to escape and had hidden in the chapel.
Biendl’s body was found about an hour later after her co-workers noticed that she hadn’t turned in her radio or keys at the end of her shift.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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