Scherf is accused of killing Monroe corrections officer Jayme Biendl last month at her post inside the chapel at the Washington State Reformatory. Scherf allegedly attacked Biendl after becoming angered by something she said earlier in the night. Biendl, 34, was found in the sanctuary with a amplifier cord wrapped around her neck several times.
Evidence indicates that Biendl fought Scherf, kicking, biting and scratching him until he overpowered her with the weapon.
I took her life and I think I should forfeit mine, Scherf is quoted as saying in a probable cause affidavit made public on Thursday.
Scherf allegedly went on to say: I think prosecutors should charge aggravated first-degree murder and go for the death penalty.
If I get a life sentence and shes (dead) then theres no punishment attached to it because I already have a life sentence, Scherf reportedly added.
Scherf was charged Thursday in Everett District Court with aggravated murder. Prosecutors have until March 11 to refile the felony charge in Snohomish County Superior Court. An aggravated murder conviction can lead to a death sentence.
Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe said on Thursday that he is giving Scherfs attorneys until March 7 to provide him with any information they want him to consider before he decides whether to seek death for Scherf.
Roe met with Biendls family last week. He said they are in favor of seeing Scherf die.
Their wishes are part of what I will consider in making that decision, Roe said.
Senior deputy prosecutors Ed Stemler and Paul Stern have been assigned to the case. Both men have handled high-profile cases.
Scherf is being represented by veteran defense attorneys Karen Halverson and Neal Friedman. Halverson, of Everett, is on a list of attorneys the state says are qualified to represent defendants facing the death penalty.
Scherf made a brief video appearance Thursday from the county jail. He wore a bright orange jumpsuit and was shackled. Two county corrections officers escorted him to his seat and stood over him during the hearing. He was out of view of the camera during most of the court appearance.
Scherf was asked no questions while in court. He did not speak.
District Court Judge Roger Fisher found probable cause to hold Scherf on the murder allegations.
Stemler advised the judge that Scherfs attorneys have been put on notice that this is a potential death penalty case. Arraignment may be as early as March 15. At that time Scherf can enter a not guilty or guilty plea, Stemler said.
The small courtroom was crowded Thursday with a pack of reporters, who angled for the first photographs of Scherf since the Jan. 29 slaying. Lead investigators Monroe police Sgt. Cindy Chessie and detective Barry Hatch were there along with detectives from the sheriffs office.
Roe also attended Thursdays hearing, and later answered questions from reporters.
He declined to discuss any evidence or statements Scherf reportedly has made. Roe said he will meet with his senior prosecutors to consider the case. He also expects to meet with Biendls family again.
The slain corrections officers family will be the first to know whether his office will seek death, Roe said.
Roe helped prosecute James Homer Elledge, the last man put to death for crimes in Snohomish County. Elledge volunteered for the death penalty, telling jurors that the wicked part of him needed to die.
One reporter on Thursday asked Roe if Scherfs thoughts on justice will factor into his decision.
As you can imagine, Im more concerned what Jayme Biendls family thinks, Roe said.
Biendl worked alone in the chapel since 2005. Scherf often volunteered time in the chapels small library. He also assisted in doing some work on the chapel computers.
Biendl had a reputation for being firm and fair with inmates. Scherf, however, told detectives that he didnt always like the way she treated people. He claimed she sometimes was disrespectful to others at the chapel, according to the affidavit. He told detectives that he became angry with the officer during a conversation earlier in the night. The more he thought about the exchange the more resolved he became to kill her, he said.
Scherf told detectives that he waited for the other inmates to leave around 8:30 p.m. and then walked to the front door of the chapel and closed the gate to make sure no one else would come in or suspect anything amiss because of an open door, court papers said.
Scherf allegedly explained that he came up behind Biendl and grabbed her. He ripped her microphone radio from her uniform so she couldnt call for help.
Biendl fought with him, stomping on his foot, biting him and freeing herself from his chokeholds, court documents said. Scherf reportedly admitted that he used an amplifier cord left on the stage to strangle Biendl.
Scherf was discovered sitting the foyer of the chapel shortly after he missed a routine inmate count around 9 p.m. Officers noted that he had some injuries to his hand and blood on his jacket. Scherf explained that hed been in a fight with another inmate.
The killing wasnt discovered until after 10 p.m. when watch control officers were notified that Biendl hadnt turned in her equipment at the end of her shift. Six officers headed to the chapel. They found Biendl face up on the stage in the sanctuary. Her feet were pointed to the back of the chapel, toward a large cross on the wall, according to court documents.
A medical exam concluded that Biendl was strangled with enough force to fracture the cartilage in her neck, investigators wrote in the probable cause affidavit.
Scherf denied that he ever sexually assaulted the officer, or that was ever the motive. Biendl was found fully clothed and there was no forensic evidence indicating she had been sexually assaulted.
Scherf has a long history of violence against women – those attacks were what landed him behind bars for life.
He came to the reformatory in 2002, the first year Biendl began working at the prison.
More than 4,200 people attended the officers memorial service earlier this month.
We all hope that the focus can remain on Officer Biendl, her sacrifice, and the risks that all law enforcement face every day, Roe said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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