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Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2011, 10:25 a.m.

Prosecutor will seek death for Scherf

  • Prosecutor Mark Roe announces Tuesday he'll seek the death penalty for inmate Byron Scherf.

    Mark Mulligan/The Herald

    Prosecutor Mark Roe announces Tuesday he'll seek the death penalty for inmate Byron Scherf.

EVERETT — Snohomish County prosecutors will seek the execution of an inmate accused of strangling Monroe corrections officer Jayme Biendl.

Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe met with Biendl's family Monday afternoon to share his decision with them. He told reporters on Tuesday that if Byron Scherf is convicted of aggravated murder, prosecutors will ask a jury to sentence him to die. Scherf, 52, already is serving a life sentence without the chance of release for raping and kidnapping a Spokane area realtor in 1997.

He is expected to make his first in-person court appearance Wednesday since Biendl's death.

Scherf reportedly told authorities last month that he will plead guilty at his arraignment and believes he should “forfeit” his life for the Jan. 29 killing.

Biendl, 34, was found dead in the prison chapel where she worked alone. Court papers say the corrections officer fought with her attacker before she was strangled with an amplifier cord.

"I'm completely comfortable with the breadth and depth of information I have been able to review in making this decision," Roe said.

The prosecutor read from a prepared statement, which is attached to this post.
Scherf reportedly admitted he attacked Biendl after becoming upset by something she said earlier in the night.

“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,” Scherf reportedly told detectives during a taped interview.

In deciding whether to seek the death penalty, the courts have directed prosecutors to consider the seriousness of the crime and evaluate whether there are reasons for leniency.

Scherf's lawyers, in a civil lawsuit, asked a judge to prohibit Roe from making a decision before they could provide him information that would argue for leniency. They sought an injunction asking for more time to compile the materials.

It's unknown if Scherf told his attorneys not to hand over any information.

Roe made his decision without seeing anything prepared by the defense. Instead, he said this case is unique because much of Scherf's life has been documented through his lengthy history with the courts and the state Department of Corrections.

Scherf has spent half his life locked behind bars for violent crimes against women.

His prosecution will be the first capital murder case in Snohomish County since James Elledge was convicted and sentenced to die. Elledge waived his rights to appeal his conviction and was executed in 2001, three years after he pleaded guilty and told a jury that he should die for the 1998 murder of Eloise Fitzner. Roe was one of the prosecutors on that case.

As the criminal case against Scherf moves ahead, prison officials later this week expect to receive the results of an investigation by the National Institute of Corrections, an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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