By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — A Snohomish County jury is expected to hear closing arguments today in the trial of a convicted rapist who has admitted strangling Monroe corrections officer Jayme Biendl.
Jurors could begin deliberating on Byron Scherf’s guilt by the afternoon. If he is convicted of aggravated murder, the jury then is expected to hear testimony that goes to whether he should be sentenced to life in prison or executed. Scherf, 54, already is serving a life sentence for sex offenses committed in the 1990s.
The jury is expected to be given the option of convicting Scherf of second-degree murder. A conviction of the lesser charge would remove the death penalty as possible punishment.
Scherf’s defense attorneys have suggested that their client didn’t plan to kill Biendl inside the chapel at the Washington State Reformatory. They told jurors that Scherf was blacked out in the final minutes of Biendl’s life.
Jurors on Tuesday saw videotaped interviews Scherf gave detectives, admitting he strangled Biendl. He described becoming enraged with her earlier in the night. He talked about his efforts to get Biendl alone and how he knew he was going to kill her.
Prosecutors allege that is evidence Scherf premeditated the killing and committed first-degree murder.
Jurors heard Scherf admit that he wrapped an amplifier cord around Biendl’s neck and pulled with about “75 percent” of his strength. He said at that point he blacked out. He said he came to sitting in a chair in the back of the sanctuary. Scherf told detectives he didn’t have memories of Biendl dying.
On Wednesday, the jury heard detailed medical testimony about Biendl’s fatal injuries.
Snohomish County Medical Examiner Dr. Norman Thiersch said it would have taken four to five minutes of constant pressure to strangle Biendl with the cord.
A Monroe police detective testified last week that when he saw Scherf a few hours after the killing, the inmate’s hands were bright red and there was an obvious mark across his palm.
Thiersch on Wednesday explained that thyroid cartilage in Biendl’s neck had been fractured while she struggled to survive. It would have required “significant force” to do that kind of damage, he said.
Scherf’s attorneys have suggested that Biendl was unconscious when she was strangled.
Thiersch said he didn’t find any marks on Biendl’s neck to indicate that she grabbed at the cord.
He did find defensive wounds on her arms and hands.
Scherf told detectives that Biendl fought for her life. He said the bruises all over his body were from her.
Two forensic scientists from the state crime lab testified that Scherf’s DNA was found on Biendl’s fingernails.
They also found his blood on her coat and the amplifier cord.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.