Many loyal to Jayme Biendl’s legacy

MONROE — Jayme Biendl certainly has not been forgotten during the 823 days it has taken for her suspected killer to go to trial.

In January, 450 people descended on Monroe to honor the slain prison corrections officer during a 5K Memorial walk and run in her name. Organizers already are planning next year’s event.

The $10,000 raised that day went to the Behind The Badge Foundation, which assists families and police agencies coping with trauma, grief and loss. The statewide nonprofit organization offers families of slain and critically injured officers counseling, memorial planning and other services.

Sgt. Brian Johnston is president of the Behind the Badge Foundation and has been a police officer with the city of Monroe for more than a quarter century.

Biendl’s death struck close to home.

Two years later, the loss has strengthened the connection among the Monroe Police Department, state Department of Corrections and the foundation, he said.

All are solidified in their resolve to make sure her contributions do not fade away.

“One of the things we all want to do is maintain Jayme’s memory,” he said. “It is important for families to see people remember their loved ones. It is very reassuring to them that their sacrifice is not forgotten.”

In the days after her death, the nation came to learn of Jayme Biendl as the first Washington state corrections officer killed in the line of duty at a prison in more than three decades. She was 34.

Her death was devastating to her family and friends, her coworkers at the Monroe Correctional Complex and the police and prosecutors working the case.

Biendl told friends that she believed a good corrections officer was someone who was firm, fair and consistent.

At the prison, Biendl earned a reputation of working by the book and supporting her colleagues. In 2008, she was nominated by her coworkers and named Corrections Officer of the Year at the Monroe prison.

Biendl was the oldest of six children who graduated from Granite Falls High School in consecutive years.

She worked hard her entire life, beginning in the berry fields as a child.

In 2003, she took a civilian job at the Monroe prison. She initially handed out uniforms to inmates at the sprawling campus.

A few months later, she was hired as a correctional officer. In 2005, she asked to be assigned to the single-officer post at the prison chapel within the century-old Washington State Reformatory.

She was found strangled at her post after her shift had ended Jan. 29, 2011. Inmate Byron Scherf, 54, is charged with aggravated first-degree murder and could face the death penalty. His trial started Wednesday.

Johnston has seen goodness emerge from the tragedy.

Her death moved people into action. He has seen deep inner qualities in people. He has watched people step forward to help with the foundation and its mission to assist families in their greatest hours of need.

“They are now part of that response team that will be there to help at a moment’s notice, to see that the appropriate honors are carried out and the support is there for grieving families,” he said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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