Monroe detective describes evidence in Scherf’s murder trial

EVERETT — Monroe police detective Barry Hatch remembered that it was raining and windy the night Jayme Biendl was killed.

He’d been called from home to the Washington State Reformatory not long after the corrections officer’s body was found in the prison chapel. He arrived around midnight Jan. 30, 2011, and like many other times, he was assigned to lead the investigation.

Hatch on Monday told jurors about the hours, weeks and months of work that have gone into bringing Byron Scherf to trial.

The repeat rapist is accused of strangling Biendl, 34, with an amplifier cord inside the sanctuary of the chapel. If convicted, Scherf could face the death penalty.

Jurors this week are expected to see videos of Scherf admitting he killed Biendl. He spoke with detectives a few days after she was strangled. He agreed to meet with them on the condition that he get some amenities at the jail, including a razor, toothpaste and snacks. He later wrote letters saying he stopped cooperating with investigators because he didn’t get what he believed detectives had promised him.

Hatch knew from the beginning that the investigation would be extensive. In the end, he delivered 24 three-ring evidence binders to Snohomish County deputy prosecutors Ed Stemler and Paul Stern.

Police officers spoke with dozens of corrections officers, inmates and other possible witnesses. Hundreds of photographs were taken. Officers collected numerous items from the chapel and Scherf’s prison cell. They searched through books and pamphlets in the chapel library.

Monroe police and prison staff also pored over hours of video footage from the prison’s surveillance system. There were a few cameras in the chapel, jurors were told. The sanctuary where Biendl was killed was not under video surveillance.

Jurors on Monday were shown a few short video clips from inside the chapel. The grainy images were taken from the security cameras in the hall and library. They show Biendl working at her post, unlocking doors and helping inmates. The videos also show Scherf. In the hours before the killing he’s seen entering the volunteer office where he worked on a computer, and following Biendl into other rooms.

The video also showed another inmate handing Scherf his coat at the end of the night after inmates were called back to their cells. He’d found Scherf’s coat hanging on a chair in the sanctuary.

That inmate, Robert Price, testified Monday, telling jurors that Scherf left the chapel with him. They were outside a control gate when Scherf said he needed to go back inside the chapel to retrieve his hat.

Price told jurors he was waiting for Scherf to come back out but a couple of corrections officers yelled at him to keep moving. Scherf was left alone with Biendl.

On Monday Price was asked if he spoke with Biendl when he left the chapel.

He said he told her the same thing he always did at the end of the night.

” ‘Good night. God bless you. Have a safe trip home,’ ” Price said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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