Officers testify on first day of Scherf hearing

EVERETT — For the first time in open court, Monroe corrections officers testified about their encounters with an inmate the night he allegedly strangled Jayme Biendl at her post in the prison chapel.

A few officers told the judge that when they left for home on Jan. 29, 2011, they didn’t know that their colleague was dead. They testified that Byron Scherf first told them that he had fallen asleep in the chapel and asked if he was in trouble. Scherf told other officers that he’d been plotting an escape, tired of his life behind prison walls, the witnesses said.

The inmate requested an attorney once he was brought to the shift lieutenant’s office to be questioned.

More than an hour passed between the time Scherf was reported missing and when prison workers went looking for Biendl. She’d been strangled with an amplifier cord on the stage in the chapel sanctuary.

Monday marked the first day of testimony in a pre-trial hearing to determine if jurors will be allowed to hear the statements Scherf reportedly made to corrections officers the night Biendl was killed. A judge also must decide if the jury will hear Scherf’s alleged confession made to detectives several days after Biendl’s slaying.

Scherf is charged with aggravated murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Monroe and Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives reported that Scherf, 53, told them he was upset over something Biendl said earlier in the evening.

A dozen people testified Monday, including a nurse who treated Scherf for a bite wound to his finger. Another corrections officer explained that he’d heard the inmate mumble, “I shouldn’t have done this,” after he’d been moved into a segregation cell.

Testimony is expected to continue Tuesday and Wednesday. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel also has three days set aside next week to hear from witnesses.

Biendl’s family was present during Monday’s hearing.

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

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