By Eric Stevick Herald Writer
MONROE — Cindy Chessie didn’t want the one-year anniversary of the slaying of state correctional officer Jayme Biendl to pass in sadness.
The tragedy affected many people in many ways, she said. The long list includes Biendl’s family and friends, her co-workers at the Monroe Correctional Complex and the police and prosecutors working the case. More than 4,400 hours have been invested in the criminal investigation.
“I think a year ago in January it was a pretty dark day for a lot of people in Monroe,” the Monroe Police Department detective sergeant said. “I wanted to do something positive and not think about what happened a year ago and to remember Jayme.”
In November, Chessie floated the idea of a memorial run to honor Biendl, who was strangled Jan. 29 in the Washington State Reformatory chapel at the end of her shift. Inmate Byron Scherf, 53, is charged with aggravated first-degree murder and could face the death penalty.
Chessie wondered if there would be enough time to organize such an event and if there would be enough volunteers to pull it off.
She found plenty of enthusiasm.
More than two dozen people, many from the police department and Monroe Correctional Complex, said they wanted to help.
So far, about 400 people have registered to participate in the 5K event, which entrants can choose to run or walk. It begins at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Sky River Park, 818 Village Way in Monroe.
Roughly a third of the participants are corrections workers and their families from Monroe and other prisons, said Susan Biller, an administrative assistant for the Monroe Correctional Complex.
“We have people coming from across the mountains,” she said.
Biendl’s five siblings are planning to take part, organizers said.
About 100 people have registered since Monday.
“Our numbers have jumped incredibly in the last few days,” Chessie said.
The anniversary also will be marked by the laying of a wreath early Sunday afternoon in a garden across the street from the reformatory. That same day, all state prisons plan to fly their flags at half-staff and observe a moment of silence at 9 p.m.
Biendl’s family chose to have proceeds from the run support the Behind the Badge Foundation, which assists families and police agencies coping with trauma, grief and loss. It offers families of slain and critically injured officers counseling, memorial planning and other services.
Registration on the day of the event is $35 and organizers warn they can’t guarantee a T-shirt.
Organizers recommend those registering on the morning of run to arrive early. Sign-up begins at 7 a.m.
Monroe police Sgt. Brian Johnston said the course takes runners past the front of the reformatory. He hopes people will remember the meaning of the day.
“For the public to be able to do that is a huge offering from the corrections department,” he said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jayme Biendl’s family reflects on their loss one year ago.