By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — Byron Scherf calmly sipped a cup of coffee and tried to explain to detectives what came over him the night he is accused of strangling Monroe corrections officer Jayme Biendl.
“It triggered a response in me that I don’t know,” Scherf said. “… It was like all these offenses that I had been stuffing for years and years and years just started running, and the more that ran through my mind, the madder I got.”
On Tuesday, for the first time in open court, prosecutors played the videotaped interviews that Scherf gave to detectives several days after Biendl was found dead in the prison chapel.
In the recordings, Scherf admitted that he waited for the chapel to clear out and ambushed Biendl. He described how she tried to fight off his attack, leaving him bruised and bleeding. He explained how he overpowered her and wrapped an amplifier cord around her neck. He told detectives he blacked out after he began pulling on the cord with “75 percent” of his strength.
The videos showed a heavier Scherf wearing a jail jumpsuit that revealed muscular arms and tattoos. The defendant appears to have lost a significant amount of weight since February 2011 interviews with detectives.
The question remains whether a jury will ever get to see or hear Scherf’s statements. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel must determine if the interviews with detectives were obtained legally.
Scherf is charged with aggravated murder, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
In one of the interviews, Monroe police detective Barry Hatch asked Scherf why he was speaking with police.
A tearful Scherf told the detective that “he’d done a lot of soul searching.”
“She didn’t deserve to die. She didn’t deserve that,” he said.
The defense is expected to raise questions about their client’s mental state at the time he spoke with detectives. They told the judge that they have obtained an expert witness, who has written about the psychological effects of solitary confinement. After the killing, Scherf was taken from the prison to the Snohomish County Jail, where he was kept alone in a cell.
Scherf initially declined to talk to police. He later asked to speak with the two sheriff’s detectives who were assigned to photograph the inmate’s injuries over the course of two weeks.
His first interview centered around improving his living conditions at the jail.
Scherf said he’d be willing to give detectives “a full confession” if some of his requests were met. Scherf wanted to be able to shave and have more visitors and make more phone calls. He wanted soap, toothpaste and hot water in his cell. He also asked to be able to buy items from the jail’s commissary.
“I want some things done, and if this doesn’t happen, then everything’s off the table,” Scherf said.
Detective Brad Walvatne testified Tuesday that he didn’t promise Scherf anything, but told the inmate he’d be willing to pass along the requests. It was up to a captain at the jail to determine whether the conditions would be changed, Walvatne said.
In later interviews, Scherf explained that he wasn’t making any statements because of threats or promises. He also told detectives that he had met with an attorney, who advised him not to speak with the police.
“I wanna be here. I chose to be here,” Scherf said on the tape. “Like I said, I think in the interest of this family that’s lost their loved one and everything considered that it’s just, this thing just needs to be dealt with quickly.”
Testimony is expected to continue today.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.