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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: prison

Man who robbed woman at nail salon, threatened to shoot grandma sentenced

Kyle Henriksen, 23, will spend the next seven years in prison after pleading guilty earlier this month to first-degree robbery of a woman at gunpoint in a Spokane Valley nail salon last December.

Henriksen pleaded guilty to the robbery in September, but his original sentencing date was pushed back because of an October incident when the 23-year-old allegedly threatened to kill his grandmother. That incident does not appear to have affected Henriksen's plea deal. According to court records, Henriksen received an 87-month sentence, the lowest end of a sentencing range dictated by his criminal history.

Henriksen is currently being held at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton, Wash., according to prison records.

The salon robbery took place Dec. 28, 2012, when Henriksen - clad in a black sweatshirt and wearing sunglasses - walked up to a woman he knew and demanded her purse, which contained $150 in cash. The woman tried to hit the gun out of Henriksen's hand, then he fled on foot before an arrest a few days later when a search during a traffic stop turned up drugs. Henriksen also pleaded guilty to assault charges stemming from a 2009 incident in which he pistol-whipped a man trying to return a stolen purse to Henriksen's girlfriend, according to court records.

Nicholas Richardson, 24, told police he'd driven the getaway car for Henriksen after the salon robbery. He pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery in March and served three months in prison, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Henriksen told police who responded to the alleged death threat made in October that his grandmother had misunderstood what he said. The grandma told police she tried to keep Henriksen from pawning her big-screen television, prompting the spat.

Spokane man sues over Abu Dhabi arrest

A retired Air Force officer in Spokane says a series of blunders involving international airlines and a global security contractor in Iraq led to his incarceration in a vermin-infested Middle Eastern prison.

A complaint recently filed in U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington alleges James H. Hunter followed proper procedures for transporting personal firearms on a trip to Iraq in 2008 but was jailed after an airline sent him to another country and his employer denied knowing him.

“He suffered 60 days of frightening existence in one of the world’s most notorious prisons,” said Hunter’s lawyer, Thatcher Stone, of New York. “He picked up all sorts of illnesses when he was there, some of which have cleared up and some of which he still has.” Stone is handling the case with Coeur d’Alene lawyer Nicolas Vieth.

Read the rest of my story here.

Felon arrested for kidnapping, threats

A Spokane man released from prison in March is accused of kidnapping his girlfriend and threatening to kill her.

Duane L. Comeslast, 32, is charged with felony kidnapping, harassment and car theft after his girlfriend told police he forced her into her Jeep Cherokee at 2130 E. North Crescent Ave. and drove toward Upriver Drive, where he told her “he was going to kill her and throw her body in the river where no one would find it,” according to court documents.

The woman told police she acted complaint and asked Comeslast to talk her to East Longfellow Avenue and North Florida Street to use the bathroom, knowing she had friends near the park.

She got out of the Jeep and Comeslast recognized her uncle's car and tried to drag her back to the Jeep, but she was able to break free, according to court documents.

Police arrived at her uncle's home at 4111 E. Longfellow and discovered the alleged victim with bruises and swollen lip. Comeslast was arrested and held in Benton County on a parole violation until he was transferred to the Spokane County Jail to face charges.

He appeared in Superiro Court Tuesday and remains in jail on $75,000 bond. Comeslast has previous convictions for domestic violence assault.

Comeslast and his family were featured in this 1995 article about his younger brother's arrest on murder charges.

State prisons chief Eldon Vail resigns

Three days after a man who shot seven people at the Tacoma Mall took a prison guard hostage and a convicted Spokane killer was shot to death on a fork lift, state prisons chief Eldon Vail has resigned.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who reportedly learned about Vail's decision just today, quickly named a temporary replacement. Jim Camden has more at Spin Control.

Look for a story in The Spokesman-Review next week examining the Department of Corrections' reaction to the eye-gauging assault at Airway Heights Corrections Center last fall by a man already convicted of murdering a cellmate.

Report: Rapist admits to guard’s murder

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MONROE, Wash. (AP) — A Washington state reformatory inmate has acknowledged killing Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl in the prison chapel, saying he was angry with the way she spoke to him minutes earlier, according to a search warrant made public Friday.

The search warrant said inmate Byron Scherf, 52, a Spokane-area sex offender, acknowledged the crime to detectives Wednesday in a videotaped interview, The Herald newspaper of Everett reported.

“I'll just get right to the point. I'm responsible for the death of the correctional officer at the Monroe, uh, correctional facility,” he said, according to excerpts cited in the court papers. “I strangled her to death on Jan. 29 at approximately 8:40 p.m. in the chapel.” 

The interview came after Scherf asked detectives for a chance to tell them what happened, according to the warrant, which said he acknowledged his right to remain silent, then confessed.

Scherf's public defender, Bill Jaquette, did not immediately return a call Friday seeking comment.

Scherf reportedly told detectives he was angry at Biendl over how she had spoken with him at about 8:15 to 8:25 while he worked in the prison chapel that evening.

As he thought about it more, “I got to the point where I knew I was going to kill her,” he reportedly said.

According to the search warrant, Biendl sent the inmates back to their cells at about 8:30 and began closing the chapel. Scherf said he decided to hang back and attacked Biendl from behind, it said.

He detailed a struggle that lasted about four minutes, with Biendl trying, and apparently failing, to radio for help, in part because he disabled her communications equipment, according to the document.

Scherf said Biendl bit and scratched him and stomped on his foot trying to get free. They wound up on the ground and he used a cable from an amplifier to fatally choke her, he reportedly told detectives.

He was described as becoming emotional as he said, “I'm certainly sorry.”

Scherf since 1997 has been serving life in prison without possibility of release after being convicted of three attacks on women.

The search warrant was obtained to look for trace evidence that would be expected to have been left behind inside the chapel if the fight happened as Scherf described.

The warrant is one of several made public in the last few days. One released Thursday said Scherf had asked others who attended the chapel to pray for him two days before the killing because he was struggling with temptation.

A slideshow from Biendl's funeral is above.

Guard’s alleged killer asked for prayers

MONROE, Wash. (AP) — A search warrant issued in connection with the death of a Monroe correctional officer says the suspect had asked people to pray for him because he was struggling with temptation, the Daily Herald reported Friday.

Inmate Byron Scherf, a Spokane-area sex offender, submitted a prayer request Jan. 27, asking others who attended the chapel at the Washington State Reformatory to “pray for me for very pressing temptations I have been dealing with — I want to do the right thing but am really struggling.”  The chapel's lone officer, Jayme Biendl, was strangled Jan. 29.

Scherf, 52, is a three-strikes offender serving a life sentence for rape convictions. He volunteered at the chapel where he worked as a janitor and clerk. He's jailed in Everett for the homicide investigation.

Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe said he can't discuss Scherf or the case against him until detectives complete their investigation.

Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis also said she could not discuss the case or comment on what Scherf may have told investigators.

Detectives this week identified roughly 60 more people they want to interview as part of the criminal investigation, Willis said. Many are inmates.

The search warrant made public on Thursday is one of several that have been sought in the case in recent days. Combined, the warrants shed new light on what detectives believe happened:

Surveillance camera footage from the prison shows Biendl propping open the door to the sanctuary for Scherf at 8:08 p.m. so he could get baptismal blankets. He then returned to a chapel office where he spent most of the evening. A fellow inmate brought Scherf his jacket around 8:30 p.m., closing time. The jacket had been left in the sanctuary.

An inmate told investigators that he and Scherf left the chapel at the same time the night of the killing, but Scherf said he needed to go back, claiming that he'd left behind his hat.

Click the link below to read the rest of the Associated Press story .

Prison guard’s family prepares for funeral

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — The family of slain Monroe prison guard Jayme Biendl released a statement through police Thursday saying they are devastated by the loss. 

They thank law enforcement and the community for their support but don't want to talk to media.

The family says it is focusing on memories and preparing for the memorial service at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Comcast Center in Everett.

Biendl was strangled Saturday night in the chapel at the prison.

An inmate suspected of the killing, Byron Scherf, is jailed in Everett for the investigation.

Murder suspect worked in prison chapel

The suspect in the murder of a prison guard had served as a chapel volunteer after a decade of good behavior. 

Byron Scherf, a serial rapist with ties to Spokane , told officers he was trying to escape but had changed his mind when he was found in the chapel lobby after it was noticed he was missing.

Guard Jayme Biendl's body was found an hour later, fully clothed and with no evidence of sexual assault. The 34-year-old woman had a two-way radio with an alarm, but prison officials don't know whether she tried to call for help.

Two days after Biendl's death, Gov. Chris Gregoire called for an outside investigation focused on whether there is adequate staff at the medium-security reformatory unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex, about 30 miles northeast of Seattle.

“There's a lot of grief and sorrow, and I think there are probably pockets of anger as well,” said Dan Pacholke, the Department of Corrections' deputy director of prisons.

  Union officials questioned why Biendl, a nine-year veteran of the department, was alone after complaining to prison supervisors about being the only guard working in the chapel without anyone checking on her.

Recent budget cuts have forced staffing reductions and union members have been worried about the impact on safety, said Teamsters 117 spokeswoman Tracey Thompson. 

Prison officials said staffing levels among guards who deal directly with inmates weren't down; just one person worked in the chapel for the past 15 years.

Guards always have been outnumbered by inmates, and prisons are full of people who have committed crimes as bad or worse as Scherf's, Pacholke said.

Budget cuts have forced hiring freezes among administrative and support personnel, officials said, but there's been no reduction in the number of “front-line” officers.

Scherf had not had a serious infraction since 2001, had a prison job, wasn't in a gang and had earned privileges for good conduct, Pacholke said.

Everything seemed to indicate he was “serving his incarceration in an acceptable fashion,” he said.

However, he said that did little to comfort prison staff trying to cope with their “tremendous sorrow” at the loss of a personable young woman who in 2008 had been named Monroe's corrections officer of the year.

Gregoire said Monday that in addition to the standard department review, she has asked for an outside review by federal officials at the National Institute of Corrections.

The 800-inmate unit was locked down and could stay that way the rest of the week as the criminal investigation continues, Pacholke said.

Inmate in guard’s death has Spokane ties

The inmate suspected of killing a corrections officer in Western Washington is a sex offender serving life in prison for the abduction and rape of a Spokane-area real estate agent in 1995.

Byron Scherf, 52, who has a long history of violent sexual assault, is in an isolation facility after Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl, 34, was found dead Saturday night by fellow officers in the chapel lobby of the Monroe Correctional Complex, according to the Department of Corrections.

Biendl reportedly had complained to supervisors about working alone in the chapel.

“She was feeling unsafe,” about supervising numerous inmates, Tracey Thompson, secretary treasurer for the Teamsters Local 117 that represents corrections officers, told the Seattle Times. “My understanding is there were repeated complaints.”

Read the rest of Kevin Graman's story here.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has called for an independent investigation into Biendl's death. Read more here.

2 men charged in meth prison conspiracy

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Two Bellingham men have been charged with conspiracy to mail papers soaked in methamphetamine to inmates in state prisons.

A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle alleges that 31-year-old Joseph L. Garcia supplied ounces of meth to 47-year-old Kirk L. Rishor, who soaked the drugs into high-quality, cotton-fiber paper.

The complaint says Rishor put the paper into manila envelopes flled with legal paperwork and mailed the package to the prison.

Rishor and Garcia were arrested in Bellingham on Nov. 12. When investigators searched Garcia’s home with a warrant, they found $28,000 in cash and almost 40 ounces of meth.

An inmate in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Victor Martinez, also has been charged.

Cuts could ax 45 jobs at Airway prison

Cuts at Washington state prisons will eliminate about 45 jobs at Airway Heights Corrections Center and could cancel a rehabilitative program designed to prepare inmates for reentry to society.

“It’s going to have very real impacts,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail. “It’s just a tough time.”

Eldon visited the prison Wednesday to discuss nearly $53 million in cuts the Department of Corrections could have to make as the state looks for ways to balance its troubled budget.

Read the rest of my story here.

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