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Gregoire speaks at prison guard memorial

Corrections officer Jayme Biendl was remembered Tuesday as a courageous and caring woman who loved her job, her co-workers and her family.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, speaking at a nearly two-hour memorial service at Comcast Arena in Everett, called Biendl “A Washingtonian through and through.”

Biendl was strangled Jan. 29 while working in the chapel at the Monroe Reformatory. Byron Scherf, an inmate serving a life sentence after two convictions for rape, is the prime suspect.

Biendl’s friends, family and co-workers “must have faith in one another … in the days and months ahead,” Gregoire said.

Department of Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail talked about the deaths of corrections officers in Walla Walla three decades ago leading to positive changes within the department.

He said he expects the same after Biendl’s death.

“Our staff deserves nothing more than a full commitment to improving prison safety,” Vail said. “We will come out of this stronger than before, we will rise above this and we will do it together.”

The memorial began with a motorcade Tuesday morning, which passed the Monroe Reformatory where she worked and was killed before it arrived at the arena.

The traditional officer memorial included bagpipers, a color guard, the United States and Canadian national anthems and hundreds of uniformed officers from dozens of departments and agencies in attendance. It also included a photo slide show of childhood snapshots.

Also speaking were the Monroe prison superintendent, Biendl’s supervising sergeant and co-workers.

“There will forever be a void in my soul,” said Sgt. Jimmie Fletcher.