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Wanted: Woman w/ 254 police contacts

A 25-year-old Spokane woman who police say they've contacted 254 times is again wanted for violating her probation.

Desarae M. Dawson, a former Crime Stoppers fugitive, was sentenced in February to 17 days in Spokane County Jail after pleading guilty to riot and escape from community custody. She was released right after her sentencing because she'd already served the time.

Dawson apparently didn't stick with her probation requirements for very long. Spokane police Major Frank Scalise, who supervises the patrol division, said she has a Department of Corrections warrant for her arrest.

Dawson has 12 felony convictions and has been arrested 21 times. But police also track contacts, which could include police seeking the person out for interviews or traffic stops in which the person is a passenger, and say Dawson's 254 contacts adds to her status as a repeat offender. (Read about her role in a false report about a stolen car back in May 2011 here.)

Dawson is mentioned in Spokesman-Review writer Shawn Vestal's column on repeat offenders - or ropes, as the police call them.

“That’s their career,” Scalise told Vestal. “Just like you are a journalist and I am a police officer, they are thieves.”

Read Vestal's column here.

Anyone with information on Dawson's location should call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

DOC fugitive now accused of assault

A Spokane man arrested for violating his probation on a robbery conviction also is accused of a new assault. 

Christopher M. Prusch, 35, faces a second-degree assault charge for allegedly choking a woman and striking her during an argument at a home in the 5300 block of North Martin Street June 6.

The woman said she'd asked Prusch to leave her home when he attacked her. Police photographed “fingerprint size bruises on her throat,” according to court documents.

Prusch told police he hit the woman after he was pushed but denied choking her.

Prusch was arrested last Wednesday on a Department of Corrections warrant for escape from community custody.

He appeared in Spokane County Superior Court on the new assault charge Monday. His bond was set at $25,000, but even if he pays it he won't be release because of a DOC probation hold.

Prusch's criminal history includes convictions for second-degree robbery, intimidation of a public servant and hit and run.

A national sex offender registry website lists Prusch has having a conviction for third-degree rape in 1994, but he's no longer listed in the Spokane County sex offender registry.

The picture at the top right is from the national registry. The picture at left is Prusch's most recent DOC mug shot.

Spokane gang team arrests 2 fugitives

The gang team arrested two men this week in Spokane for violating their probation on violent crimes.

Christopher M. Prusch, 35, (pictured left) was booked into jail Wednesday on a Department of Corrections warrant for escape from community custody, Spokane police Officer Matt Rose said today.

His lengthy criminal history includes convictions for second-degree robbery, intimidation of a public servant and hit and run.

 A national sex offender registry website lists Prusch has having a conviction for third-degree rape in 1994, but he's no longer listed in the Spokane County sex offender registry.

Later on Wednesday, the Spokane Violent Crime Gang Enforcement Team also assisted Department of Corrections officers in arresting Ismael M. Tarango, 35, of Walla Walla, for a DOC escape warrant.

Tarango (pictured right) is a convicted killer with convictions for first-degree burglary and second-degree murder from the 1990s. He also was booked into jail.

Suspicious vehicle leads to meth arrest

A suspicious vehicle report in north Spokane led deputies to arrest a wanted man on new drug charges early today.

Deputies were watching a Suzuki that was parked on he wrong side of the road in the area of 630 West Ivanhone Road when they contacted the driver, Bryan E. Aden, 42, and asked what he and his passenger,

Jason William Gilmore, also 42, were dong out at 2 a.m., according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Gilmore said they were gong to his mother's house near Chattaroy to help her, deputies say.

Deputies say Gilmore gave them permission to look inside a backpack, which contained a ski mask, tire iron, taped-up wrench and a flashlight with a blue lens cover.

Gilmore also had a felony warrant for his arrest through the Washington Department of Corrections. He was arrested for that as well as a new charge of possession of burglary tools. He also faces a drug charge after deputies found meth in a small vial where he had been standing.

Aden was cited and released for third-degree driving while license suspended.

‘Fugitive’ missed court while in jail

A man targeted by Crime Stoppers missed his court appearing last week because he's jailed in another county, and officials refuse to transport him.

Mark William Bush, 35, is in the Benton County Jail under the Washington Department Corrections warrant for violating his probation.

He was there on Jan. 24 when he was scheduled to appear in Spokane County Superior Court for an arraignment on a felony marijuana possession charge.

When he didn't show up, a judge issued a warrant for his arrest for missing court.

State prison officials say that's not unusual - it's standard not to transport inmates to court until they've address their DOC violations, which spokeswoman Selena Davis said Bush has yet to do.

“This is absolutely par for the course,” Davis said.

What's not par for the course is Crime Stoppers targeting fugitives who are already in custody.

Bush's father, Leonard Bush, is quick to say his son - who has at least four felony and 23 misdemeanor convictions - has done wrong. But he also questions why the criminal justice system seems only to contribute to his son's legal troubles.

“When they have you in custody, shouldn't they notify the court that you are in jail?” he said.

Leonard Bush was with his son when he appeared in court Jan. 10 for an arraignment. His son thought he had a warrant out for his arrest and tried to run himself in, but no one would take him, Bush said.

The next day, Spokane police released a K-9 in pursuit of Mark Bush. They arrested him and described him to media as a prolific criminal with 167 criminal charges.

His father said some of those arrests stem from his son being incarcerated in another county and unable to make court, which leads to an arrest warrant. That's the current situation with the Crime Stoppers fugitive reward.

“Don't get me wrong here - he's done wrong,” Leonard Bush said. “it's just the procedure that I can't understand…But people out there don't understand. All they see is 'caught a fugitive. 160 arrests.'”

Police said they had no idea Bush was in court a day before they tracked him down and arrested him.

Bush still is listed on the Crime Stoppers website and the Benton County Jail roster.

Tipsters can collect $100 - twice the usual amount - if they alert police to his location because he's a repeat offender. No word on whether jail employees will be eligible.

Patrol team arrests repeat offender, wife

A fugitive targeted by Spokane police since Jan. 11 was arrested by patrol officers Tuesday night.

Shaun P. Davis, 39, was booked into jail about 11 p.m. after members of the Patrol Anti-Crime Team located him at 5015 N. Haven St., police said today.

Davis was wanted on a Washington Department of Corrections warrant for violating his probation.

Davis' wife, Rosanna M. Jordan, 28, was arrested for rending criminal assistance for allegedly hiding Davis from police. She is now out of jail on bond.

Davis is described by police as a repeat offender

He has previous convictions from 2010 for drugs and stolen property, as well as convictions in 2007 for theft and unlawful possession of payment instruments, according to court records.

Police ‘had no idea’ fugitive was in court

 Spokane police were surprised to learn that a fugitive captured by a police dog on Wednesday had been in court the day before.

“We had no idea he was in court,” Sgt. Tracie Meidl said of Mark W. Bush, 36.

Meidl says Bush, who has at least four felony and 23 misdemeanor convictions, had been eluding police for weeks and knew about his wanted status before he was arrested Wednesday on a Washington Department of Corrections warrant for failing to check in with his probation officer. He also was arrested on Nov. 21 but posted $2,500 bond. Another warrant was issued Dec. 30, according to the DOC.

On Tuesday, Bush attended an arraignment on an unrelated felony marijuana charge at 1:30 p.m. before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke.

Court officials apparently did not know of Bush's fugitive status - he was allowed to stay out of custody and ordered to be back in court Jan. 24 for an arraignment under the early-case resolution program, which allows suspects charged with low-level felonies to resolve their cases quickly.

Now he's back in jail on a no-bail DOC hold.

Fugitive was in court day before arrest

A man who Spokane police say has 167 criminal charges in 15 years appeared for a court hearing Tuesday and was allowed to stay out of jail despite a felony warrant for his arrest.

 Mark W. Bush, 36, was captured Wednesday night by a police dog after the Spokane police Patrol Anti-Crime Team received a tip that he was near the 400 block of North University Road.

Sgt. Tracie Meidl said in a news release that Bush knew about his wanted status and had been eluding them “for several weeks” before he was arrested on a Department of Corrections warrant for failing to check in with his probation officer. He was arrested on Nov. 21 but posted $2,500 bond. Another warrant was issued Dec. 30, according to the DOC.

On Tuesday, Bush attended an arraignment on an unrelated felony marijuana charge at 1:30 p.m. before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke, a clerk confirmed.

Court officials apparently did not know of Bush's fugitive status - he was allowed to stay out of custody and ordered to be back in court Jan. 24 for an arraignment.

Police say Bush has been booked on 17 charges in the last 11 months. He has three times been captured by a police dog - each time a different dog.

Bush has at least four felony convictions, including third-degree assault in 2008, and 23 misdemeanors, including three counts of obstructing a law enforcement officer and one count of resisting arrest.

His most recent felony charge stems from a traffic stop in September initiated by an officer who knew Bush had a DOC arrest warrant. Bush's probation officer found jar with 61 grams of marijuana in the car, according to court documents.

Bush was out on $2,500 bond when he showed up for his arraignment on Tuesday. Now he's back in jail on a no-bail DOC warrant after his arrest Wednesday.

Claim: Man hoarded urine to make meth

A man arrested after Spokane police found a suspected methamphetamine lab was said to be collecting his urine to use in the manufacturing of the drug.

 Washington Department of Corrections probation officer Scott Wright tipped police to the suspected lab Wednesday at a home Michael Ward Baker, 54, shares with his elderly mother in the 4500 block of North Hawthorne Street, according to a search warrant.

Wright said neighbors complained about drug activity in the home and another witness said Baker collects his urine “to be recycled for use in manufacturing methamphetamine,” according to the warrant.

Spokane police drug detectives joined DOC officers at the home Wednesday and found Baker staying in the garage, where meth pipes and materials to make meth were present, police said.

Baker has seven previous felony convictions, including two for drugs.

Police returned with a search warrant and seized suspected meth-making materials, as well as receipts for cold medicine, the barrel of a shotgun, a drug scale and suspected methamphetamine during the search, which occurred about 5:20 p.m. Chemicals - including sulfuric acid and hydrogen - were destroyed by the Spokane clandestine lab team.

Facebook asked to disable inmate pages

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington prison officials have asked social media giant Facebook to disable inmate accounts.

Department spokesman Chad Lewis says inmates are not allowed to have Internet access. He says Facebook accounts are sometimes set up by relatives or by inmates with contraband cell phones.

Lewis tells Northwest News Network that so far the communications have mostly been with friends and family and not for criminal activity. But the department is asking Facebook for the same deal the company recently struck with California prisons, where some sinister activity had been alleged.

California officials say they found an inmate who used social media to track down his victim.

Judge: Scherf confession is open record

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — A Snohomish County judge ruled Wednesday that documents containing Spokane County sex offender Byron Scherf's alleged confession to the killing of a Monroe corrections officer are public records and should not be sealed.

Washington law favors public access, Judge Thomas Wynne said, adding that in criminal cases a defendant must show he'll face prejudice if the documents are released.

“For the most part, this standard cannot be met in this case,” Wynne said.

Scherf's attorneys said they plan to appeal Wynne's ruling, so it's not clear when the records may become public.

Scherf, 52, is charged with aggravated murder and could face the death penalty for the Jan. 29 strangling of Jayme Biendl in the chapel at the Washington State Reformatory. The serial rapist already was serving a life sentence when Biendl was killed.

Scherf's lawyers last month asked Wynne to order prosecutors to seal roughly 325 pages of police reports, transcripts and other records related to the investigation. The Daily Herald of Everett and other news outlets sought the documents after Scherf was charged in March.

Scherf's lawyers did not object to last week's release of about 1,600 pages of police reports about the case. Those documents described how Scherf calmly explained to corrections officers who found him alone in the chapel that he'd fallen asleep. He also reportedly was trying to clean his fingernails minutes after her death.

Scherf attorney Karen Halverson told the judge that her client's right to a fair trial would be damaged if potential jurors learn the contents of the sealed records. The documents include Scherf's alleged confession to strangling Biendl.

They also include records that for decades have been available for public inspection in courthouses where Scherf was prosecuted for earlier attacks on women, plus documents in the files of various state agencies, including the state Department of Corrections and the Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board.

Deputy prosecutor Lindsey Downs said her office was taking no position on the records requests. In her brief, she noted that courts are sometimes asked to balance dueling obligations between public access and ensuring a fair trial.

Prosecutors said they expect to be ready for trial by March or April. Scherf's attorneys said they may not be ready for trial before fall 2012.

___

Prisons chief quit after affair uncovered

 

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington’s former secretary of corrections said Tuesday that he abruptly departed his job last week because of an extramarital affair with a subordinate.

In an interview with The Seattle Times, Eldon Vail said that he learned last week of a video that apparently showed him and the employee leaving a motel near Olympia. He said he heard rumors that the video may be made public, so he decided his only choice was to resign.

“This is no one’s fault but my own,” Vail, 59, told The Times. “It’s not the employee’s fault. It is not my wife’s fault.” 

Read the rest of the Associated Press story here.

Slain guard named in inmate complaints

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Newly released documents show several grievances were filed by inmates of the Monroe Correctional Complex over operations of the prison chapel in the years before corrections officer Jayme Biendl was strangled there last January.

Biendl was the subject of numerous grievances by prisoners over the years because of her enforcement of prison policies at the chapel.

The grievances, obtained by The Associated Press from the state Department of Corrections, were all dismissed as without merit.a Spokane County sex offender, has been charged with aggravated murder in the case.

But the past grievances help shed light on the pressures of working inside the walls of the state's prisons, even in a place as relatively peaceful as the chapel.

Other newly released information details an apparent grudge Scherf held against Biendl, inlcuding calling her “evil” and blaming her for the cancellation of a program that made extra food available behind bars.

Read more by clicking the link below.

Killer’s history not communicated at DOC

When a rapist who murdered one of his cellmates in the Spokane County Jail requested a transfer to a medium-security prison several years later, the approval process at the Washington Department of Corrections was quick and routine.

Although prisoner Michael Lee West Jr. was known for his disturbing levels of violence, he’d managed to avoid serious trouble for about four years. The transfer request was approved, and a prisoner long deemed a serious threat arrived at Airway Heights in 2010 as a minimum-security inmate.

The results were tragic.

Just 10 days into his stay, the 35-year-old attacked two cellmates in what prison officials describe as a horrific barrage that left one man blind. Prison staff who rushed to the cell found a victim with his left eye hanging from the socket and his right eye severely damaged. West stood by, chanting religious phrases and proclaiming himself Lucifer.

Despite a well-documented history that included pleas by prison officials for lifetime lockup, none of those warnings and concerns traveled with him. The brutal assault was the Airway Heights staff’s first indication that this new inmate was prone to severe behavioral problems – even though West had warned his psychiatrist that he planned to stop taking his medication after his transfer.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Oct. 14: 'Graphic' attack leaves inmate blind

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.

Escape plot timed to guard’s lunch break

By GENE JOHNSON,Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — Following the strangling of an officer at the state prison in Monroe this year, national correctional experts made a simple suggestion for improving safety at Washington's prisons: Eliminate meal breaks for corrections officers.

The idea to have the officers munch during their shifts was designed to keep staffing levels constant, rather than having some guards left short-staffed in a dangerous environment while others took breaks.

The state Department of Corrections made the change at its complex in Monroe within the past month, switching officers on day and swing shifts from 8.5- to 8-hour work days, and is rolling it out at the state's other major prisons.

But it hasn't yet done so at Clallam Bay Corrections Center, where a brazen escape attempt Wednesday was timed to an officer's lunch break. A guard was briefly held hostage during the incident, which ended with a prisoner being shot and killed.

“We have a tough economic climate in Washington and we're trying to increase staffing levels without additional expenditures,” Washington state deputy prison director Dan Pacholke said Thursday.

The attempted prison break Wednesday occurred at the Olympic Peninsula facility's garment shop, where about 70 inmates typically work making offender uniforms and coveralls. The prisoners were supervised by two unarmed corrections officers and a handful of civilian staff members, who are also trained in responding to prison emergencies.

While one of the two corrections officers was on a lunch break, two inmates — convicted murderer Kevin Newland (above) and Dominick Maldonado, (keft) who shot and injured seven people during a rampage at the Tacoma Mall in 2005 — put their plan into action. Maldonado grabbed the unarmed officer and held him hostage with a pair of scissors readily available in the garment shop, while Newland took keys from the guard, unlocked a forklift and rammed it through a rollup door, officials said.

Newland ignored verbal commands and a warning shot before an officer shot him, said DOC spokesman Chad Lewis, and Maldonado released his hostage after seeing his partner killed.

The prison was expected to remain on lockdown for several days. Clallam County sheriff's detectives arrived Thursday to investigate, and Maldonado could face charges of escape or custodial assault.

Pacholke and Lewis were quick to emphasize that it was standard procedure for there to be one officer on duty in the garment shop while the other took a lunch break. They also said the presence of the civilian staff, who train offenders in the garment industry, mitigated the officer's absence.

When the attack occurred, the civilian employee in the vicinity tried to intervene physically, saw that he had little chance of success and quickly acted to alert prison officials, Pacholke said.

“If you would have had two corrections officers, it would have been a stronger response, but the civilian correctional industry workers responded very well,” Pacholke said.

Jim Smith, director of corrections and law enforcement with Teamsters Local 117, the union representing the state's corrections officers and civilian Correctional Industries workers, said the civilian worker involved was repeatedly punched by Newland.

Even after he broke free, Newland chased him down and beat him again before he was able to summon help, said Smith, who visited the prison Thursday to meet with union members involved and ensure their mental and physical well-being.

It was too early to say whether staffing levels played a factor, Smith said.

“The criminal investigation is under way, and we want to make sure it's a solid investigation for prosecuting someone who assaulted our members, but we'll be looking at it thoroughly when the investigation is finished,” he said.

He also said it's unclear whether the switch to 8-hour schedules without breaks is a good idea. The prisons historically had such schedules before moving to 8.5-hour shifts with meal breaks several years ago.

“This is a high-pressure, high-intensity job, and you need to be focused on the inmates,” he said. “To be on for eight hours straight, without any breaks, that's also a concern.”

The switch was recommended by the National Institute of Corrections, which was asked to review state prison operations following the death of Officer Jayme Biendl at the Monroe reformatory in January. Biendl was strangled by a convicted rapist in a chapel.

The institute also suggested that officers wear personal body alarms and carry pepper spray.

Typically, corrections officers assigned to areas where prisoners live and work are unarmed, due to concerns that inmates might be able to take the weapons. Other officers, such as those assigned to special response teams, do carry guns.

Spokane murderer dies in escape attempt

Murder victim Jamie Lynn Drake is pictured in 2006 with her prized 1993 Mustang. (File photo)

A Spokane man serving 45 years for the murder of a 19-year-old woman in 2006 was shot and killed today in what prison officials describe as an apparent escape attempt.

Kevin Wayne Newland, 25, (left) drove a forklift through the doors of an industrial area at Clallam Bay Corrections Center after a corrections officer was taken hostage about 10 a.m. by another inmate armed with a pair of scissors, according to the Washington Department of Corrections. Newland then drove into the prison’s perimeter fences before he was shot and killed by another corrections officer, officials say.

The officer taken hostage was treated for minor injuries at a hospital.

The rampage appears to have been spearheaded by two men convicted of violent, high-profile crimes – Newland for the strangulation death of Spokane teenager Jamie Lynn Drake, and 25-year-old Dominick S. Maldonado (right) for a shooting spree at the Tacoma Mall in 2005 in which four people were taken hostage and seven people injured.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Oct. 20, 2007: Newland sentenced to 45 years for murder

Sept. 8, 2007: Newland found guilty of murder

Aug. 29, 2007: Possible jail escape foiled

Escapee knocks on off-duty guard’s door

SEATTLE (AP) — An escaped convict was caught following a day on the loose after he knocked on a cabin door — only to find out the man renting the lodge was an off-duty guard at the prison he just fled.

Authorities said 39-year-old James Edward Russell took off from the prison near Forks Tuesday morning. Early the next day, Russell — still wearing his prison uniform — went to the cabin asking to use the phone, said Department of Corrections spokesman Chad Lewis on Thursday.

After a scuffle, Russell ran off again, Lewis said. The guard, whose name was being withheld by authorities, reported the incident and Russell was caught a few hours later.

He had been serving time for forgery and theft.

Apparent suicide at in prison at Connell

CONNELL, Wash. (AP) — Coyote Ridge Corrections Center officials say the death of an inmate found hanging in his cell appears to be a suicide.

Spokeswoman Lori Wonders says 26-year-old Michael Araiza was found Saturday and could not be revived by corrections officers and medical staff.

The Tri-City Herald reports he was in the general prison population but didn't have a cellmate.

Araiza had been at the Connell prison since November 2010, serving a sentence from King County for assault with a deadly weapon. He was set to be released in June 2013.

Scherf warned of danger before murder

MONROE, Wash. (AP) — A Washington inmate charged with strangling a corrections officer barraged state officials for decades with letters complaining about the conditions of his confinement, suggesting at least once that he might hurt someone if he didn't get sex-offender treatment.

  Convicted rapist Byron Scherf, 52, a Spokane County sex offender, is accused of killing guard Jayme Biendl in a chapel at the Monroe Correctional Complex in January. He had been a volunteer at the chapel.

The Herald of Everett reported Thursday that newly released records show that Scherf has been a prolific jailhouse letter writer. The corrections department released the letters to The Herald under state public records laws.

In letters to officials including Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail, Scherf griped about limited opportunities for exercise, restrictions on the number of books allowed in his cell and the quality of prison-approved earplugs.

Scherf also repeatedly asked for sex-offender treatment and said he couldn't control his compulsions.

“I never know from one minute to the next where my compulsions may direct me!” he wrote in 2002.

The corrections department refused the costly treatment because it's reserved for inmates expected to be released.

State officials receive thousands of letters from inmates each year, often making requests for access to programs and change in custody, state corrections spokesman Chad Lewis said.

“Some of the letters make threats against the secretary and the governor,” Lewis said.

In 2001, Scherf quoted scripture as he argued against rules that then prohibited him and other lifers from arranging conjugal visits with their wives. His most recent complaints focused prohibitions on medium-security inmates wearing sweaters, and concerns over how the corrections department has tested his urine for signs of drug use.

The letters also document how Scherf campaigned for sex offender treatment from 2000 to 2006, which he was repeatedly denied because he is serving life behind bars without release for a 1997 rape conviction in Spokane.

In responses to Scherf, Vail denied his treatment requests and refused to change the rule that prohibited lifers from receiving conjugal visits. That rule was tossed out in 2006, and Scherf and his wife have been allowed regular visits over the past five years, records show.

He's now being held at the county jail in Everett. He is expected back in court in two weeks. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.

Past coverage: Feb. 11: Guard's alleged killer asked for prayers

State prison staff waiting for more safety

State prison guards who were promised safer working conditions following the Jan. 29 slaying of a corrections officer in Western Washington are still waiting.

At Airway Heights Corrections Center near Spokane, for example, self-defense pepper spray that experts recommend all officers carry while on duty remains locked up in an armory that only certain employees can open.

Other changes recommended by a panel whose report has been embraced by Gov. Chris Gregoire are still potentially months away from being implemented.

“We’re waiting to see if anything is going to come of this,” said Darren Kelly, president of the Washington Staff Assault Task Force and a corrections officer at Airway Heights. But he is skeptical the recommended changes will be made promptly enough. He added that the lack of staff and proper safety gear create ongoing workplace hazards.

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.

Murderer, rapist jailed for 6 months

A convicted killer and rapist deemed so dangerous that prosecutors said they wished his 19-year prison term had been longer is back in jail after serving just half of his original sentence. 

Joseph Earl Singleton, 47, is to serve six months in jail for failing to check in with his probation officer or attend drug treatment. He could serve longer if he’s convicted of a felony harassment charge for allegedly threatening to kill his wife.

His public defender, Scott Mason, said Singleton is “pleasant in court,” trying hard and was able to find a job before his arrest.

“I know it’s tough getting a job with that kind of history,” Mason said.

But the attorney who prosecuted Singleton in 2000 said the case exemplifies what a 10-year-old change in Washington’s sex offender sentencing laws aimed to address.

Read my full story here.

Death penalty sought in guard’s slaying

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe says he'll seek the death penalty if Byron Scherf is convicted of aggravated murder in the death of Monroe prison Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl.

In announcing his decision Tuesday in Everett, Roe said jurors “should have the opportunity of imposing the ultimate punishment if they see fit.”

Biendl was strangled Jan. 29 in the prison chapel.

The 52-year-old Scherf is already serving a life sentence as a three-strikes convicted rapist. His final conviction occured in Spokane County after he kidnapped and raped a real estate agent.

Roe said he met Monday night with Biendl's family and it believes the death penalty should be sought. Roe also said he met with senior prosecutors and considered mitigating information about Scherf.

A jury also will be asked to consider mitigating information in a death penalty decision if Scherf is found guilty.

Past coverage:

Feb. 11: Officer's alleged killer asked for prayers

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 .

Several probes into DOC officer’s death

MONROE, Wash. (AP) — Several investigations are under way in the strangling death of Monroe Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl.

Monroe police must wrap up their investigation of suspected inmate Byron Scherf, a Spokane area sex offender, before the Monroe Correctional Complex can conduct its own investigation, The Daily Herald of Everett reported Wednesday.

 Police served more search warrants in the past few days and are wrapping up interviews and collecting evidence, Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.

 “They're slowing down, but it's continuing,” she said Tuesday.

The newest search warrants were for records and paperwork documenting Scherf's life, she said. That includes records for housing, education and his brief stint in the military. Investigators also are looking through his medical records, including his history of medications and psychological evaluations.

As of Tuesday night, Scherf had declined to speak with investigators, Willis said.

Scherf, 52, is a convicted rapist serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

The state Department of Labor and Industries also is investigating. It will determine whether state workplace safety laws were violated, agency spokesman Hector Castro said. That agency is required by law to finish its investigation in six months. If those officials find something wrong, they can issue citations and fines.

And, Gov. Chris Gregoire wants an independent review by the federal National Institute of Corrections.

Biendl, 34, was found Jan. 29 in the prison chapel at the Washington State Reformatory.

Monroe police will forward their completed investigation to Snohomish County prosecutors, who will decide on charges. Killing a corrections officer can lead to the death penalty in Washington.

Monroe Correctional Complex Superintendent Scott Frakes said he must wait until police are finished before investigating what happened the night Biendl was killed. Among other things, he wants to know why it took more than an hour to find Biendl after Scherf was apprehended in the chapel lobby.

DOC changes policies after officer slain

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The state Department of Corrections is changing some of its procedures in response to the killing of a female guard at the Monroe prison last weekend.

Jayme Biendl was found strangled in the prison's chapel last Saturday night. An inmate has been arrested in the killing.

Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail said Friday that prisons immediately will begin counting staff members whenever an offender is missing; officers will begin regularly checking in on guards who serve at duty posts alone; and prisons will start conducting drills on the use of silent alarms on the hand-held radios that guards carry.

In addition, the department says it will no longer hold modified lockdowns once a month at the state's eight major prisons. The lockdowns coincided with furloughs of nonessential staff to save money. Spokesman Chad Lewis says that stopping the lockdowns will make the prisons safer because those nonessential staff members will be present.

Biendl had previously complained that she didn't feel safe working alone in the prison chapel.

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.

2 prior attacks on women at state prison

SEATTLE (AP) — Two other women were assaulted in the past six months at the Washington state prison where a female guard was strangled, adding to questions about the safety of prison workers.

Officer Jayme Biendl, 34, was killed Saturday night in a chapel at the reformatory unit for medium-security inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex, about 30 miles northeast of Seattle.

Union officials have questioned why she was alone after complaining to supervisors about being the only guard working in the chapel without anyone checking on her. Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday called for an outside investigation focusing on whether prisons are adequately staffed.

Police say their prime suspect is inmate Byron Scherf, serving a life sentence after convictions for two violent rapes, including one in which the victim was bound and set on fire. He had served as a chapel volunteer after a decade of good behavior behind bars.

Scherf, 52, was found by guards outside the chapel after he missed a head count, and he told them he had tried to escape but changed his mind. Biendl's body was found about an hour later when she failed to check in at the end of her shift.

Police say there is no evidence Biendl was raped; she was fully clothed and wearing a coat when found.

Monroe prison Superintendent Scott Frakes said that on Sept. 24, an inmate put his hands on the neck of a counselor.

“He somehow inappropriately grabbed her,” Frakes told The Daily Herald of Everett.

The case was investigated as a possible fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor.

On Aug. 24, a female custodian reported being grabbed by an inmate in a maintenance department office.

Frakes said she was able to pull away from the inmate and run out of the room. She took a medical leave and recently returned to a different job, he said.

That case remains under investigation. No charges have been filed in either incident.

Monroe police say they also investigated two reported assaults on male workers at the complex last year, including one in which a guard broke his wrist after being tackled by an inmate in a unit for mentally ill offenders.

Frakes said the greatly outnumbered officers and prison staff also routinely endure such things as having feces thrown at them, being spit on and bumped into.

He said he would like the state Legislature to make such incidents crimes.

Prison guards seek assault compensation

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A few days after a state corrections officer was killed in a state prison, prison guards lobbied for a change in law that would allow them to collect money from the inmates who assault them.

Supporters of the bill say it's not about the money, but about deterrence.

Attorney Brandon L Johnson says that taking money from the inmates will limit their access to everyday foods and other goods that they are allowed to purchase in prison. Inmates who work make little money, sometimes as low as $.65 an hour.

The bill sets inmate income deductions for prison guards of 20 percent for gross wages, 15 percent from any gratuities and 20 percent from all other deposits.

Officials say that 34-year-old prison guard Jayme Biendl was killed Saturday night at Monroe Correctional Complex's chapel by a convicted rapist.