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Sunday, April 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Inmate suspected in guard’s death is Spokane-area rapist

1995 rape of real estate agent brought life sentence

By From Staff And Wire Reports

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.”

The corrections complex houses maximum-, medium- and minimum-security inmates. Scherf was serving in medium security. Officers do not carry weapons on duty at the Monroe facility.

Prison Superintendent Scott Frakes said he was unaware Biendl had concerns about security.

Frakes also said that Monroe police do not believe Biendl had been sexually assaulted; she was still in her clothing, with no visible signs of sexual assault. The Snohomish County medical examiner will make that determination.

Scherf was reported missing during a routine count at 9:14 p.m. Saturday. He was found three minutes later in the chapel lobby and authorities say he told officers he had planned to escape.

An hour later at shift change, staff members saw that Biendl hadn’t turned in her keys and radio, so they went to the chapel. Staff found her unresponsive, performed CPR and called 911.

Emergency responders were called and Biendl was declared dead at 10:49 p.m. She had been strangled with a microphone cord.

The prison was in lockdown on Sunday as law enforcement officers investigated the killing.

Department of Corrections spokesman Chad Lewis confirmed Scherf was the suspect. Scherf was sentenced in 1997 by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Neal Rielly to a life sentence without chance of parole after a three-day, nonjury trial in which he was convicted of the kidnapping and rape two years earlier of a 37-year-old woman near Spangle.

The Eastern Washington University student had found the woman’s picture in a Spokane Realtors catalog and lured her by saying he was interested in looking at a home for sale between Spangle and Cheney.

Once inside the home, he forced her at gunpoint into the trunk of his car and drove her to a location near Spangle, where he raped her and threatened to kill her and her daughter if she reported the attack.

He was arrested several days later in Post Falls while driving under the influence of LSD. Labeled a “persistent offender,” Scherf became the fifth person in Spokane County to be locked away under the three-strikes law.

Scherf appealed the conviction, which was upheld by the state Court of Appeals. Scherf claimed the officers who arrested him illegally seized a notebook in which he described the rape two days earlier. The appeals court ruled the officers were correct to seize the notebook after they looked in it “to find a friend or family member who could assist Mr. Scherf.”

In 1978, Scherf was convicted of second-degree assault in Pierce County and paroled after serving two years of a 10-year sentence.

In 1981, he was convicted of raping a Pierce County woman before dousing her with gasoline and setting her on fire. The woman escaped by wriggling, bound, through a second-story window.

After being married while in prison, Scherf was paroled in 1993, according to The Spokesman-Review.

Despite violations of his parole, which included possession of pornography and public masturbation, the state maintained that Scherf “was in substantial compliance” with the terms of his parole and remained free until the 1995 rape of the real estate agent.

“I don’t forgive you,” the victim said at Scherf’s sentencing hearing. “I feel like I’ve gone through hell, but I also feel like a hero” knowing that “he won’t hurt or maybe kill anyone else.”

Biendl’s death is the first killing of a corrections officer at Monroe and the first of a corrections officer in a state prison since 1979.

“We have a lot of rattled staff members, a lot of tears,” Lewis told The Spokesman-Review. “It hit them hard.”

Spokesman-Review staff writer Kevin Graman, the Seattle Times and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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