Prosecutors push for death penalty for corrections officer's killer

by: Lee Stoll Updated:

EVERETT, Wash. - For the first time, the family of slain corrections officer Jayme Biendl's family is speaking as prosecutors try to put her killer, Byron Scherf to death.

Biendl’s father took the stand and immediately struggled to describe how the loss has affected his family.

"This is the most difficult thing I've ever had to do,” said James Hamm. 

He told jurors his daughter loved horses, gardening and her family.  She hoped to have children of her own one day.

"The worst part is the feeling of loss just doesn't seem to go away,” said Hamm.        

Scherf is facing the death penalty for strangling the Biendl at the Monroe Corrections Facility in 2011.

The jury that convicted him on Friday of first-degree murder must now decide if he deserves death or life in prison.

Scherf was already serving a life term and his attorneys are arguing that should continue, although he would be moved to maximum security.  They say his life is worth saving.  Before the killing, he earned a high school diploma and enrolled in therapy.

"It is obvious that Byron is a damaged, broken man.  But he is not beyond redemption.  He is not evil,” said Karen Halverson, Scherf’s attorney.

Prosecutors said the programs did not work.  Scherf completed an anger management class in 1989 and was released from prison.  He raped a woman six years later.  He then took an in-custody therapy class but murdered Biendl six months later.

“There's nothing we can do except sit here helplessly grieving,” said Hamm.

Scherf has the right to make a statement at the sentencing hearing and could take the stand Tuesday.

Prosecutors expect the jury will start their deliberations Tuesday afternoon.