Trial begins for Monroe inmate accused of killing corrections officer

by: James Schugel Updated:

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. - After more than two long years, the trial of Monroe inmate Byron Scherf started Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Scherf stalked corrections officer Jayme Biendl before choking her to death in a chapel. 

Prison officers testified there were signs that something was wrong that Saturday night in January 2011, when Scherf was missing at Monroe Corrections Complex. They later found him sitting alone in a section of the prison chapel.

 “I had noticed he had some spots of blood on the back of his collar,” said one of the officers during the trial today. 

Jurors saw pictures of that blood-stained shirt, along with a blood-stained jacket Scherf was wearing. 

“He said it was because of a fight with another offender,” said another officer.

But prison officers also testified that they never opened the chapel door after finding Scherf, which was the spot where Biendl was found dead. 

The attack wasn’t caught on camera, but part of it was caught on audio tape.  

Jurors heard it for the first time, which sounded like a high-pitched sound on a radio channel.  It was similar to a scream and was likely Biendl’s last words as prosecutors said she fought for her life.

“He came up behind her, and I came around the piano, and I grabbed her, and he wrestled her to the ground,” said Paul Stern, the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney.  “And he is choking her, has her hands around her, and she's fighting." 

Prosecutors said Scherf planned the attack in the chapel because it had no surveillance cameras. And he waited until other inmates had left the gathering, which included a band. 

"And while he decided that was the day she was going to die, she wasn't prepared (to die) and she fought,” said Stern. 

Prosecutors said Scherf took an amplifier cord the band left behind, and he wrapped it around Biendl’s neck.

“And he pulled it, and he pulled it until she was dead,” Stern told jurors.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Scherf could get the death penalty.