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Washington Corrections Officials Respond to Officer's Slaying

January 30, 2011  | 


Officer Jayme Lee Biendl was discovered unresponsive at her duty post in the sanctuary of the Monroe Correctional Complex on Saturday.

The Washington correctional officer found strangled Saturday evening in the chapel sanctuary of a medium-security prison had previously raised concerns about working alone in an area without full coverage from surveillance cameras.

Officer Jayme Lee Biendl, 34, was discovered unresponsive at her duty post in the sanctuary of the Monroe Correctional Complex, and pronounced at 10:50 p.m. Colleagues discovered she had not turned in her keys and radio.

The 5-foot-3-inch, 130-pound Biendl was apparently strangled by Byron Scherf, a "three strikes" lifer with a criminal past that included two convictions for violent attacks on women. Sherf, 52, weighs about 200 pounds.

On Monday, the state's top correctional official told POLICE Magazine the agency was well aware of Sherf's violent past and allowed him additional access privileges, because he had shown good behavior. It was one reason Sherf was transferred to the medium-security Monroe facility.

"He showed us no rule violations in the past 10 years," said Eldon Vail, secretary of the Department of Corrections. "He kept to himself. He wasn't giving us any trouble … Until Saturday night, he was a well-behaved, keep-to-himself kind of guy."

The correctional facility in Monroe, built in 1910, houses 2,400 male inmates who are mostly violent offenders, Vail said. Correctional officials are now investigating the attack on Officer Biendl, who was named officer of the year in 2008.

Several years ago, Officer Biendl had identified an inmate who concerned her, and the facility removed the inmate. So far, the facility hasn't found documentation about concerns regarding Sherf, Vail said.

"He was a frequent visitor to the chapel, so I'm sure he knew who she was, and she knew who he was," added Vail.

Union officials say the correctional officer had raised frequent concerns about working alone in the sanctuary to her supervisors.

"She was feeling unsafe about this because she's off in the chapel and oftentimes supervising lots of inmates, and she had let her supervisors know that she was not feeling safe," Tracey Thompson, secretary-treasurer for the state corrections officers union, Teamsters Local 117, tells the Seattle Times. "My understanding is there were repeated complaints."

The prison doesn't provide a sidearm or TASER to officers working inside Monroe, because the weapons could be taken away and used against them, Vail said.

"It's not generally done," Vail said. "That equipment is available, and we're not afraid to use it when we need to, but generally we don't have to."

Sherf is a twice-convicted rapist who served 12 years starting in the late 1970s for raping a young waitress, dousing her with gasoline and setting her on fire. She lived to testify against him.

Two years after his release in 1993, Sherf abducted and raped a Spokane real-estate agent who reported him to police. Sherf was ultimately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Tags: Duty Deaths, Corrections, Officer Safety, Assaults on Officers


Comments (20)

Displaying 1 - 20 of 20

Hack @ 1/31/2011 7:54 PM

The Commander or Commanders who allowed an unarmed female work in a location with violent offenders should be reprimanded if not fired... Maybe the reason why Sherf.. had no "recent" incidents was because he had not been allowed in situations where he did not have an opportunity to rape or kill another female.

SAMUEL ALLEN @ 1/31/2011 7:55 PM

THIS CREEP SHOULD BE TRIED AND GIVEN THE DEATH PENALTY. HOW MANY MORE LIVES ARE THEY GOING ALLOW HIM TO TAKE. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THEY HAVE CUTBACKS IN PRISONS. THIS IS JUST A DAM SHAME THAT THIS HAPPENED. REMEMBER WE HAVE "NO" WEAPONS BEHIND THE WALLS. MY PRAYER GO OUT TO THE FAMILY. SAMUEL j. ALLEN PA D.O.C.

Morning Eagle @ 1/31/2011 8:13 PM

With the record this POS has he shouldn't have been sentenced to life, he should have got death and it should have been carried out immediately. So he behaved behind bars for ten years? Maybe because he didn't have an opportunity before this to show his true colors. All the condolences in the world from the governor and prison officials and their public hand wringing as if they really cared, about "reviewing" prison staffing levels will not bring this young woman back and will not alleviate what she must have gone through in her final moments at the hands of this SOB nor will it take her place with her surviving family members, especially as she had expressed concern about being assigned to work alone in there. If she had time, I imagine she had some loving thoughts for whoever had ignored her concerns. What kind of clowns are running that circus anyway? Cut guard staffing due to budget and putting guards at additional hazard? How about cutting a bunch of lazy, sit on their behinds administrative staff instead? I am willing to bet there are some good candidates for that at Monroe. Hopefully the state will now the right thing and give him the death penalty. Oh, and carry it out too, not just let him file endless appeals and continue to breathe.

Ernest @ 1/31/2011 8:22 PM

The commander that allowed a CO to work in an unsafe area without the video observation or a panic/duress should be sanctioned. Not because it was a female, but because it was unsafe. The issue has nothing to do with her sex. Death of a male CO is just as wrong. The perp needs to get justice. To me, thats the needle, and soon.

Starrman69 @ 2/1/2011 2:31 AM

What a tragic end for Officer Biendl. Fact of life in custody and field situations is that the perp sizes the officer up and acts accordingly.
In close custody with limited access and secured transport a person will appear to follow rules to get more freedom. I've had several situations over the years where an inmate/arrestee looked me over before submitting to my control. This just isn't a sexual issue, but also involves size. Smaller male officers are often challenged and at times beaten or inured as the inmate escapes or is subdued by others. Please use this incident as another look at custodial considerations. Inmates are human and have various changes in their lives (that we may not know about) that turn them from compliant and passive to hostile and aggressive. Never turn your back on an inmate, never let them get close, either personally or physically. Rest In Peace Officer Biendl. Let me know if they need someone to pull the trigger, throw the switch or fill the needle for Sherf.

scpdblue @ 2/1/2011 5:10 AM

This scumbag is a murderer. I dont care if he said he found,God,Mohammad,Budda,or scene a vision of the virgin Mary in is toast. This scumbag along with any violent inmate should be breaking big rocks into little ones or digging a hole and filling it back up.Not to wander around. Murderers should be executed PERIOD.that way with murderers executed the money saved by not have to feed,medicate and watch these scumbags could be used to hire more officers..BUT no we have to wait till one of our own is murdered before someone say OH we have a problem,BS. I will say this though,I believe that male officers should be in male prisons and female officers should be in female prisons.

dano798 @ 2/1/2011 5:41 AM

Here is an excellent example of how the death penalty can be effective. If the death penalty had been applied the first time this cretin committed the violent rape and the young waitress, two other victims would have been spared. Instead he is sentenced to prison and there officals, who were well aware of Sherf's violent past, transfer him to a medium security facility and allowed him additional access privileges because of "good behavior", give me a break. Hopefully, now the state will do the right thing and eliminate this 4 times lifer from the planet. Officer Jayme Lee Biendl rest in peace.

Sky @ 2/1/2011 8:16 AM

Unfortunately absolutely nothing will happen to this human sociopath. He won't be put to death as he should be and after it's all said and done he'll still be fed and kept alive by the State. Such is our wonderful system of Justice. He should be dragged out from sleep and executed...but alas that would be uncivilized. R.I.P. Ofcr Biendl.

Carl Pentland @ 2/1/2011 9:31 AM

I am a former Corrections Captain of a Maximum Security prison. Never leave an officer especially females in a durty area where she is isolated from immediate assistance. Especially if the inmates allowed in her area of responsibility has a history of violence. He should be classified as a violent offender and his area of movement restricted. I have had many sad experiences with women working with male inmates and in my professional opinon it is way to dangerious for male officers let alone females. But equal opportunity and affirmative action trump common sense. Male inmates have no other exposure to women other than during visitation. You never know where their head is when working near or around women and they are not in prison for being compassionate human beings. I am not being sexist when I say women should not work in male prisons nor should male officers work in female prisons. This young woman was working in a facility with 2,400 male prisoners. The prison I worked in had 1450 men, many with sexual assaults with violence. You may disagree with me but, I worked inside three prisons during my career and I know what I am talking about regarding this issue. This is a horrible tragity and my heart goes out to her family and fellow officers. Someday common sense will finally be adhered to. I never allowed female officers to work alone at any time without at least one male officer in the immediate area. These officers carry no weapons or any other means to protect themselfs and assualts are frequent. I do not like the word law suit but, this young woman especially if she complained about her working conditions! Her family is going to win a major law suit for deliberate indiffference to her situation. Sad but women working in male prisons is politically correct, but disregards the safety and hazards of being allowed to do so.

BT @ 2/1/2011 9:32 AM

Eldon Vail is an idiot! So are the so-called supervisors who allowed this rapist access to anything! A violent offender in a medium security facility?? The Washington D.O.C. should be ashamed. This liberal theory of rehabilitation is tired and contrary to common sense. IT NEVER WORKS! IT NEVER WILL! I suppose Vail and the rest of these soft pencil pushing policy makers will have to, themselves, be raped or strangled before they come to their senses. To them I say, Work the field Jack#@&* before you presume to know how to handle human garbage! I dare you!

GO @ 2/1/2011 11:30 AM

I am just sick to death of all these liberal politicians, law makers and judges who feel that a pos like this guy has any rights! This guy rapes a women, sets her on fire and all he gets is 3 squares a day and free rent for the rest of his miserable life? And now this officer has given her life because of him. How many good and decent people need to suffer, not to mention the friends and family of the victims of these inhumane miserable bastards? Eldon Vail, if it's true that the union made you aware of the unsafe and compromising position that one of your officers (Biendl) was being placed in, you should at the very least have the decentcy to step down and retire. You do not deserve to hold the position in where it is ultimately your responsibility to protect your officers. You failed that officer and you deserve to live with the guilt of that. Nothing, and I mean nothing should ever be more important to you than the lives and safety of those officers who have intrusted themselves to you. If my chief ever failed us the way you have failed your people, job be damned, I would let him know and I would be damn vocal about it until he lost his job or I lost mine.

Dawn Miller @ 2/1/2011 8:55 PM

My heart goes out to Officer Biendl and her family. As a female Officer, I understand her chosen profession as well as understand the frustrations and rewards that can come along with this career. I personally have been attacked by a violent offender myself and can understand the delicate line between a good day at work and a bad one. We count our blessings each and every day we go home safely, along with our co-workers. Yes, being in this line of work is not the easiest thing in the world, not just for females, but for males as well. This is a VERY unfortunate thing to happen to this officer who dedicated her life to this profession. Knowing that this kind of thing can and does happen in these facilities when we start is a reality of the position, however it doesn't make it any easier when it does. From one officer to another, thank you for your service. Rest in Peace.

Good Karma @ 2/1/2011 10:32 PM

Perhaps they should utilize gender specific posts where only males may work alone on posts. Maybe this would have gone a different way.

brucetta @ 2/1/2011 10:44 PM

After growing up, working in a Maximum Security Prison for 27 years, 3 months and 21 days, it never ceases to amaze me at the lack of concern by those in charge vs. those that have a job to do. This sort of mismangment still goes on, everday, in Illinois Prisons. The games that are played by those appointed to be-in-charge, will forever go on and on until Managment is put under as close of scrutiny as the employees below them in rank as subjected to.... Accountability will be call "an isolated incident". This "isolated incident" comment makes my blood boil. Where was her UNION? Why was she placed on an assignment to she felt was a danger to her life. People, there are very rare case where inmates are rehabilitated. An inmate is an inmate and this particular inmate was a threat to any human that had a pulse. Death Penalty, you ask? How many States allow the Death Penalty. A famous, now incarcerated ex-governor of Illinois can tell you him opinion of the Death Penalty. Prior to leaving office and going to prison, he did away with death row and the Death Penalty. C/O's have nothing to protect themselves. No baton, no tazors, nothing. Administration even had the kahunas to take away their flashlights, since, in the event of need, could kill some poor inmate if hit in the head in the right place. My most sincere sympathies to this corageous officer that did not refuse her assignment, but instead, gave her life. I am so sorry for the loss. Brucetta Lee, retired from the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Jim Duncan @ 2/2/2011 5:41 AM

I am a 30 yr vet law enforcement officer, not a correctional officer (not being disrespectful). I would never allow such a thing; why? Because cons (especially real ones) will set a stage "in case" they want to offend. In this case the camera coverage was known to immates! and staff admin allowed this because he has been good? Ok, enough they the admin need to be prosecuted after firing all of them for man slaughter! They knowingly placed that guard in a situation whereas she took extra risks or loose her job. Also no women should ever work in a mans prison period! We took away their right to have any female companionship beyond their moms who often are the culprits for their son who is a career criminal. Also if the officers have no weapons then have mandatory boxing and ju-jitzu training I trained my whole career! I never lost a fight, not even close. It seems as if these guards are perfect victims? Very little training (in 1979 I spent 6 months in an academy! That was a little taste of all the training to come), and no perishable skills training. They truly are political pawns, who are baby cuddling these guys and now & then they kill one of the guards. You have any idea what I would of done to that man if he stepped out of line with me; when I was his guard? That is what we need! not someones daughter!

ROB ROY @ 2/3/2011 3:40 AM

This is just another example of administration and supervisor's that could care less about thier empliyee's. Every desk that this Officer's complaint's had passed should be charged with manslaugter. They wouldnt do anything to prevent this but now that it has happened they will do what they can to devert blame from themself's. In my 30 years of experience it's alway's the same story nothing will be done about an unsafe work inviroment untill someone is hurt or killed. But if it concern's one of these scum bag's safety something is done right away. Now because of the indeference of the warden, major, captain, lt, sgt, at the monroe prison unit we have lost A Sister Officer and her family has lost a Wife, Daughter, Sister, Mother and so on. We will all grieve for her and every Law Enforcement should say a prayer for her.

cappie24 @ 2/6/2011 10:18 PM

First of all a Female should not be working in any part of a correctional facility where proper camera's or back up are available. Second of all if she had reported her concerns to her supervisor she DID her job but her Supervisor neglected to do his.

OklahomaLEO @ 2/10/2011 9:09 AM

I totally agree on all this, I don't understand what's going on other than it seems to be the trend of our world. Oklahoma is currently studying avenues for punishment of all "non violent" offenders that would alleviate incarceration completely... This is absurd.. The kinder, gentler way of law enforcement/corrections IS not working for anyone but the offenders.. when will they understand this. They say we have gotten too "out of hand" in our tactics so they come up with this gentle crap like community policing. etc etc. I'm third generation law enforcement. My Dad, and grand-dads before him handled things the old way and not too excessively either. They did what needed to be done. Things will happen, but not at the rate we have been seeing this in the past years. LEO's and CO's are dying at an alarming rate.. Oh.. and AMEN on the dereliction of duties on the part of her supervisors... They dropped the ball. Rather than not do something, they should have allowed her a safer post.

austin @ 2/11/2011 7:13 AM

The command structure of the facility should be sued and replaced. When an officer feels unsafe and actually reports it, something should have been done. Why was there no monitoring? Is this a prison or a halfway house?

My condolences to her family. My advice: sue (and I think most lawsuits are a waste).

No one of note @ 5/19/2013 6:07 PM

I will admit that my corrections experience is limited to working for a year in a Colorado county jail. In that time I noticed that everywhere I worked there were cameras. What I don't understand is how, with cameras being so cheap, there wasn't an inch of space outside of shower and bathroom areas that didn't have cross coverage from several cameras. IP cameras only need a power source and a place to hang them, you don't to even run wire. I would like to hear the reasoning behind the lack of camera coverage as well as the lack of radio check-ins or a rove CO doing post checks.

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