According to CNN 34-year old Jayme Biendl was found strangled at the Washington state prison where she worked as a correctional officer late Saturday. Workers found her body after noticing that both her radio and keys were missing at the end of the shift which led to them going to the area she worked in. A little before 11 o’clock that night she was declared dead by emergency responders.
A routine count that night turned up a missing prison inmate, Byron Scherf, who was found later in the lobby of the chapel where Biendl’s body was found. The inmate had reportedly planned an escape attempt but later decided against it. Scherf, 52, is now in segregation and being questioned as a suspect in the correctional officer’s death.
Biendl was found with the cord of a microphone still wrapped around her neck in the chapel of the Monroe Correctional Complex. Biendl led the facilities religious programs and had previously voiced concern over being the only guard in the area. Chad Lewis, the spokesman for the Department of Corrections, has said that this is the first murder of a guard in the facility’s hundred year history.
Sunday night supporters and officers formed a group at the entrance of the prison to hold a candlelight vigil to the memory of Biendl. Byron Scherf, the only suspect at this time was already serving life without parole for a 1997 kidnapping and rape charge. Scherf was a chapel volunteer.
At the time she was attacked Beindl was unarmed and alone which is normal for several of the facility’s officers. The shift she worked ended at ten that night, when she did not report and her equipment was not turned in members of staff when to look for her. She was not responding when they found her.
Beindl had worked for the Corrections Department since 2002. The recent staff reductions brought about by budget cuts had left members of the union concerned about safety. The suspect in the officer’s death started out in maximum security but managed to move to medium security with good behavior. The prison’s last infraction was during 2001 when he attempted suicide.
Scheft was moved to solitary confinement and the prison was locked down for the investigation into the incident; he is still in medium security at the facilty. The governor has asked for a review of the Monroe complex’s safety since the incident.