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A tragic and likely preventable prison murder in Washington is raising questions as to why an unarmed prison officer would be around a dangerous serial rapist. Byron Scherf, who is suspected in the strangling death of Jayme Biendl, is a convicted serial rapist who once poured gasoline on a woman and set her on fire.
Scherf allegedly strangled 34-year-old Jayme Biendl with a microphone cord in the process of an attempted escape from the Seattle-area prison, the Associated Press reports. Gov. Chris Gregoire and the state corrections department have called for an outside investigation. The calls come amid questions as to whether there is enough staff at the 800-inmate medium-security Monroe Correctional Complex after recent budget cuts.
Ken King, Biendl's boyfriend, said that Biendl was so punctual on her shift that "you could set your watch." He questioned why it took so long for other guards to find her when she did not return from her shift on time. "She's out there alone at this time of night with inmates in there for anything from rape to murder," said King, the Seattle Times reports.
"There's a lot of grief and sorrow, and I think there are probably pockets of anger as well," Dan Pacholke, the Department of Corrections deputy director of prisons, told Associated Press.
Despite being a serial rapist, Scherf had earned the privilege of being a chapel volunteer because of more than a decade of good behavior. However, Jayme Biendl had already complained about being the only guard working in the chapel alone, without supervisors checking on her.
The prison is now locked down as the Jayme Biendl strangulation investigation continues. The lock down may remain for the rest of the week, Pacholke said.