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Originally published February 1, 2011 at 4:23 PM | Page modified February 2, 2011 at 8:07 AM

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Suspect in corrections officer's death had scratches, bites, bloody clothes

Investigators found bite marks and scratches on the hands and body of the man suspected of strangling a Monroe corrections officer and are looking into whether she died fighting off a sexual assault, according to court documents filed Tuesday afternoon.

Seattle Times staff reporter

How to help

Two memorial funds have been set up to help offset funeral expenses and to assist Jayme Biendl's family. Donations for Teamsters Local 117's fund may be made at any Bank of America or sent to the Teamsters at 14675 Interurban Ave., Suite 307, Tukwila, 98168.

Donations to an account set up by the memorial planning team may be made at any Union Bank.

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Investigators found bite marks and scratches on the hands and body of the man suspected of strangling a Monroe corrections officer and are looking into whether she died fighting off a sexual assault, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

Detectives also found blood droplets on Byron Scherf's clothing and his hands, and bright red marks on his hands "consistent with ligature marks" not long after the body of officer Jayme Biendl was found with a microphone cord wrapped around her neck, according to a search warrant filed Tuesday by Monroe police Detective Spencer Robinson.

As detectives and medical personnel examined Scherf after the attack, they also found on his right buttock scratch marks that were unlikely to have occurred through his heavy denim, prison-issued pants. He told investigators he was unsure how he received the scratches, but they believe his pants had to have been down to receive such marks.

Scherf refused to let investigators examine his pelvic region until a second, more specific search warrant was issued, the records show.

Scherf, 52, is the chief suspect in Saturday night's slaying of Biendl, 34. He is serving a life sentence after being convicted of three rapes since age 19.

"I'm sorry"

Two corrections officers said that, while the search warrant was being served, Scherf told them, with tears in his eyes, "I'm sorry. I just wanted to say I'm sorry for what happened." He then asked a nurse to give him a tetanus shot because he had been bitten, the records say.

Monroe police say there is no evidence that Biendl had been raped.

"She was fully clothed when she was found. She even had her coat on," which was removed by other corrections officers when they attempted to resuscitate Biendl, Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.

In addition to Scherf's bloody clothing, investigators took samples of his hair and fingernails, as well as swabs from his hands and arms. He was moved Tuesday from the Monroe prison to the Snohomish County Jail.

Scherf had hidden under a table in the chapel before the attack, according to the court documents. Biendl routinely closed the chapel at 8:30 p.m., and Scherf wasn't found in the chapel foyer until 9:14 p.m., after officers noticed he was missing during a mandatory head count.

He told officers, "I've had it; I plan to escape," according to the court documents. Officers saw blood droplets on Scherf's clothing, but he said he had been in a fight with other inmates.

Officers believed the incident was over after Scherf was taken back into custody.

It wasn't until 10:18 p.m. that Biendl's body was found on a stage in the chapel, after officers realized she hadn't turned in her radio and handcuffs at the end of her shift. Blood was on her face.

Biendl's radio was last activated at 8:28 p.m., but there was no communication, Willis said. The radio was found in three pieces, with a cord disconnected from the mouthpiece and the body of the radio, Monroe police said Monday.

Work order in question

Biendl's death has sparked debate about officer safety inside state prisons, especially in areas where officers worked alone — as Biendl did in the chapel at the Monroe complex. According to her union, Biendl had complained about feeling unsafe and had submitted a work order requesting additional security cameras inside the chapel.

Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Eldon Vail said in a Tuesday news release that his department has found no record of the work order. But in a sworn affidavit released Tuesday, DOC Sgt. Jimmy Fletcher said he signed Biendl's work order in August or September and placed it in a mailbox for Capt. Bryan Hardina.

"Under normal procedure, I would not be informed about whether the work order was ultimately approved or not, and I did not hear anything more about this work order after I put it in Captain Hardina's box," Fletcher's affidavit says.

In the DOC news release, Vail acknowledged the department received a copy of Fletcher's affidavit Monday.

"We will include this in our internal investigation that will begin immediately after local police complete their criminal investigation," Vail said of Fletcher's affidavit.

The DOC news release went on to say: "At the request of local authorities, we cannot begin our investigation of the incident until law enforcement completes theirs. We must not do or say anything that could possibly impact the ongoing criminal investigation."

Inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex have been on lockdown since Biendl's slaying. The lockdown will continue through Thursday, according to the DOC.

"Sadness and anger"

Biendl's family members again declined to speak with the media Tuesday.

As relatives waited outside in a car, police on Tuesday went through her small yellow house on Engebretsen Road in Granite Falls as part of the investigation into her death. Down the road where her boyfriend, Larry Heiser, lives, a friend was unloading firewood.

"Everyone around here knows Jayme," said the friend, who would not give his name. "She's nice, friendly, a super girl. Trusting."

Friends gathered Monday night outside the weathered barn where Biendl kept her horses to mourn her loss and leave flowers, balloons and notes.

Outside the prison Tuesday, employees set up a table with flowers, candles, cards and remembrances. Some of her shift employees gathered there in the afternoon to hug and mourn.

"We spent time together. We talked, hugged each other and cried," said Sally Neiland, a program director at one of the other centers in the prison compound. "I've been talking with the others. There's sadness and anger and just trying to look at how it could have been avoided."

A sign at a coffee stand across the street said, "We'll miss you, Officer Biendl."

In Granite Falls, home to a number of employees who commute to the prison, Biendl's death shocked many. Biendl grew up there on the Mountain Loop Highway on a parcel of land ringed by forest and the stumps of old-growth timber. Cranberry Creek runs into the Stillaguamish River nearby, and a friend says Biendl loved to swim in the river.

Representatives from Monroe police, the DOC and other law-enforcement agencies are planning a memorial service.

Everett police Sgt. Robert Goetz said in a news release that the time and location will be announced around midday Wednesday.

Seattle Times reporters Sara Jean Green and Jonathan Martin contributed to this report.

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com

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