Byron Scherf
Jurors in Everett will decide if Byron Scherf will be put to death or receive life in prison. (KIRO Radio/Tim Haeck)

Tearful testimony from father of murdered prison officer

Byron Scherf has one last chance to convince a jury in Everett that his life should be spared, even though the Monroe inmate murdered a guard in the prison chapel.

The convicted rapist and murderer will have to somehow overcome the testimony of James Hamm, the father of Officer Jayme Biendl.

"I can't believe that I'm here before you today."

Hamm struggled to read a statement about how the murder of his oldest daughter has impacted the family.

"Aside from Jayme's funeral, this is the most difficult thing I've ever had to do."

Hamm said Biendl was the cornerstone of the family and wanted to teach her nephews about horses and share her life experiences.

"Her oldest nephew was six when she died. She did not have time to do those things that she wanted to do in her life or the lives of her nephews. To this day they still ask about their aunt Jayme."

Hamm said it's hard for him to even drive through Monroe because of the prison and what happened.

Scherf's defense attorney conceded that Scherf failed as a human being on the outside, but was trying to do well in prison.

"Byron was always trying to improve himself, always trying to do what he could to be the best person he could be," said defense attorney Karen Halvorson.

She said Scherf got an education and accepted therapy and treatment for substance abuse and anger management. Even the former superintendent at Monroe had to concede that Scherf had a "very good" prison record.

"It is obvious that Byron is a damaged, broken man, but he is not beyond redemption. He is not evil," said Halvorson.

The defense argues that security failures at the Monroe prison that led to discipline and several firings, might have contributed to the murder of Biendl in January 2011. All these things, she hopes, will convince the jury to spare Scherf's life. Before the penalty phase of this trial is over, jurors will hear an appeal from Scherf himself.

Scherf has already admitted to strangling Biendl. He refused to explain what Biendl said to him to set him off, but said it was the final straw "of years and years of crap."

The former prison superintendent described the new restrictions Scherf would endure if the jury gives him life in prison.


KIRO Radio Staff, Staff report
Straight from the newsdesk.
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