Washington Prison Officials Knew Scherf Was Threat - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Washington Prison Officials Knew Scherf Was Threat

KIROTV.COMNot long after he arrived at the Monroe prison complex nearly a decade ago, Byron Scherf was the focus of state corrections department warnings that today read like terrible prophecy.

The convicted rapist, now charged with the Jan. 29 strangling of Monroe corrections officer Jayme Biendl, was then about four years into serving a life sentence without possibility of release.

He was being closely watched after threatening to kill himself over the conditions of his confinement. "Staff are concerned that his next victim could be a staff person," one corrections worker wrote June 1, 2001, in the running log state prison officials have kept on Scherf's behavior since the mid-1990s.

Another log entry from that period probed Scherf's mental problems, and the risk he appeared to pose behind bars.

Scherf "will likely be a `model inmate' but he will always be a danger to female staff and, as he agreed, we cannot know if he is having (rape) fantasies or problems; there are no outward signs. "At this time (Scherf) is completely appropriate, friendly, patient and polite," the log entry continued."

It is also these traits that could make him such a risk in the future as he is so agreeable. His positive actions and attitude should be encouraged, but he should always be seen as potentially predatory and dangerous."

Scherf is charged with aggravated murder and could face the death penalty for Biendl's slaying. The inmate allegedly has admitted killing the corrections officer while she worked alone at the prison chapel, a place where he had volunteered for years.

Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail last week said he's ordered a review across the prison system to see if there are other inmates with violent histories similar to Scherf's who have found their way into positions of trust.

The state's prisons house 16,000 offenders. Roughly 1 in 4 are serving sentences of at least 20 years. Among male inmates, 70 percent are locked up for violent crimes.

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