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MONROE, Wash. - A female officer was found dead in the chapel at the Monroe Correctional Complex on Saturday night.

Officer Jayme Biendl, 34, of Granite Falls, was an eight-year veteran at Monroe and was the 2008 officer of the year.

It's believed that she was strangled by Byron Scherf, a three strikes inmate serving a life sentence for rape and assault.

This is the saddest day of my career, said Superintendent Scott Frakes.

Frakes says Biendl was solely in charge of securing the chapel. After service Saturday night, at about 9:14 p.m., the inmates were counted in their cells. Scherf was missing.

Three minutes later, at 9:17, Scherf was found in the chapel lobby. He said he was trying to escape.

It wasn't until 10:25 p.m. that Biendl's bodywas discoveredinside the chapel.

We're trying to determine what is it about our processes to not immediately say where is Officer Biendl? said Frakes.

One ofBiendl's friends said sheoften talked about being overwhelmed in the chapel.

I just can't see how you can have someone working alone as isolated as she was, he said.

Brian Hasenyager, who lived across the street from Biendl in Granite Fallsand also works as a corrections officer in Monroe, echoed those concerns.

She complained to me about the fact that she's on a single post by herself, Hasenyager said.

The superintendent says Biendl was not armed. He says she never talked about feeling unsafe.

The only thing she would consistently say to me is that she had a lot of ground to cover, he said.

Union Secretary Tracey Thompson believes this is a wake-up call for the Department of Corrections. She says the DOC could have prevented this.

It's getting more and more unsafe, with reductions in staffing, freezes on hiring, it's becoming a ridiculously unsafe place, she said.

Hasenyager learned about Biendl's death when he arrived at work Sunday morning.

She fought for her life in prison, he said. From what I heard, the convict had bite marks and scratch marks up and down his arms.

Gov. Chris Gregoire issued a statement Sunday saying she had asked Department of Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail to thoroughly review the incident and look at the safeguards in place at the Monroe complex.

This young woman was devoted to an agency that works around the clock to ensure our communities are safe, which makes her death all the more tragic. I ask all Washingtonians to join me in keeping her loved ones in our thoughts and prayers, Gregoire said.

Hasenyager called Biendl the best neighbor he ever had. She was an excellent cook, he said. She'd cook too much and invite me over for dinner.

Scherfhas been isolated in a segregation unit. Hehas not made a statement and has asked for a lawyer.

Memorials

WAStateC.O.P.S. says Teamsters Local 117 is setting up a memorial fund for donations in support of Biendl s family.

Cards to the family or Dept. of Corrections may be sent to:
Family of Officer Jayme Lee Biendl
C/O Teamsters Local 117
14675 Interurban Avenue, South, Suite 307
Tukwila, WA 98168

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