'He’s not evil' - Byron Scherf’s attorneys fight for his life

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 13, 2013 at 5:56 PM

Updated Monday, May 13 at 6:00 PM

Clean cut and bespectacled, Byron Scherf looks bookish, almost meek, but inside him lurks a monster.  Scherf ambushed and strangled corrections officer Jayme Biendl in the Monroe Prison chapel two years ago.

On day one of the sentencing phase of his death penalty trial, Biendl’s dad struggled to describe the hell his family has endured.

“She desperately wanted children and a family of her own,” said James Hamm, choking back tears. “The worst part is that the feeling of loss doesn't seem to go away. It's with me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Byron Scherf has been out of prison just 26 months in the past 35 years. When he was 19 years old he picked up a 16-year-old hitchhiker, cut off her shirt and threatened her with a knife. In 1981, he stalked, kidnapped and raped a Pierce County waitress before setting her on fire. She survived. After being released for that crime, he lured a Spokane real estate agent to a home, forced her into the trunk of his car and raped her while armed with a knife and rifle.

Scherf’s lawyer, however, says her client doesn't deserve to die.

“It is obvious that Byron is a damaged, broken man,” said Karen Halverson to jurors. “But he is not beyond redemption. He is not evil.”

The defense paints Scherf as a model inmate, a religious man who snapped after decades of serving time. Others believe that anything less than death for killing Jayme Biendl would amount to a free pass for a man already serving life without parole. Her father says the family is already serving a life sentence of their own.

“She was the cornerstone of our family, and now she's gone.”

Testimony is expected to conclude Tuesday with jurors then deciding whether Scherf should be executed for his crime.

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