It apparently took an hour and a half from the time that a violent inmate strangled Department of Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl to death with a microphone cord to the time that other guards found her body on Saturday night. Such seeming lack of attentiveness appears to mesh with other reports that the guard had repeatedly complained to her superiors about being left alone with prisoners at the Monroe Correctional Complex Chapel where she was found dead.
The principal suspect--one Byron Scherf--is a "three-strikes" convicted rapist (one rape included dousing his victim with lighter fluid and setting her ablaze) serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole. He had come to the prison with the highest security-threat classification available. But, through good behavior, he'd been allowed to attend the sparsely-monitored chapel services.
It's not the first time that Scherf has been given a chance to do right, but seemingly only proven to be a dyed-in-the-wool scumbag.
A 1998 article in the Spokesman-Review chronicles the lax supervision given to the state's sex offenders, including Mr. Scherf.
"He came in and talked to me," says Spokane police Detective Jerry Keller, the sex-crimes officer who assigned Scherf his level. "Even though he had a hideous crime in Tacoma, everybody came to bat for him. They called him a model sex offender, a model inmate."
[But] in October 1995, he abducted and raped real-estate agent Barbara Bell, after making an appointment with her to see a home. This time he got life in prison without parole.
As for Biendl, she seems to have been every bit the model CO. She was Officer of the Year for the Monroe facility in 2008 and often led religious services at the chapel where she would later die.
According to representatives from her workers' union, on several occasions she complained that her colleagues didn't check up on her enough, even though she worked in isolation at the chapel, grossly outnumbered by violent convicts.
She also complained about the chapel's video surveillance--or lack thereof. And sure enough, no video footage of the crime was available because cameras apparently don't monitor the "main part" of the chapel.
Claims that the chapel was understaffed due to budget cuts don't hold water either, as DOC Secretary Eldon Vail tells the Times that that facility has only been staffed by one officer for "a long, long time," and that "it hasn't been affected by the staffing cuts."
Whatever it was affected by, the fact that a guard can be killed by a inmate and 90 minutes go by before anyone knows about it seems to suggest some glaring incompetence.