2 other women attacked at prison prior to officer's murder

2 other women attacked at prison prior to officer's murder »Play Video
Flowers are seen next to a photo of Jayme Biendl at a memorial outside the Monroe Correctional Complex.
SEATTLE -- It appears murdered correctional officer Jayme Biendl was not the only victim of violence at Monroe Correctional Complex.

Months before Biendl was killed at the prison, two other female workers were assaulted at the jail, according to Monroe prison superintendent Scott Franke.

Franke confirmed on Sept. 24, a female counselor was choked by an offender.

"Another female staff worker was sexually assaulted by an inmate," he said. "No form of staffing level changed."

Franke also confirmed a criminal investigation is underway into the alleged sexual assault of a female custodial employee on Aug. 24. The woman was so traumatized that she just returned to work in the last 10 days.

The two inmates accused in the attacks were segregated.

An officer who frequently worked alongside Biendl at the prison said she was not alone in her fear.

"I work with officers that just call themselves bait waiting to be attacked by an inmate," said the man who wished to remain anonymous. "We're watching over people nobody else wants to watch out for. All they're giving us is handcuffs and a radio."

The man said Biendl got along well with the inmates, and he believes some of them would have come to her rescue.

"If they knew she was in some harm. But she shouldn't have to rely upon inmates to protect her," he said.

"I am completely haunted that I couldn't be there to help out Jayme. Jayme didn't deserve this."

Former convict: Biendl didn't stand a chance

A former convict who served time at Monroe Correctional Complex said Biendl had reason to fear for her life while working in the prison's chapel.

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, Biendl didn't stand a chance working alone inside the chapel. "If she worked in the library or in the school, or in the gym, no. There would have been convicts around to stop the rapos from doing anything to her," he said.

The ex-convict said rapists like Byron Scherf, the man suspected in Biendl's murder, go to the prison's chapel to stay away from other convicts as sex offenders are often shunned within the prison walls.

"That's where they find refuge and acceptance among themselves," he said.

And according her supervisor, Biendl felt the danger while working alone in the chapel.

Boss: Biendl requested cameras inside prison chapel

Months before her death, Biendl requested surveillance cameras be placed in the prison chapel, according to an affidavit by Biendl's immediate supervisor Jimmy Fletcher. The document states Biendl submitted a work order requesting the cameras "sometime in either August or September of 2010."

"I reviewed the Work Order and placed my signature on it," Fletcher wrote, adding he then submitted it to a captain.

Fletcher said he did not hear whether the order was ultimately approved as "under normal procedure, I would not be informed."

Biendl, 35, was found dead Saturday in the prison chapel with a michophone cord around her neck. The medical examiner ruled Biendl died of asphyxia due to strangulation.

Scherf, a three-strikes inmate who volunteered at the chapel, is suspected in her death. He was found outside the chapel Saturday night after he was reported missing during a routine count.

Scherf told officers he was planning to escape by jumping the wall.

Biendl's body was not found until an hour later after she did not turn in her equipment as scheduled.

On Monday Biendl's former boyfriend said she'd requested surveillance cameras be installed inside the chapel, but the prison denied her request due to the cost of the cameras.

A union spokeswoman on Sunday said Biendl had complained about being the sole guard working in the chapel.

On Monday, Department of Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail said officials had not yet found any formal complaints Biendl had filed.

"I'm not saying they weren't made," Vail said Monday. "We haven't tracked them down yet, but we will keep looking to see if we find them."

Prison officials said Biendl had with her a radio equipped with a panic button when she was attacked, but there's no indication she used it.

Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday called for an outside investigation into Biendl's death.

"We must find out what happened. We must take whatever steps are necessary to prevent a future incident," Gregoire said at a news conference in Olympia.

Gregoire said there have been no staff reductions at Monroe Correctional Complex, but she wants to know whether the current staffing levels are adequate.