Day one of the Byron Scherf death penalty trial began with the murder weapon, an amplifier cord left behind after a performance inside the chapel at the Monroe Prison. Scherf wrapped it around the throat of decorated corrections officer Jayme Beindl three times, and strangled her as she struggle in vain to survive.
Scherf confessed to the January 2011 killing.
“It was that man,” said Deputy Prosecutor Paul Stern, pointing at Scherf, “who decided this was going to be the day Jayme Biendl was gonna die.”
Biendl was ambushed by Scherf, who said he snapped after she made a comment about his wife earlier in the day. In a strange move by the defense, Scherf’s attorneys showed graphic photos of Biendl’s battered body after the attack.
Family members could do nothing but close their eyes, plug their ears and wipe away tears, as Scherf sat expressionless.
With little up for speculation in the case, opening arguments came down to whether Scherf acted with premeditation. Stern says Scherf’s confession makes it clear that he originally planned to beat Biendl up in the chapel, the only place on prison grounds without a surveillance camera.
As the day wore on, however, he grew more furious, said Stern. In his taped confession, Scherf said the comment about his wife was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
As his anger burned, Stern said Scherf made the decision to murder the corrections officer, making sure no one was around in the chapel, and buying time to end up alone with her.
Scherf’s lawyer, Jon Scott, said the serial rapist and lifer was remorseful for what he did, asking for a Bible and urging authorities to put him to death.
“Mr. Scherf is a religious man, despite what you’ve heard about him. It’s something he struggles with. He felt strongly enough to say, ‘the Bible says if I take a life, my life should be forfeited.’”
Then came something no one was completely prepared for.
As she tried to fight off her killer, Biendl was able to key the microphone on her communications radio. The transmission is only a half second long, which is why it went unnoticed by her coworkers until it was too late. Scherf was able to rip the radio away and continue his assault.
For a brief moment jurors heard a horrific scream. Biendl was clearly fighting for her life - a moment in time that speaks volumes about what she endured in her final moments.
Those family members who didn’t block their ears jumped as the scream was played. But Byron Scherf showed no emotion whatsoever in the courtroom. As Scherf’s attorneys fought for his life, the Biendl family relived her death in the most painful and public way.