Monroe High School students perform at the 2018 Jayme Biendl memorial run at Skykomish River Park.
Monroe High School students perform at the 2018 Jayme Biendl memorial run at Skykomish River Park.

The Sky Valley’s support of Jayme Biendl remains just as strong more than half a decade after she was killed while on duty at the Monroe Correctional Complex.

Hundreds of racers turned out to the annual memorial run Sunday morning — the day before the seventh anniversary of her death. Event cofounder Cindy Chessie said for her the annual Jayme Biendl Memorial Run serves as a reminder of the relationships made and strengthened, and work the community has done to honor the memory of a beloved friend, neighbor, coworker and sister.

Chessie has recently retired from her post as a Monroe Police sergeant. The 2018 run was the first time she attended as a former agency employee.

“It really doesn’t change anything,” she said. 

Chessie and Monroe Police Sgt. Barry Hatch participate year after year with the nearly 400 community members, Department of Corrections employees — many of whom come from around the state — law enforcement and members of Biendl’s family. Hatch was the lead detective for the investigation of Biendl’s murder by repeat rapist Byron Scherf, who strangled her in the correctional complex chapel on Jan. 29, 2011.

Hatch completed the 3.1-mile route with his wife on Sunday. Runners and walkers lined up at Skykomish River Park, traversed West Main Street, crossed through the correctional complex campus and looped back to the starting point.

His reason for coming out is to support the family, who Hatch got to know closely in the two years leading up to, and even more so during, the three-month trial. He said everyone — Biendl’s fellow employees, the inmates she interacted with and her family — described her the same way. She was caring and compassionate — all the attributes someone would want in a sister, he said.

Hatch said the community was greatly impacted by the 34-year-old’s death, in part because of the local reach of the correctional complex, which is one of the city’s biggest employers. Everyone in the area knows someone who works for the agency, he said.

‘’It’s a real strike to the gut when that happens,” he said.

Monroe Police Sgt. Brian Johnston is the Behind the Badge Foundation Board of Directors president. He said Biendl’s family requested all proceeds from the memorial run go to the Washington organization that, among other initiatives, pays for funeral costs and services to help loved ones of law enforcement killed in the line of duty.

Johnston has been involved with the foundation for about two decades. He said the memorial run continues to be a place of fellowship and healing for so many people, which is evident in the many participants, including corrections employees, law enforcement and community members, who stayed long after they crossed the finish line Sunday.

Ominous clouds, occasional showers and cold temperatures appeared to have little effect.

“In the face of tragedy, we try to find something positive,” Johnston said.

Johnston also works to pass on the Monroe Police Department’s legacy of exceptional community service and outreach. His hope is that the agency’s partnerships with Behind the Badge will continue, and the statewide organization will be going strong for generations to come.

Johnston pointed to Shaun Van Eaton, who worked at the correctional complex with Biendl, and is one of the next people taking over a leadership role. There is no quick way to summarize how her death personally impacted him. He could say anger and confusion were two of the many emotions he experienced.

He became a Monroe Police officer four years ago. This year he was one of the head organizers of the memorial run.

“Because I was asked,” he said. “There is no way in the world I wouldn’t want to help.”

Van Eaton was one of the handful of law enforcement and corrections officers who walked or ran the course in uniform. Lake Washington High School student Hunter Toyoda was the first to cross the finish line Sunday morning.

His father works at the correctional complex. He said Biendl’s story really put into perspective the risks his dad and other agency employees take.

Dave Sivewright runs each year with the hopes of inspiring that same sentiment in others. The Sultan resident can often be seen running along U.S. Highway 2 waving a massive flag with him. He is active military and was invited to attend the memorial event by his good friend Johnston years ago.

Sivewright said he wants people to experience a deeper sense of patriotism — an appreciation for their freedoms — and to understand law enforcement and corrections employees are carrying out the same protection for those rights at home in their community every day.