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Questions linger over prison guard's killing

Governor Chris Gregoire has ordered flags to fly at half-staff in memory of a slain prison correctional officer. Gregoire has also initiated an outside review of the murder of Officer Jayme Biendl over the weekend.

Gregoire says prisons exist to end crime and violence. But Saturday night, the prison at Monroe became a crime scene. A female officer working alone in the prison chapel was strangled to death.

Her alleged attacker is a three-strikes inmate serving life without parole for a series of abductions and rapes.

Many questions remain, including why it took more than an hour for anyone to realize Biendl was missing. Gregoire says she will ask the National Institute of Corrections to conduct an independent review of the tragedy:

"We must find out what happened at Monroe Reformatory and we must take whatever steps are necessary to prevent a future incident."

Another key question is whether Washington prisons are adequately staffed after a series of budget cuts. However, Gregoire says there have been no reductions in the custody staff at the state prison in Monroe.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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