Lazarus Sentenced for 27 Years

by tylercook on May 22, 2012

  • Sharebar

Stephanie Lazarus, a former detective with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), was sentenced for murdering the wife of an ex-boyfriend in 1986. On Friday, May 11, a California judge sentenced Lazarus for 27 years to life for killing Sherri Rae Rasmussen in a jealous rage. This sentence, which includes credit for time served, was the maximum available under California law. She may be eligible for parole in 22 years.

First-Degree Murder Conviction

In March, a jury convicted Lazarus of first-degree murder for killing Rasmussen. Rasmussen was the director of nursing at Glendale Adventist Medical Center. She was only 29 years old at the time of her death.

Several years before the murder, Lazarus and John Ruetten dated briefly. Prosecutors argued that Lazarus flew into a jealous rage after Ruetten married Rasmussen. The couple had been married for only three months when Rasmussen was killed.

Rasmussen was found by her husband when he returned home from work on February 24, 1986. She was brutally beaten and had been shot in the chest three times. She also had a bite mark on her arm that turned out to provide key evidence that linked Lazarus to the murder. The case had gone cold for years, but was reopened in 2009 when DNA from the bite mark was found to match the detective’s DNA.

At the time of the murder, Lazarus had been employed by the LAPD for just two years. Lazarus continued to work as a detective with the LAPD, eventually specializing in art theft. Lazarus was not considered a suspect in the murder until DNA evidence linked her to the crime in 2009.

DNA Evidence Implicated Lazarus

Although Rasmussen’s family had long argued that Lazarus needed to be investigated as a suspect, Lazarus was not initially a suspect in Rasmussen’s killing. At the time, detectives suspected that two robbers who had attacked a woman in a nearby house were to blame.

The killer had not left any fingerprints or other incriminating evidence at the crime scene. However, the investigators had been able to obtain DNA evidence from the bite mark left on Rasmussen’s arm. Although the DNA analysis technology available at the time was inadequate to identify a suspect, investigators had obtained a saliva sample from the bite mark. The sample had been preserved in an evidence freezer, and detectives were able to compare DNA from the sample to a recent sample of saliva obtained from Lazarus.

When further analysis of the DNA showed that it came from a female, the case was reopened and Lazarus became the prime suspect. However, investigators lacked sufficient evidence to connect her to the scene. Undercover detectives followed Lazarus and retrieved a can of soda she had thrown away. The DNA on the soda can turned out to be a match for the DNA found on the bite mark on Rasmussen’s arm, linking Lazarus to the crime for the first time. In 2009, Lazarus was arrested for killing Rasmussen.

Lazarus Used Her Police Training to Thwart Investigation

Prosecutors argued that Lazarus had misused her police training to commit the murder and to cover her tracks. Lazarus had staged the crime scene to appear as if Rasmussen had been killed during an attempted burglary. She did not leave any fingerprints or other evidence that could be used to link her to the crime. Because of her training as a detective, she was able to use her skills and knowledge to mislead investigators.

Defense attorney Mark Overland argued that the evidence had been mishandled and was not preserved properly. He is planning to appeal the case.

The victim’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the LAPD.

About the Author

Written by Tyler Cook, who is always amazed by the sudden violence that some humans are capable of. Reminded of his own mortality, Mr. Cook recently reviewed life insurance quotes online.




Latest posts by tylercook (see all)

No related posts.

Previous post:

Next post: