Top News Stories! Arrested Development!
December 19, 2011
Dept. Public Safety!
June 13, 2011
Below is a video of Officer Arturo Perez. He resigned from the Department of Public Safety shortly after the incident, rather than get fired. He was later tried for misdemeanor assault, found guilty, and sentenced to a six month suspended sentence, given a $1,300 fine, and forbidden from working in law enforcement for 10 years. As for the victim, apparently she suffered a facial fracture, a split chin, and chipped teeth, but didn't have her teeth knocked out like the headline claims.
DALLAS - (WCJB) (Dec. 10, 2010) A former Department of Public Safety trooper convicted of misdemeanor assault for using excessive force was sentenced on Thursday. Arturo Perez received a 6-month suspended sentence, probation and a $1,300 fine. Additionally, he cannot serve as a law enforcement officer for at 10 years. Perez had faced a sentence of up to a year in prison and a $4,000 fine. During the trial, prosecutors showed video of the October 2009 incident involving Perez and 22-year-old Whitney Fox. In the footage, Perez handcuffs Fox on suspicion of DWI and then slams her into a wall. Fox required treatment at a hospital for a deep gash on her chin and cuts on her knees. Defense attorneys tried to argue that Fox was not cooperating and resisted arrest. However, Perez’s former DPS supervisor testified that his actions were reckless. Perez resigned before the department could fire him. In March (2010) a grand jury no billed him on official oppression charges .
BART PD Johannes Mehserle
June 6, 2010Update
Johannes Mehserle is charged with murder in the case, as prosecutors have argued that he intended to use his gun and shoot Grant. Meanwhile, Rains has argued that his client meant to use his Taser on the resisting Grant but by accident pulled out his gun. "It's not a surprise the motions were granted, but Rains is not necessarily winning," said Darryl Stallworth (Stuart Hing's partner in crime), a former Alameda County deputy district attorney (who's a criminal just like Judge Hing and Mehserle) who now has his own criminal defense firm. While the rulings could give the jury a reason why Mehserle thought he needed to use force on Grant, the evidence presented will not discount the videos that clearly show Mehserle firing his gun into the back of an unarmed and prone Grant, the attorneys said.
Stallworth said he was not surprised that Perry allowed some of Grant's past criminal history to be presented to the jury and said it's not a certainty that the jury will believe the testimony of the defense's video expert. "Sometimes, an expert on the other side might end up helping your side," Stallworth said. "It all depends on how it is presented to the jury."
For example, Cardoza said, the jury could discount everything the expert said because he is hired by the defense to give analysis. "It depends on how the jury views the expert," Cardoza said. "To them, he could be just a hired gun coming into court to say what the defense wants him to say."
At this point, the attorneys and a jury consultant said, the important task for both deputy district attorney David Stein and Rains is to pick a jury that they believe will help them win the case. For Stein, that jury needs to be liberal and believe that police officers make mistakes, the attorneys and jury consultant said. For Rains, the jury needs to have a full trust in law enforcement, they said.
"If I was the prosecution, I would be asking people who are liberal and minorities to serve," said Howard Varinsky, an Emeryville jury consultant who has worked on a number of high-profile cases. "I would want to try to rehabilitate them and convince them that they can put their beliefs aside and be fair." Cardoza said having the case in Los Angeles will allow the prosecution to find the type of jurors it wants. "You want people who have interacted with the police before," Cardoza said. "That is why Los Angeles is a good venue for the prosecution."
Stein and Rains have spent the last three days looking through roughly 100 jury questionnaires that were given to potential jurors last week. Both will return to court Tuesday to begin asking for probative questions of the 100 residents who filled out the questionnaires before selecting 18 to serve as either the 12 members of the jury or six alternates. In looking through those questionnaires, both Stein and Rains will learn many details of each resident's life and personal beliefs, ranging from their job and education to their thoughts on gun control. Varinsky said Stein will have to pick jurors he is usually not accustomed to working with.
"The prosecution usually doesn't want minorities, as a general rule of thumb, and they don't want liberals either," he said. "They are usually fearful of those groups because the minorities might have thoughts about law enforcement from actual life experiences and the liberals are always going for the little guy." Perry has said he hopes to have a jury seated by Wednesday and have opening statements begin Thursday morning.
September 11, 2009
OAKLAND — Former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle will have to stand before a jury on a murder charge, a judge ruled Thursday, rejecting arguments from Mehserle's attorney that a previous judge erred when ruling that enough evidence was presented to push the case to a full trial. "For purposes of the preliminary hearing, the question is whether a strong suspicion of guilt exists, not whether all doubt as to guilt is eliminated," Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon wrote. "The magistrate's factual finding that defendant knowingly fired his gun is supported by the evidence presented."
Mehserle's attorney, Michael Rains, has argued that Mehserle (pictured left in handcuffs and leg irons) intended to use his Taser against Grant but pulled his gun by mistake. "(The Taser) is bright yellow and looks nothing like his service weapon," Reardon wrote. Even without witness testimony, Reardon ruled, enough evidence was presented through videos to push the case to a jury trial. "The video (see below) shows the defendant using his right hand to withdraw his service weapon at the right hip; it does not show him using his left hand to withdraw the Taser at his left hip, nor does sit show him using (his) right hand to cross his body to withdraw the taser," Reardon wrote. "Also, the video shows the officer looking down at the weapon as he tries to remove if from its holster and shows the officer extending the weapon in front of him before firing."
The Jan. 1, 2009 Murder
See: • Captain Edward Poulson, OPD(Beating Death of Suspect (2000) Promoted in 2008)
June 4, 2009
OAKLAND — Former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle must stand trial for murder in the death of Oscar Grant III, a judge declared Thursday, saying evidence presented during seven days of hearings convinced him the shooting was intentional. Grant, of Hayward, was killed during the early hours of Jan. 1 as he lay prone on the Fruitvale BART station platform with at least one arm behind his back and another officer's knee on his neck. The shooting was captured by at least a half-dozen passengers who began recording the actions of BART police officers with cell phone cameras and digital cameras because many said they believed the officers were abusing their authority.
That lack of statement from Mehserle played a role in the decision to push the case of murder to a jury, Clay said. While at least one other officer said he heard Mehserle announce his intention to Tase Grant, Clay said no one can say for sure what the 27-year-old was thinking. Without a statement from Mehserle, Clay said, the defense that it was a mistake could not be validated. But without a statement from Mehserle, Clay said he could conclude only that the former officer intended to kill Grant, especially given what another officer testified he heard Mehserle say before and after the killing. Officer Tony Pirone testified that he heard Mehserle caution him that he was going to Tase Grant before the shot fired. But after the shooting, Pirone said Mehserle told him that he thought Grant was going for a gun. Clay said those two statements were "inconsistent." If Mehserle thought Grant was going for a gun, then he is trained to respond in kind.
Clay also questioned the testimony of other BART officers as well, appearing to agree with Deputy District Attorney David Stein that their testimony exaggerated the situation on the platform in hopes of justifying their actions. And he said the BART officers who responded to the scene made matters worse by the way they treated Grant and his friends. At one point, Clay compared the BART officers to Oakland police and said if Oakland police handled the situation it would not have become as "elevated."
Clay's ruling came about a half-hour after he denied requests by Rains to continue the preliminary hearing and demanded the defense attorney end his case immediately. Clay said that the witnesses Rains wanted to call brought no relevance to the case and that the video expert he had on the witness stand had already said everything that pertained to the shooting.
"We realize that this case is not over but we are certain we will get justice whether it be God's justice or man's justice," said Cephus Johnson, Grant's uncle. "This was no accident, my nephew; my sister's son was murdered." Wanda Johnson, Grant's mother, said she was hurt and saddened by the entire incident but said she hopes the upcoming trial will prove police officers must be sensitive when responding to situations. Johnson also called on BART to take action against some of the officers who responded to the scene on New Year's Day. "BART needs to take a stand. Something needs to be done," she said.
Mehserle (pictured above left in handcuffs and leg irons) quit the BART police force shortly after the killing to avoid giving a statement to investigators and was arrested Jan. 13 in Nevada. His defense attorney chose not to have his client take the witness stand during the preliminary hearing.
"There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Mehserle intended to shoot Oscar Grant with a gun and not a Taser," Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay said. "These young men did nothing to warrant the use of deadly force."
"This case is really not about the videotapes. It boils down to the state of mind of Mr. Mehserle," Clay said. "It is clear Mr. Mehserle shot Oscar Grant. It is clear Oscar Grant was unarmed. "This argument is totally dependent on what the defendant's state of mind was "... the defendant didn't give a statement," Clay continued. "If I heard directly from the defendant, maybe I could draw these conclusions."
LAPD! Cold Case Detective
Stephanie Ilene Lazarus
Stephanie Ilene Lazarus
Posted: Posted on: May 11, 2012 - updated on: 11:21 pm, May 11, 2012
LOS ANGELES, CA — A former Los Angeles police detective was sentenced Friday to 27 years to life in prison for murdering the wife of her former lover 26 years ago. Superior Court Judge Robert Perry gave Stephanie Lazarus (pictured above, center) a term of 25 years to life for first-degree murder and an additional two years for personal use of a firearm. He said Lazarus would be credited with 1,000 days for good behavior and time already served. Her defense attorney said an appeal has been filed.
Lazarus, 52, was found guilty in March of killing Sherri Rasmussen, a nurse who was bludgeoned and shot to death in the condo she shared with her husband of three months, John Ruetten. Ruetten told the judge he still grieves. “The fact that Sherri’s death occurred because she met and married me, brings me to my knees,” he said. “I do not know … how to cope with this appalling fact.” Rasmussen’s mother, sister and widower spoke during the sentencing hearing about their pain and described the victim as a warm, caring and loving person.
Outside court, Lazarus’ brother and mother said their hearts go out to Rasmussen’s family, but they still support Lazarus and believe she did not get a fair trial. “There was never a presumption of innocence,” said Steve Lazarus. “The media got to listen to DNA and guilt for 2 1/2 years before Stephanie had her trial.” Prosecutors suggested Lazarus knew to avoid leaving other evidence such as fingerprints. The idea that saliva from a bite mark could be her undoing was inconceivable in 1986 when DNA wasn’t used as a forensic tool. Lazarus rose in the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department, becoming a detective in charge of art forgeries and thefts. Her husband attended most of the trial, along with other family members. The Rasmussen family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the LAPD and the city of Los Angeles.
Posted: 03/08/2012 05:19:31 PM EST - Updated: 03/08/2012 03:59:44 PM PST
OAKLAND, CA (WCJB) - A former Los Angeles police detective, Stephanie Lazarus, was found guilty Thursday in the 1986 murder of the wife of her former lover, John Ruetten. Victim Sherri Rasmussen was bludgeoned and shot to death in 1986 in the condo she shared with her husband of three months. Detectives initially believed two robbers who had attacked another woman in the area were to blame. But two decades later, a cold case team using DNA analysis concluded the killer was a woman and authorities began looking at Lazarus as a suspect. The first-degree murder conviction of Lazarus (pictured below, center) came after a three-week trial where the key evidence was DNA from a bite mark on the victim's arm. The case was submitted to jurors on Tuesday after intense closing arguments by both sides.
The jury heard testimony from a forensic expert who said the DNA was a match to Lazarus. Her defense attorney countered that the DNA was packaged improperly and deteriorated while stored in a coroner's freezer for two decades. He also suggested there might have been evidence tampering. Prosecutor Shannon Presby told jurors the case was based on more than just DNA. At the outset of the trial, he said it featured "a bite, a bullet, a gun barrel and a broken heart." Lazarus' gun was never found, but Presby called experts to testify that bullets fired into Rasmussen's body matched those issued to police officers in 1986.
During the trial, prosecutors focused on the relationship of Lazarus and Ruetten, who became her lover after they graduated from college. Ruetten testified that he never intended to marry Lazarus, although they were intimate for about a year. He also said she enticed him into having sex with her shortly before his wedding. "Here's the deal," he testified. "It was clear she was very upset that I was getting married and moving on." Lazarus went on to marry another policeman and adopt a daughter. She rose in the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department, becoming a detective in charge of art forgeries and thefts.
Posted: February 28, 2012 - Updated: March 4, 2012 02:09:37 PM PST
LOS ANGELES, CA — The defense rested Tuesday in the love-triangle murder trial of former Los Angeles police detective Stephanie Lazarus (pictured above, right-standing) a case dating back 26 years. Sherri Rae Rasmussen (pictured above, left-thumb) was found shot and bludgeoned to death in her condo on Feb. 24, 1986. She and John Ruetten had been married for three months. Prosecutors claim Lazarus killed her in a jealous rage over Ruetten. Ruetten had been Lazarus’ boyfriend before he married the Sherri Rae. Prosecutors have pinned their case on a (DNA) sample of saliva taken from a bite mark on the arm of victim in 1986. The evidence sat dormant until DNA analysis was done nearly 30 years later, first showing a woman was involved then linking it to Lazarus. Lazarus, 51, has pleaded not guilty. She did not testify in her own defense. In the last moments before he rested his case, her attorney put his arm around her and the two whispered. “Your honor, Ms. Lazarus rests,” he then told Superior Court Judge Robert Perry.
The courtroom was filled with spectators, including Rasmussen’s widower Ruetten. His tearful testimony about her murder was a dramatic point of the trial.
Lazarus’ lawyer ended his two-day presentation focusing on three letters that have defined the case — DNA. He suggested in questioning a witness that critical genetic evidence linking Lazarus to the murder of her romantic rival, Rasmussen was mishandled in an era before the value of DNA was known. Lazarus’ attorney, who conducted aggressive cross-examination of prosecution experts during the three-week trial, is expected to tell jurors in final arguments that the DNA sample was contaminated during the many years it was rolling around in a box in the cold case section of the police robbery-homicide division.
Lazarus’ attorney called homicide detective James Nuttall as one of his final witnesses. He was assigned to the Rasmussen murder in 2009 and case documents were transferred to him in the Van Nuys section of the Los Angeles Police Department. But he acknowledged that one piece of evidence did not reach him — the envelope containing saliva swabs from the bite mark. He identified an inventory list and said, “It appears it never made the transfer list. It should have transferred to Van Nuys and it didn’t.” After a brief court break, Nuttall said the missing piece of evidence was eventually located. Prosecutor Paul Nunez pointed out that it had already been analyzed for DNA by a forensic expert.
The judge refused to allow testimony from Jeffrey Alden Thompson, a former assistant director of the police scientific investigation division who testified outside the jury’s presence about ways in which DNA can be contaminated. He faulted those who worked on the Lazarus case for failing to write down everything they did. Judge Perry said, “I don’t think it necessarily shows the lab was deficient. They just weren’t recording it.” He also said the director did not do the work on the case.
Final arguments were scheduled for Monday, March 5, 2012.
Posted: February 25, 2012 - Updated: February 25, 2012 04:32:37 PM PST
Los Angeles, CA -- Prosecutors in the murder trial of retired Los Angeles Police Department Det. Stephanie Lazarus rested their case Friday after three weeks. Lazarus, a 25-year veteran of the LAPD who retired after her 2009 arrest, is accused of the Feb. 24, 1986, beating and shooting death of Sherri Rasmussen a 29-year-old nurse who married a man Lazarus had dated. Trial testimony included that of a former FBI criminal profiler who said the killer staged part of the crime scene in an effort to throw off investigators. The prosecution's case hinges heavily on saliva extracted from a bite mark on Sherri's arm. Experts have testified that DNA tests on the saliva prove it came from Lazarus (One last highlight from the Friday morning session; an independent lab tested the DNA from the bite mark. The prosecution’s expert told the jury there was a 1 in 1.7 sextillion chance the DNA came from someone other than Stephanie Lazarus. That’s based on the population of planet earth being 240 billion (current earth population: 7 Billion).). After grinding through weeks of detailed testimony that focused largely on DNA and other forensic evidence, prosecutors called their final witnesses on what happened to be the 26th anniversary of the killing. One of the last to take the witness stand was Mark Safarik, who spent years profiling criminals for the FBI. Prosecutors hired Safarik, who now operates a consulting firm, to analyze evidence from the crime scene.
Lazarus’ Videotaped Interrogation!
(On Tuesday morning, jurors watched the rest of Stephanie Lazarus’ videotaped interrogation. Detectives press Lazarus on whether she ever violently confronted the victim, Sherri Rasmussen at her townhouse in Los Angeles. “Did you ever duke it out with her?” she’s asked. “I don’t think so,” answers Lazarus. “That’s not sounding familiar to me at all.”
On the tape Lazarus becomes increasingly agitated. She can feel the eyes of suspicion on her. “So I fought with her so I must have killed her? That’s insane,” she tells detectives.
It isn’t long before Lazarus knows she’s got to protect herself. “If you guys are claiming I am a suspect, I’ve got a problem with that.” Within minutes, she gets up to leave. What Lazarus doesn’t know is that four other detectives are waiting outside in the hallway to arrest her. Stephanie Lazarus, the once exemplary cop, is now in cuffs.)
Prosecutors allege that Lazarus, 51 — who was 26 at the time of the killing and had joined the LAPD a few years earlier — was infatuated with John Ruetten, now 53, and driven to kill by the jealousy she felt over his decision to marry someone else. Despite repeated pleas by Sherri Rasmussen's father to police, Lazarus was not considered a suspect at the time of the killing. Rasmussen was discovered beaten and bloodied on the floor of the Van Nuys town house she shared with her new husband. She had been shot three times in the chest at close range and there was a human bite mark on one arm. Her head had been bludgeoned. Wounds on her wrists and cords on the floor indicated that she had been tied up. A thick quilt with bullet holes in it lay nearby. With Rasmussen's BMW missing and electronic equipment stacked on the floor of her home, the lead detective in the case theorized at the time that she had been killed when she came upon a burglar.
Safarik refuted that idea, saying he believed the killer had attempted to make the crime scene look like an interrupted burglary in order to confuse investigators. Safarik said Rasmussen's town house, with its alarm company sign on the door and position in clear view of other homes, was not a likely target for a burglar. Also, he said, the intruder or intruders had not ransacked any part of the town house in search of valuables and had moved only two pieces of stereo equipment from a console that included several other pieces. The decision to take the BMW, but not to fill it first with things from the house or to strip it down afterward of its valuable parts, also pointed to a faked burglary, Safarik said. "What I saw was an attempt to create an illusion," he said.
Lazarus' attorney sparred strenuously with Safarik, trying to get him to admit his theory was based on unprovable assumptions of what had occurred. Lazarus' attorney has indicated that when he begins his defense of Lazarus on Monday, he will try in part to convince jurors that the original burglary theory is a credible alternative to the story prosecutors want the jury to believe.
She became a focus of the investigation in 2009, when detectives reopened the case and interviewed family members, who mentioned the suspicions they had harbored for over two decades. A highly secretive four-month investigation ensued and culminated with undercover officers following Lazarus for weeks. The officers eventually snatched a cup from which Lazarus had been drinking after she threw it away and used it to compare her saliva to the sample from the bite. Lazarus has pleaded not guilty and has remained in custody on $10-million bail during the 2 1/2 years since her arrest.
May 27, 2010Update!
Los Angeles, CA - On Feb. 24, 1986, Sherri Rasmussen's new husband came home to their Van Nuys condominium to find his wife's badly beaten body. Rasmussen, a 29-year old nursing director, had been shot several times, and her car was missing.
Although Rasmussen’s father urged authorities to look at a female LAPD officer, his son-in-law's ex-girlfriend, in connection with the brutal killing, investigators failed to follow the lead, believing Rasmussen was a victim of a robbery.
The homicide investigation remained unresolved for 23 years until cold case detectives examined evidence once again, including DNA, and were able to find their lead suspect: LAPD Det. Stephanie Lazarus.
December 19, 2009Update!
A judge Friday set bail at $10 million for a veteran Los Angeles police detective (pictured above) accused of murdering her ex-boyfriend's wife in Van Nuys more than 23 years ago. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry cited the "strength of the prosecution's" case against Stephanie Ilene Lazarus, saying the "evidence of the defendant's participation in the killing of Sherri Rasmussen is compelling" and that there is an "obvious and clear incentive for the defendant to flee." The judge noted that Lazarus is "undoubtedly aware" that she would spend the rest of her life in prison, adding the "probability of her not appearing at trial is a near certainty."
The 49-year-old woman had been jailed without bail following her June 5 arrest for the Feb. 24, 1986, slaying of Rasmussen, a 29-year-old Glendale Adventist Medical Center nursing supervisor who was shot three times in the chest and badly beaten in her Van Nuys townhome. The judge ruled Dec. 10 there was sufficient evidence to require Lazarus to proceed to trial on the murder charge. But he determined there was "insufficient" evidence to support two special circumstance allegations -- murder while lying in wait and murder during the commission of a burglary -- under which a defendant can be held without bail (the judge is kidding).
Lazarus' attorney had been asking the judge to set bail at an amount between $300,000and $500,000, while the prosecution was asking for $5 million bail. Without the special circumstance allegations that could carry a possible death sentence, Lazarus is facing a maximum 27-year-to-life term on the murder charge and a gun use allegation. Lazarus had been a police officer for two years at the time of the slaying and been on the force for 25 years when she was arrested at the police department's downtown Los Angeles headquarters.
Lazarus -- who is married to a fellow LAPD detective and has an adopted 3-year-old daughter -- was charged June 8 with the murder charge, and was ordered the following month to give a dental impression that prosecutors sought to compare to an apparent bite mark on the victim's arm. A Los Angeles Police Department criminalist who examined a DNA sample from Lazarus and DNA from the mark on the victim's arm testified last week that they matched.
December 7, 2009Update!
LOS ANGELES -- Prosecutors have begun presenting their case against a veteran Los Angeles police detective accused in the 1986 killing of her ex-boyfriend's wife. Stephanie Lazarous, 49, (pictured left) is accused of shooting, Sherri Rasmussen, a hospital nursing director, more than 23 years ago. Lazarus dated the victim's husband, John Ruetten, for several years before the marriage, officials said. Lazarus was actually mentioned in the original case file because of her involvement with the victim's husband. She had reportedly threatened Rasmussen at the hospital where she worked and at her home. The 25-year police veteran, who handled art forgery cases, pleaded not guilty to capital murder in May. Superior Court Judge Robert Perry refused to dismiss the case against Lazarus ruling that her right to a fair trial were not violated.
During the first day of testimony for Lazarus' preliminary hearing, a former criminalist from the L.A. County Office of the Coroner testified he responded to the bloody crime scene and collected a saliva sample from a bite mark on Rasmussen. Prosecutors say the case against Lazarus focuses on a key piece of evidence: saliva collected from a bite mark left on the victim. Authorities say that DNA sample links Lazarus to the murder.
Rasmussen's body was found by her husband in the living room of their Van Nuys condominium on Feb. 24, 1986. Investigators say she had been shot three times with a .38-caliber gun, bitten and badly beaten. Police say Lazarus reported her personal .38-caliber revolver stolen from her car in Santa Monica shortly after the fatal shooting. Lazarus stated that her pistol -- which was the same caliber as the one used to kill Rasmussen -- was stolen out of her car while it was parked in Second Street. The gun was never found. Santa Monica police acknowledged the theft report, but declined to make it public, citing the ongoing murder investigation. Lazarus worked patrol duty in the San Fernando Valley when she joined the force. She was later promoted to detective and since 2006 has worked in a unit that tracks stolen art, according to police records.
The murder charge against her includes the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a burglary. Lazarus also faces a separate allegation of personal use of a handgun. She was arrested June 5, 2009 by detectives who worked across the hall from her. She has remained in custody ever since. If convicted, she could face the death penalty.
June 5, 2009
A [v]eteran Los Angeles Police Department detective was arrested today in connection with the 1986 slaying of her ex-boyfriend's wife. [Detective] Stephanie Ilene Lazarus, 49, was arrested this morning at 8 while working at Parker Center, the LAPD's downtown headquarters. Police allege that Lazarus beat and fatally shot Sherri Rae Rasmussen, a hospital nursing director, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Rasmussen (pictured left) was found badly beaten and shot by her husband in the living room of the couple's Van Nuys condominium on Feb. 24, 1986. Shortly after the slaying, two men robbed another woman in the area at gun point and homicide detectives came to believe the pair had killed Rasmussen when she came upon them burglarizing her home, according to news reports. Rasmussen's parents, newspapers reported, offered a $10,000 reward for the men's capture. The search for the two men led nowhere. Like thousands of other homicides from the period, the case remained open and was left to collect dust on department storage shelves as detectives struggled to keep pace with L.A.'s dramatic surge in murders and violent crimes.
But with homicides in the city falling to historic lows, LAPD detectives have had unusual freedom in recent months to revisit cold cases. Detectives returned to the Rasmussen killing, testing DNA material allegedly left by the killer. The tests showed that it belonged to a woman, disproving the theory that the victim had been killed by a man.
The original case file, Beck said, contained a reference to Lazarus , who was known at the time to have had a romantic relationship with the victim's husband, John Ruetten. When suspicion fell on an LAPD cop, the case took on sensitive and explosive tones inside the LAPD. Only a small circle of detectives and high-ranking officials were made aware of the investigation, in order to minimize the chances that word would leak to Lazarus that the Rasmussen case had been reopened.
Last week, undercover officers surreptitiously trailed Lazarus as she did errands one day, waiting until she discarded a coffee cup, straw or something else with her saliva on it, Beck said. Her saliva sample was sent to a lab for comparison with DNA evidence Rasmussen's killer left at the crime scene. The genetic code in the two samples matched conclusively, police allege.
Lazarus was not pursued as a suspect at the time of Rasmussen's slaying, police said. There is no indication that any other active or retired LAPD officer knew about Lazarus's alleged role in the killing, Beck said. Lazarus joined the department in 1983, LAPD records show. After several years as a rank-and-file patrol officer in the San Fernando Valley, she was promoted to detective and, in 2006, won a high-profile assignment to a unit dedicated to tracking stolen artwork. There are references in department publications to Lazarus earning commendation from the public for her work.
She hardly shunned the spotlight. In a recent LA Weekly article profiling Lazarus and her partner, Don Hrycyk, she joked that all she knew about art was that it "hangs on the wall," and added, "after working here and seeing all the phony art, I said, 'I can do that.' " Lazarus, who has an adopted 5-year-old daughter, according to Beck, told the magazine that she had started taking oil-painting classes and had first become interested in art when she visited Europe as a teenager. Last year, she gave interviews to reporters after helping to capture two men convicted of a string of thefts of bronze statues and sculptures in the Wilshire area and in Beverly Hills.
February 24, 1986
An official at Glendale Adventist Medical Center said "an important part of the team" was lost when a key nursing director was shot and killed this week in her Van Nuys apartment. Los Angeles homicide detectives on Wednesday were searching for suspects in the Monday morning death of Sherri Rae Rasmussen, 29. Police said they believe Rasmussen was killed when she surprised one or more intruders who beat her and shot her once before stealing her car. Investigators also were searching for the car, a silver two-door, 1985 BMW 318i with the license plate 1MJK850. The body was discovered by her husband, John, when he returned home from work about 6 p.m. Monday, police said. The couple had been married three months, according to hospital officials. Hospital spokesman Ken Rozell said Rasmussen had taken a day off work because she had injured her back while doing aerobic exercises. Rasmussen had been director of nursing of the hospital's 150-bed critical care and surgical units for two years. Althea Kennedy, vice president of nursing, said: "I can't imagine not working with her. She was such an important part of the team."
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