Ex-LAPD Detective's Trial Begins Today for 1986 Murder of Her Former Boyfriend's New Bride
The controversial case against former Los Angeles police detective Stephanie Lazarus has moved ahead to the trial phase today, with the start of jury selection. Lazarus is the accused in the 1986 murder of Sherri Rasmussen, a nursing director who had recently married Lazarus' ex-boyfriend, John Ruetten.
Lazarus was arrested in 2009, after having come to a career notoriety in just the months prior as an art theft detective protégé. Her arrest so many years after the crime was due to the new availability of DNA evidence testing, and a lowered crime rate that allowed LAPD officers to work on cold cases such as Rasmussen's killing. Lazarus was ordered to stand trial later that year.
"Rasmussen was discovered by Ruetten on the floor of the town house in Van Nuys that they shared. She had three gunshot wounds to the chest and a bite mark on one arm, according to police, and the scene reflected evidence of a violent struggle," elaborate City News Service about the crime. In fact, it was saliva collected from the site of the bite mark on Rasmussen that linked Lazarus to the crime.
The LAPD was criticized for their handling of the case, in particular by Rasmussen's father, who complained that "Lazarus should have been a suspect from the outset since he told investigators that his son-in-law had been involved with a police officer who threatened his daughter."
Opening statements are expected to begin next Monday, and the trial is likely to last five to six weeks.