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Female Art Theft Detective Arrested for Cold Case Murder

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>Photo by VeryBadLady via Flickr

>Photo by VeryBadLady via Flickr
LAPD detective Stephanie Lazarus, who was profiled on the side as an art theft detective protégée in the LA Weekly's People Issue this year, was arrested this this morning for the 1986 murder of ex-boyfriend's wife, who was beaten and fatally shot.Back then, the case led nowhere, but two things today contributed to finding the alleged killer. One is the advancement of DNA and when it was tested recently, it showed it was from a female, not a man as they expected. Two, the lower murder rate apparently is allowing for detective to focus on cold cases. When they opened up the case of Sherri Rae Rasmussen, a hospital nursing director in Glendale, they saw that their own detective Lazarus was connected via her ex-boyfriend and with female DNA in the picture, they were on to something, the LA Times explains:

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 joined the LAPD in 1983 and worked as a rank-and-file officer in the Valley until 2006 when she was promoted to detective working on stolen art cases. She has an adopted 5-year-old daughter.