Former LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus Found Guilty For 1986 Murder of Ex-Boyfriend's New Wife
Former Los Angeles Police Department Detective Stephanie Lazarus has been found guilty in the 1986 murder of Sherri Rasmussen, a nursing director who had recently married Lazarus' ex-boyfriend, John Ruetten.
The guilty verdict was delivered today following three days of jury deliberation.
Lazarus, now 51, shot Rasmussen three times in the chest the night of February 24, 1986, a mere three months after Rasmussen and Ruetten wed. During the trial, Ruetten testified that while he and Lazarus were involved in a sexual relationship, he dated other women and had not thought of her as his exclusive girlfriend.
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.
At the direction of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry, jurors were given the option to select between acquittal, first-degree murder, or second-degree murder, when this morning the foreman expressed confusion about the charge, explains City News Service. About an hour after Perry's instructions, the verdict was returned; the jury opted for first-degree murder.
Lazarus will be sentenced May 4.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck commented on today's verdict via a news release:
“This case was a tragedy on every level. Not only did the family of Sherri Rasmussen lose a wife and a daughter, a life that can never be returned, but also the LAPD family felt a sense of betrayal to have an officer commit such a terrible crime. To the family of Sherri Rasmussen, I am truly sorry for the loss of your wife, of your daughter. I am also sorry it took us so long to solve this case and bring a measure of justice to this tragedy. We recognize that no verdict by a court can bring Sherri back, nor assuage the grief your family suffered over the past decades. I also want to thank the detectives that followed up on this case. It shows the tenacity of the detectives on the LAPD who will work tirelessly to bring a case to justice, whether that case takes them around the world or across the hall.”
Tyler Izen, President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, also issued a statement:
“We appreciate the jury’s service and hope that Sherri Rasmussen’s family can find closure in knowing that Stephanie Lazarus will face justice for Ms. Rasmussen’s murder. Lazarus’ crimes are deeply disturbing, but it is important to remind the public that the actions of one individual should not tarnish its trust and respect for the more than 9,900 dedicated police officers who serve and protect the community every day.”