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SHERRI RAE RASMUSSEN RUETTEN - STEPHANIE ILENE LAZARUS - PRE-TRIAL- TRIAL - CONVICTION & SENTENCING

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Nov 26 10 11:13 PM

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*Events up to and including the trial will be posted here.  

1985 - John Ruetten breaks off his on again, off again relationship with Police
          Officer Stephanie Lazarus. He meets and marries Sherri Rae Rasmussen.
                                                                                                                              
        Sherri Rae (Rasmussen) Ruetten                                     

1985 - 1986 - Sherri (Rasmussen) Ruetten notes that John's ex-girlfriend is stalking
                    her. Lazarus confronts Sherri at the hospital where she works, as
                    well as at John & Sherri's condo. Sherri had come home to find
                    Lazarus inside.
                            
                                Police Officer Stephanie Ilene Lazarus


1986- February - 24 - Sherri has strained her back during an aerobics workout and decides
                                 to stay home. 

        
     12:00 Noon - A maid at work in a nearby condo hears loud noises and screams coming
                         from the Ruetten's unit, but does not notify police.
  
       It is during this time that (allegedly) Officer Stephanie Lazarus attacks Sherri
       Ruetten inside Sherri & John's home, and the encounter turns deadly.
      
       Sherri fights for her life and that struggle takes place throughout the condo.
       During the struggle Sherri is bitten on the forearm. She is badly beaten
       and then shot three times with a .38 caliber gun into her heart and spine.
   
     6:00 P.M - John Ruetten returns home from work. Upon entering their condo he finds
                     a bloody scene, and his wife Sherri, beaten and shot, lying deceased upon
                     the floor. John immediately notifies police.

The ensuing case goes down a single track due to the officers involved, who believe
Sherri Ruetten was murdered in a burglary gone wrong. This, even though numerous
times, they've been informed about John's jealous ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Lazarus,
not only by John Ruetten, but by Sherri's parents, Nils and Loretta Rasmussen.

The only items missing from the condo - John & Sherri's marriage license, and
Sherri's silver BMW. 

 
Sherri (Rasmussen) Ruetten's silver 1985, two door BMW is found with the keys in it, 
two miles from John & Sherri's condo.

 
                                    STOLEN PROPERTY REPORT

  Several weeks after the murder, an LAPD Officer, Stephanie Lazarus files a report with
  the Santa Monica Police Department. According to Lazarus her vehicle has been broken
  into on 2nd street. Stolen from the vehicle are a gym bag with clothing; some cassettes;
  a few dollars......and....her personal .38 caliber snub nosed revolver

 

                                     COLD CASE REVIEW SPARKS ARREST

2009 - June 5 -  Parker Center - Det. Stephanie Lazarus (49), an LAPD employee
                         for 25 years, 23 years after Sherri Ruetten's murder, enters her 
                         office at LAPD Headquarters. Shortly afterwards she is informed                           that a suspect located in the basement jail has information on 
                         one of her art theft cases. Det. Lazarus is required to remove her
                         firearm before passing through the jail's security. Once through
                         security and into the jail, Lazarus is confronted by Homicide
                         Detectives.

  
                                   LAPD STATEMENT
 
Chief William Bratton (LAPD) 
"This individual was investigated and arrested by L.A. police officers who were
going where the truth took them. Sometimes it's painful, but murder is also very
painful."


                         
                             Detective Stephanie Lazarus


                                   ARRAIGNMENT

2009 - June 9 -  Stephanie Lazarus (Former LAPD Detective) enters a plea of
                          Not Guilty.                 
         
Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry sets bail at $10 Million - in cash.
"I believe it is a certainty that Lazarus would flee if the bail were set lower."

 
 
                     
                                      Stephanie Lazarus

                                   PRELIMINARY HEARING

2009 - December 7 - Los Angeles County Superior Court -  A saliva sample from
                                bitemarks found on Sherri Rae (Rasmussen) Reutten conclusively
                                matches the DNA genetic code from Det. Stephanie Ilene Lazarus.
                                Lazarus' diary entries are entered as evidence.
 
 
 



2010 - November - Interrogation videotape from June 5, 2009 released.
 
                              VIDEO - LA TIMES 
If you can't access the video at the link above, try the links below.
 
What's this all about? VIDEO
 

 
                                   PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT
 
Jaramillo brought Lazarus into a private room in the jail facility where Jaramillo's
partner, Det. Greg Stearns, was waiting. After a few minutes of small talk, Jaramillo
told Lazarus she was not there to question a suspect about art.
 
Stephanie Lazarus
 What is this?
 
"What this is, is--" Jaramillo   
"I didn't want to bring this up in the squad room cause--"
"Oh, that's OK," Lazarus 

Jaramillo
 We've been assigned a case that we've been looking at.
Do you know John Ruetten?"
 
"Yeah, we were very close friends," Lazarus 
 "I mean..."
"Yeah?" Jaramillo
"Yeah, we were very close friends," Lazarus 
 "I mean..."
"Yeah?" Jaramillo 
"I mean, what's this all about?" Lazarus 


 Stephanie Lazarus

I mean, that's... Now that you guys are bringing this stuff up, I mean, it sounds...
that sounds familiar. .But again, I mean, you know, whats... I mean, what's this
got to do with me dating him and, you know.. .Idon't have anything to do with it
(the murder) and you got something that somebody's said... you know...


Jaramillo
"Well, one of the concerns I had as we were looking at some of the notes is
some of Sherri's friends said that you and her were having problems because
of the John situation," 


Lazarus
"I can't recall (whether she had ever met Rasmussen).
 "Now that you're bringing it up, I think she worked at a hospital somewhere.
And, yeah, I may have met her at a hospital. I may have talked to her once
or twice, or more."


The detectives  questioned Lazarus on whether she ever had gone to
Rasmussen's home. Lazarus repeatedly saying "I can't recall."


Jaramillo asked Lazarus if she ever had fought with Rasmussen.


Lazarus "If it happened, I honestly don't remember it. That's all I can tell you."


"You'd remember that, right? That would be pretty specific and, you know,
traumatic."
Jaramillo 


You're accusing me of this? Is that what you're saying?" Lazarus 
 "I can't believe this.


"Am I on 'Candid Camera' or something? This is insane. This is absolutely
 crazy. This is insane,"


"You're starting to make me uncomfortable. Do I need a lawyer?


Jamarillo and Stearns told her she was free to leave if she wanted.


Stephanie Lazarus walked out of the interview. She was intercepted,
handcuffed and informed she was under arrest for the murder of Sherri
Rae Rasmussen. She was read the Miranda rights.


Det. Greg Stearns "You're going down to the women's facility at Century
                               Sheriffs." 


"Can I call my husband?" Lazarus  "Can I make my--"
 
                                       TRIAL SCHEDULED
 
                    Stephanie Lazarus' trial is scheduled for Spring of 2011.


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#3 [url]

May 5 11 10:52 PM

TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS

For pre-trial hearings information - Sprocket has personally been attending
the hearings.


2011 - May 20 - Next Court hearing.


From Trials & Tribulations:
 

TENATIVE TRIAL DATE - AUGUST 2011
 
"The tentative date is to hand out questionnaires to prospective jurors
on August 15th, with jury selection or voir dire later that week and the
trial starting on August 22nd."

 

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#5 [url]

Jan 19 12 9:20 PM

Be sure to follow the pre-trial & trial hearings at Trials & Tribulations
 
2011 - December 2 - Pre-Trial hearing
 
SPROCKET'S BLOG - TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS
"There is discussion about having one more pretrial conference to check in before
 trial starts. Judge Perry picks Friday, January 20th as a "soft date" and if there are
any other motions to get them filed so that they can be argued on that date."

More at link

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#7 [url]

Feb 6 12 10:53 PM

PROSECUTION:
"Attorney Shannon Presby passionately delivered his opening statement Monday
morning to a jury of 8 women and 4 men. “This killing was personal”, he told the
panel.Presby portrayed Lazarus as a ruthless killer, obsessed over a case of
unrequited love.  In 1986, Lazarus was a patrol officer who prosecutors say was
devastated over a breakup with her boyfriend, John Ruetten. When Ruetten married
another woman, 29 year old Sherri Rasmussen, Presby says Lazarus showed up
at Rasmussen’s townhome, brutally beat the newlywed, bit her on the arm
and shot her three times at close range."
 

DEFENSE:
"Overland used the morning in his opening statement to dispute the reliability of the
 evidence against Lazarus. He told the jury that over the years, the bite mark DNA
has been compromised by a questionable chain of custody. “It violated every
procedure”, Overland said. He showed the jury pictures of a torn evidence bag and
an unsealed tube. In Overland’s words, “the prosecution utterly failed to prove this
case beyond a reasonable doubt. Not even close.”

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#8 [url]

Feb 6 12 10:56 PM

PROSECUTION:  THE DNA

"Lazarus, a 23-year veteran of the LAPD, was arrested on suspicion of murder in
2009 after testing matched her DNA to a saliva sample collected from the bite mark
 on Rasmussen’s arm, police said.

Referring to that crucial piece of evidence, Presby told a packed courtroom during
his 40-minute presentation that “there was one thing Lyle Mayer did not know. There
was one thing the defendant did not know. There was one thing that no one could
have known in 1986 — that a tiny Stephanie Lazarus was hiding in the bite on Sherri
Rasmussen’s arm.” The probability of the DNA belonging to another person
was one  in 1.7 sextillion, Presby said.
 
 
DEFENSE:
"
Turning to the key physical evidence, Overland said the bite mark saliva sample
was compromised between the time it was collected by an LAPD criminalist at
the crime scene in 1986 and the time it was analyzed by an LAPD scientist in
2009. The sealed envelope containing the sample, he noted, had been torn open
and coroner’s officials violated their “chain of custody” policy."


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#9 [url]

Feb 6 12 11:00 PM

PROSECUTION:
 
"Presby made a presentation that included a formal portrait of her with Ruetten taken
while they were dating. The photo “promised a future with John, a future that Sherri
Rasmussen made impossible,” the prosecutor said.

After Lazarus took out her fury on Rasmussen, Presby said, the victim was
“not just dead. Her beauty was disfigured, obliterated, blotted from existence
by three close-range gunshots to the chest.”
 
LOS ANGELES CBS LOCAL MORE AT LINK
 
 
DEFENSE:

"Overland has hammered on what he said is the prosecution's inability to prove
the evidence was stored and handled properly over the more than two decades
between the slaying and Lazarus' arrest. He told jurors that the sealed plastic
tube that police say held the cotton swab with the saliva sample was found
jutting through a hole in the evidence envelope in which it had been stored.
He also said that hairs, a bloody palm print on the wall and fingerprints found
at the crime scene did not come from Lazarus.
 
LA TIMES LOCAL MORE AT LINK



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#10 [url]

Feb 8 12 3:43 PM

FOX NEWS

"Shocking death pictures of a murdered woman were shown to jurors in the trial of
former police detective Stephanie Lazarus -- huge close-up portraits of the battered
face of Sherri Rasmussen, who died 26 years ago. One eye was swollen shut; the
other wide open. Rasmussen's mouth was agape, her hands held up as if in a
defensive posture. Prosecutors suggested that this mayhem was inflicted by
Lazarus in a fit of rage after her lover married this woman instead of her.
 

Another photo of Rasmussen ethereal in a wedding gown, holding a bouquet of

flowers provides the motive prosecutors allege."Sherri Rasmussen was wearing

the gown that Stephanie Lazarus believed was hers," Deputy District Attorney

Shannon Presby said Monday in his opening statement to jurors."

More at link

BOSTON.com

"The lead detective in the case of a newlywed slain 26 years ago concluded just after
the death that she was killed by two burglars, a retired police officer testified Tuesday
in the murder trial of a former Los Angeles police detective. The retired officer, Steven
Hooks, said he disagreed with the conclusion about Sherri Rasmussen's death but
signed off on the report written by his superior.

Superior Court Judge Robert Perry at first stopped Hooks from saying why he
disagreed with the official report on the case. But after Lazarus' lawyer began
exploring the issue of a third party as a possible killer, Perry changed his mind
and said that Hooks could tell jurors that he voiced the opinion at the time that
the killer was a woman because of the bite mark on Rasmussen's arm."

More at link
 
 
 


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#11 [url]

Feb 11 12 4:16 PM

TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS - OPENING STATEMENTS DAY 1

TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS - OPENING STATEMENTS DAY II - PROSECUTION

TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS - OPENING STATEMENTS DAY III - DEFENSE

Sprocket is in the courtroom live and posts events that occur
inside the courtroom, testimony, evidence, explanations on court
procedures as well as her own personal observations.

 WITNESS TESTIMONY:

DAY 1 

DAY 2

DAY 3

DAY 4

DAY 5

DAY 6

DAY 7

DAY 8

DAY 9

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#13 [url]

Apr 4 12 5:46 PM

SENTENCING SET FOR MAY 4, 2012

HUFFINGTON POST
"Lazarus' sentencing was set for May 4. She faces 25 years to life in prison with the
possibility of parole plus two years for a gun enhancement. Luis Patino, a spokesman for the California Board of Prison Terms, said Lazarus would be eligible for parole consideration after serving 16 years and 8 months. She has been in jail since 2009. Her lawyer said there will be
an appeal. The jury spent little more than a day deliberating and he said, "The speed shows
we never had a chance."

The Rasmussen family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the LAPD and the city of Los Angeles."

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#14 [url]

May 27 12 11:42 AM

SENTENCING - 27 years to Life  Sentence is the maximum under the law. Lazarus
                                                   was given credit for time served since arrest in June
                                                   2009.
               
Eligibility for Parole - 22 years

CNN JUSTICE

"Los Angeles County deputy prosecutors Shannon Presby and Paul Nunez submitted a
written statement to the court prior to the sentencing, according to the prosecutor's office.
"Lazarus has never taken responsibility for her acts," the prosecutors wrote. "Lazarus
has never expressed any regret or remorse for her actions. Lazarus' profound narcissism
led her to kill and continues to motivate her denial of responsibility. This unrepentant
selfishness poses a real and significant danger to any person whose interests conflict
with Lazarus' egotistic desires."

Before the sentencing Friday, Rasmussen' mother, Loretta, told the court that her family
has endured "extreme pain" over her daughter's murder. "Every day we miss her laughter
and her love," the mother told the judge. In his remarks to the judge, a tearful Ruetten said
Rasmussen was "just trying to save her own life" on the day of her murder."I just can't bear
thinking about these moments," Ruetten told the court."


More at link


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