The former boyfriend of an ex-LAPD detective accused of killing the man's wife more than 20 years ago testified Wednesday about a phone call he received from an emotional Stephanie Lazarus regarding his impending marriage.
"She wanted me to come over and see her so we could talk,'' John Ruetten told jurors. "She was basically trying to tell me she had deeper feelings for me. She was in love with me.''
That was June 1985. Eight months later, the body of Ruetten's wife -- Sherri Rasmussen -- was found in the living room of their Van Nuys townhouse.
Lazarus, a 23-year LAPD veteran, was arrested in June 2009 and charged with murder in Rasmussen's death. Prosecutors claim she killed Rasmussen because she was upset that her ex-boyfriend had moved on with someone else.
"It was clear she was upset I was moving on and getting married,'' Ruetten told jurors Wednesday. "She had obviously had no closure."
Ruetten, 53, met Lazarus when they were undergrads at UCLA. He testified that he had not heard from her in months before the June 1985 phone call, and that Lazarus had never previously told him she was in love.
He married Rasmussen in November 1985 and the two moved into the Van Nuys townhouse, where they lived for fours months before she was found dead at the residence. Investigators initially thought the crime was related to a series of burglaries in the area, but the case went cold until 2004 when the coroner re-tested DNA from a bite mark found on Rasmussen.
A DNA sample collected from Lazarus in 2009 matched the bite mark's DNA profile, a criminalist testified earlier in the trial. Prosecutors have said DNA will provide the key pieces of evidence in the trial.