Prosecutors Monday said a LA police officer killed her ex-lover’s wife in an obsessive rage and they have the evidence to back it up while the defense said the evidence may be tainted and their client has strong moral values and a stellar record as an officer.
Opening statements began Monday in the case against former LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus who is accused in the slaying of Sherri Rasmussen more than 25 years ago.
Lazarus took notes Monday as prosecutor Shannon Presby said a bite on the victim's arm and DNA would tie Lazarus to the slaying.
"A bite, a bullet, a gun barrel and a broken heart,” said Presby in her opening statement. “That's the evidence that will prove the defendant Stephanie Lazarus murdered Sheri Rasmussen, because Sheri Rasmussen married the man Stephanie Lazarus loved."
Lazarus’ attorney Mark Overland said his client has strong moral values and was a “tremendous asset” to the Devonshire Division she worked at during her early tenure as a cop.
Rasmussen, a hospital nursing director, was killed on Feb. 24, 1986 at the Van Nuys condo Rasmussen shared with her husband, John Ruetten, who was Lazarus’ ex-boyfriend. Ruetten discovered Rasmussen’s beaten and shot body inside their condo, officials said.
Prosecutors said the bullet used in the crime came from an LAPD issued .38 caliber revolver with a two-inch barrel, the same one Lazarus bought from the Police Academy just before she became a cop.
Prosecutors also said they connected Lazarus to the crime through a saliva sample taken from a bite on Rasmussen’s arm.
Overland suggested the evidence may be tainted as the bag in which it was stored for more than 20 years ago was torn.
In June 2009, Lazarus was arrested and allowed to retire. She has remained in custody since in lieu of $10 million bail.
During the videotaped police interrogation, Lazarus said, "You're accusing me of this? Is that what you're saying? I can't believe this."
Lazarus was not initially considered a suspect because detectives at first believed the crime was the result of a break-in at the condo.
Rasmussen's father has maintained that Lazarus should have been suspected from the start because he had been told that his son-in-law had been in a relationship with a cop who had threatened his daughter.