Arraignment Postponed for Alleged Killer Cop Stephanie Lazarus
Loretta and Nels Rasmussen (center & right)
An attorney for the parents of slain nursing director Sherri Rae Rasmussen praised Los Angeles Police Department cold-case detectives today outside the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building for solving their daughter's 23-year-old murder.
However, said John C. Taylor, "The investigation in 1986 is a completely different story." Taylor was flanked by Rasmussen's parents, Nels and Loretta Rasmussen, who are calling for an independent investigation into the police's handling of the original case.
Rasmussen was badly beaten and shot multiple times in her Van Nuys condominium on the evening of February 24, 1986. She was found by John Ruetten, her husband of three months, when he returned home from work. Her murder went unsolved until last week, when cold-case detectives arrested Los Angeles Police Department veteran detective Stephanie Lazarus -- sending shock waves through the department.
Lazarus, 49, was charged on June 8 with capital murder.
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the time of Rasmussen's murder, Lazarus was a two-year veteran patrol
officer. She had previously been in a long-term relationship with
Ruetten before he married Rasmussen.
When she was arrested, Lazarus was assigned to a high-profile detail
investigating art forgeries and the theft of expensive art works.
As rain gently pelted the sidewalk, Taylor, told a throng of TV,
radio and print reporters outside the Los Angeles Superior Court house
that within days of Rasmussen's murder, her father traveled from
Arizona to speak with homicide detectives about his suspicion that
Ruetten's ex-girlfriend could be responsible for the savage beating.
The detectives didn't listen.
According to Taylor, Rasmussen told detectives about a couple of
encounters his daughter had had with Lazarus. On one occasion, Lazarus
turned up at Rasmussen's job at Glendale Adventist Hospital allegedly
stating, "If I can't have John nobody else will." The most troubling
encounter occurred one month before the murder, when Rasmussen told her
father she found Lazarus alone inside her secured condominium dressed
in her LAPD uniform.
Nels Rasmussen, father of Sherri Rasmussen
After his daughter's death, Taylor said, Rasmussen continuously told
homicide detectives about his suspicions but was told that "he watched
too much television."
At the time, detectives said Rasmussen's murder was the result of a
burglary gone awry. Yet, only the couple's marriage license and Sherri
Rae's car were taken from the grisly scene.
Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times
Earlier this morning, inside the courthouse's Department 30, all
eyes were on Lazarus when she was brought in wearing an orange jail
jumpsuit shortly after 10 a.m., to formally face charges of
premeditated murder. She also wore handcuffs chained to her waist, and
sat in a chair inside the suspect pen.
With a crumpled piece of paper sticking out from a pocket, she spoke
briefly to her attorney Mark Pachowicz through a narrow window before
Superior Court judge Kristi Lousteau continued the arraignment to July
Lazarus muttered a quick, "Yes, your honor," before she was ushered off to jail.
The fifth-floor courtroom was thick with press, a veritable who's
who of reporting. Included in the media circus were Associated Press'
Linda Deutsch, dressed in a blue business suit, ABC's Miriam Hernandez
and veteran FOX 11 crime reporter Chris Blatchford.
Lazarus, who is being held without bail, could face the death penalty because prosecutors have alleged a special circumstance.
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