Alleged cop killer Stephanie Lazarus less than an hour ago entered a plea of not guilty in the fatal attack on her ex-boyfriend's girlfriend, in a bizarre twist in which the longtime detective was on the wrong side of the fence, sitting quietly in the fortified holding cell on the fifth floor of Los Angeles Superior Court.
Lazarus' case was the second item on court Commissioner Kristi Lousteau's plate. Lazarus stood up when the judge asked her how she would plead.
“Not guilty, your honor,” she said.
During the brief hearing, Assistant District Attorney Shelly Torrealba filed a motion to obtain Lazarus' dental records — yet another clue that police believe Lazarus bit Sherri Rasmussen on the arm during a deadly struggle that took Rasmussen's life.
One assistant district attorney who had worked with Lazarus said she was “sweet as pie.”
Outside the courtroom, Lazarus' new attorney, Mark Overland, said there were plenty of unanswered questions. Overland says the police claim Lazarus owned a 38-caliber pistol which she used to kill Rasmussen. But Overland says the bullets found at the crime scene may also have come from a 357-magnum weapon.
“I have a lot of questions,” he said. “A lot of evidence that wasn't analyzed.”
Lazarus, a well-regarded veteran cop dedicated to tracking stolen art, was arrested while working at Parker Center on June 5. Police allege that Lazarus beat and shot to death 29-year-old Sherri Rae Rasmussen, a hospital nursing director, on February, 24, 1986. Rasmussen's husband, John Ruetten, found her body when he returned home from work.
For years, Homicide detectives believed the killing was committed by men during a burglary gone bad. Rasmussen's father fruitlessly begged LAPD to consider Lazarus as a suspect, because Lazarus had been in love with Rasmussen's husband. Then early this year, DNA tests of cold-case evidence showed the killer to be a woman — and police finally looked closely at one of their own: Lazarus.