LAPD detective accused of murder faces hearing

AP News
Posted: Dec 07, 2009 4:07 AM

A veteran Los Angeles police detective is due in court to hear whether there is enough evidence against her in connection with the decades-old murder of her ex-boyfriend's wife.

A preliminary hearing for 49-year-old Stephanie Lazarus is scheduled to start Monday.

Lazarus was charged with murder in the February 1986 shooting death of Sherri Rasmussen, a hospital nursing director, at the victim's condo in Van Nuys.

Authorities say the detective was tied to the crime through a DNA match of saliva taken from bite marks on the 29-year-old victim.

The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a burglary. Lazarus also faces a separate allegation of personal use of a handgun.

Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

Rasmussen's body was found by her husband of three months, John Ruetten. Before he married Rasmussen, Ruetten and Lazarus had been involved, authorities said.

Lazarus was not a suspect in 1986 because detectives believed that two robbers who had attacked another woman in the area were to blame, police said. The case file, however, did mention Lazarus because of her relationship with Ruetten.

Lazarus, who has been in custody since her arrest on June 5, was an expert in cases involving art forgeries and married a fellow officer who knew nothing about the killing, police said.

She was arrested by detectives who worked across the hall from her.

The hearing is expected to last five days.