LAPD detective to stand trial for murder

AP News
Posted: Dec 10, 2009 2:55 PM

A veteran Los Angeles police detective was ordered Thursday to stand trial in the decades-old killing of her ex-boyfriend's wife but will not face the death penalty.

Superior Court Judge Robert Perry said there was enough evidence to try 49-year-old Stephanie Lazarus on a murder charge.

However, Perry rejected the special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and murder during the commission of a robbery, making Lazarus ineligible for the death penalty.

Prosecutors could refile the special allegations against Lazarus, but a decision has yet to be made. If convicted, Lazarus could face life in prison.

Lazarus has pleaded not guilty to murder in the February 1986 shooting death of Sherri Rasmussen, a hospital nursing director, at the victim's condominium in Van Nuys.

Authorities have said Lazarus was tied to Rasmussen's killing by a DNA match of saliva taken from a bite mark found on the victim's arm. Rasmussen's body was found by her husband of three months, John Ruetten.

Lazarus's former roommate and ex-police Sgt. Mike Hargreaves testified that Lazarus was upset that Ruetten had broken up with her and he was marrying someone else.

Prosecutors presented a journal entry made by Lazarus after learning Ruetten was about to wed,

"This is very bad. My concentration is negative-10," she wrote.

Lazarus, a 25-year LAPD veteran who specialized in art crimes, was not a suspect in 1986 because detectives believed two robbers who attacked another woman were to blame.

Attorney Mark Overland, who represents Lazarus, has argued that investigators were negligent and showed reckless disregard in the probe of their colleague.