Former LAPD Detective Convicted in 1986 Love-Rival Murder


A jury Thursday found former Los Angeles Police Detective Stephanie Lazarus guilty of murdering the wife of a man who spurned her, bringing an end to a remarkable case in which a new generation of the LAPD redeemed the failures of a past one, reports the city’s Times. Jurors concluded that Lazarus brutally beat and then shot Sherri Rasmussen three times in the chest on Feb. 24, 1986. Three months before the attack, Rasmussen, a 29-year-old hospital nursing director, had married John Ruetten, who dated Lazarus casually for a few years leading up to the wedding.

The case drew national attention for its sensational story line of a love-sick cop killing a woman she viewed as a romantic rival, and then somehow managing to bury her dark secret. The case was a study of stark contrasts between the best and worst of the LAPD, leading Chief Charlie Beck to issue an extraordinary apology to the victim's family, whose calls for an investigation of the long-unsolved murder were largely ignored. Beck said, “I am also sorry it took us so long to solve this case and bring a measure of justice to this tragedy.” The department had to confront awkward questions about why detectives two decades ago did not pursue Lazarus, with her apparently obvious motive, as a suspect. Had they been protecting a fellow cop or was it simply sloppy detective work?

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