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SHERRI RAE (RASMUSSEN) RUETTEN - STEPHANIE ILENE LAZARUS - DETECTIVE ARRESTED & CHARGED WITH 1986 MURDER
When John Ruetten & Sherri Rasmussen married, they could not have imagined that they would share only a few brief months before their lives would be shattered, and Sherri would be murdered.
"Cheryl" "Sherri Rasmussen was one of the nicest people you could have met. She was smart, gentle and kind."
Photo: Sherri Rae Rasmussen
1973 - Sherri Rasmussen (age 16) enters college, UCLA. Later she will teach a period at UCLA.
Sherri Rasmussen is 6 foot tall, athletic, extremely intelligent, and full of empathy for
others, so it's no surprise that she decided to choose Nursing as her profession.
Stephanie Ilene Lazarus graduates from UCLA with a degree in Sociology.
Stephanie Lazarus joins the LAPD and is assigned duty as a Patrol Officer.
Photo: Stephanie Ilene Lazarus (LAPD Patrol Officer)
Sherri Rae Rasmussen becomes Director of Critical Care at the Nursing at Glendale
Adventist Medical Center
OUT WITH THE OLD IN WITH THE NEW
John Ruetten dates Stephanie Lazarus for several years.
1985 -Fall -
John Ruetten meets Sherri Rasmussen. He breaks off his relationship with
Lazarus, who doesn't handle it well.
John Ruetten becomes engaged to Sherri Rasmussen.
Diary - "I'm shattered by John's engagement."
"This is very bad. My concentration is negative-10."
Entry - "I've asked for time off work because I'm too stressed
out about John."
Lazarus, crying, wakes up her roommate, LAPD Sgt. Mike Hargreaves to tell him
John Ruetten has broken up with her, that he's told her he's getting married to
someone else. Lazarus has previously told her roommate "John is my idea of a
1985 - November - John Ruetten and Sherri Rasmussen are married.
Sherri (Rasmussen) Ruetten (29) is Director of Critical-Care Nursing at Glendale Adventist
Medical Center. She is well liked and her colleagues consider her a vital part of the nursing staff.
Photo: Sherri Rae (Rasmussen) Ruetten
A STALKER IN UNIFORM
December 1985 - January 1986
Sherri (Rasmussen) Ruetten confides to her father that she fears a jealous ex-girlfriend
of her husband is out to harm her. She tells him that the woman, in LAPD Officer uniform
has shown up at the hospital and told her "If I can't have John, nobody can!"
Another incident she relates to her father Nels, is that she came home to find the female
LAPD Officer, in uniform, inside her home, confronting and threatening her. Sherri relates
that she told the woman to "GET OUT!" Although concerned, Sherri does not telphone
police to make out a complaint.
1986 - February - Sherri telephones her father and tells him she believes the LAPD Officer
has been following her around the city. Sherri hopes she can defuse the
situation and put an end to the harassment. "I've got a problem I'm
I'm dealing with and if I can't resolve it in two weeks I'll come back."
Sherri receives a phone call, (allegedly) from Stephanie Lazarus in which
Lazarus threatens her.
A few days later.... MURDER
1986- February - 24 -
Sherri has strained her back during an aerobics workout and decides
to stay home. John Ruetten kisses his wife and goes off to work, never
imagining it would be the last time he'll see her alive.
12:00 Noon -
A maid at work in a nearby condo hears loud noises and screams coming
from the Ruetten's unit, but does not notify police.
It is during this time that (ALLEGEDLY) Officer Stephanie Lazarus attacks Sherri
Ruetten inside Sherri & John's home, and the encounter turns deadly.
Sherri fights for her life and that struggle takes place throughout the condo.
During the struggle Sherri is bitten on the forearm. She is badly beaten
and then shot three times with a .38 caliber gun into her heart and spine.
6:00 P.M -
John Ruetten returns home from work. Upon entering their condo he finds
a bloody scene, and his wife Sherri, beaten and shot, lying deceased upon
the floor. John immediately notifies police.
Lead Detective Lyle Mayer & Det. Roger Pida arrive. Criminalist Lloyd Mahanay
(L.A. Coroner's Office) & others collect evidence from the scene.
Lloyd Mahanay swabs saliva from the bite wound on Sherri's forearm. The swab is
logged into the agency's evidence room with other forensic evidence. Photos of
Sherri's body and the bloody crime scene are logged into evidence.
A stack of stereo equipment has been stacked next to Sherri's body.
The only items missing from the condo - John & Sherri's marriage license, and
Sherri's silver BMW
Det. Mayer & Det. Pida's botched burglary, hinges on the stereo equipment
stacked by Sherri's body, and her BMW being stolen. Their theory is further
buttressed days later when a woman in the same area is robbed at gunpoint
by two men.
John Ruetten has mentioned his former girlfriend, calling her an acquaintance,
in the report.
Nels & Loretta Rasmussen meet with Detectives Mayer & Pida. Nels informs
the detectives about Sherri's encounters with John's former girlfriend and voice
their concerns that she may have been the perpetrator. As a result of their
meeting, Nels & Loretta offer a $10,000 reward for the "men's capture"....
the two "burglars" Mayer and Pida feel murdered Sherri.
STOLEN BMW FOUND
Sherri (Rasmussen) Ruetten's silver 1985, two door BMW is found with the keys in it,
two miles from John & Sherri's condo.
STOLEN PROPERTY REPORT
Several weeks after the murder, an LAPD Officer, Stephanie Lazarus files a report with
the Santa Monica Police Department. According to Lazarus her vehicle has been broken
into on 2nd street. Stolen from the vehicle are a gym bag with clothing; some cassettes;
a few dollars......and....her personal .38 caliber snub nosed revolver.
Photo of similar gun
The two burglars Det.'s Mayer & Pida believe murdered Sherri (Rasmussen) Ruetten
are never traced. Months go by and there are no leads in the case.
Nels Rasmussen continues to speak with the detectives and insists they take a look
at the LAPD Officer, Reutten's ex-girlfriend. "You've been watching too much tv"
all the response he gets.
1988 - Two years later
- Nels & Loretta Rasmussen are dismayed and frustrated.
The investigation is stalled and there's been nothing done
regarding their concerns that a police officer may have been
Nels Rasmussen writes a letter to Chief Daryl F. Gates and
asks him to intervene in the case. His concerns and request
receive ..... nothing. No action. No response.
The Rasmussens continue to try to appeal to the Van Nuys Police station to at least
look into the situation. They are put on hold or hung up on. To add to their grief over
their daughter's murder, a detective tells them "You should do yourselves a favor and
move on with your lives."
1991- FIVE YEARS -
The Rasmussens know the LAPD will do nothing to solve their
daughter Sherri's murder.
Det. Mayer retires.
LIFE GOES ON
Patrol Officer Stephanie Lazarus continues her career with the LAPD.
She involves herself with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program ”D.A.R.E.
as a Training Officer; makes homemade soaps and chocolate covered cherries as
gifts; becomes Treasurer for L.A. Women Police Officer's Assocation for 5 years;
starts up a Private Investigation Company - Unique Investigations.
Lazarus gets married and the couple adopt a child.
Stephanie Lazarus is nicknamed "Spaz" or "Spazarous" by others in the dept.
for her "erratic behaviour when flustered, or angry."
A Veteran LAPD Officer "We drank beers. She was always quick to give you a hug
or tell a joke."
Lazarus obtains promotion, to Detective.
Ventura County Star profiles Lazarus's "Unique Investigations" business.
Detective Stephanie Lazarus is promoted to a position tracking stolen artwork
& forgeries. Lazarus is publicly commended for her work in dept. publications.
Photo: Detective Stephanie Lazarus
2007 - 2008 -
Lazarus continues in her high profile position.
COLD CASE HEATS UP
2009 - February -
Cold Case Detectives are reviewing older cases, Sherri (Rasmussen)
Ruetten's case is among them.
Investigators send blood and saliva samples from the crime scene
to be tested. Once the results are back investigators rework the
The DNA tests show that the samples are from a woman.
Detectives re-interview John Ruetten, Nels and Loretta Rasmussen and the former
investigators who conducted the original crime scene investigation. The Rasmussens
inform investigators of their daughter's harassment by Lazarus and their concerns
that she was responsible for Sherri's murder.
ONE OF THEIR OWN A SUSPECT
The Cold Case Dept. is located across the hall from the Stolen Art Dept.where Lazarus
works. Investigators restrict information to a very few, those investigating the case and
higher ranking officials.
Det. Lazarus has no idea she's under investigation, nor that she's being trailed by an
undercover officer. As Lazarus goes about doing her errands, she discards an object
with her saliva on it. The officer retrieves the object, which is sent for DNA testing.
Det. Stephanie Ilene Lazarus's DNA matches conclusively the DNA genetic code
taken from the saliva swab from the 1986 murder of Sherri (Rasmussen) Reutten.
A RUSE & AN ARREST
Stephanie Lazarus has been an employee of the LAPD for 25 years.
23 years after Sherri Rae (Rasmussen) Ruetten's murder
2009 - June - 5 - Parker Center
- Det. Stephanie Lazarus (49) enters her office
at LAPD Headquarters. Shortly afterwards she is informed that200
a suspect located in the basement jail has information on one
of her cases.
Det. Lazarus removes her firearm prior to passing through the jail's
Once through security and into the jail, Lazarus is confronted by
Homicide Detectives and arrested.
NEWS BREAKS OF LAPD ARREST IN 1986 MURDER CASE
LAPD OFFICER CHARGED WITH PRE-MEDITATED MURDER
2009 - June 9 -
Stephanie Lazarus (Former LAPD Detective) enters a plea of
Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry
sets bail at $10 Million - in cash.
"I believe it is a certainty that Lazarus would flee if the bail were set lower."
Former LAPD Det. Stephanie Lazarus
Photo Credit: Mark Boster - LA TIMES
Photo Credit: Mark Boster - LA TIMES
2009 - July 29 -
Former LAPD Officer - Stephanie Lazarus
Photo Credit - Nick Ut
2009 - December 7 - Los Angeles County Superior Court -
Lloyd Mahanay (Retired Criminalist, L.A. Coroner's Office)
testifies that he
had responded to the Reutten residence and in the course of collecting evidence
swabbed saliva from a bite mark on Sherri (Rasmussen) Ruetten, related how the
sample was logged into evidence.
, (Former LAPD Sgt.)
a former roommate of Stephanie Lazarus
testifies regarding Lazarus's upset at her former boyfriend's engagement to some
one else. "Stephanie Lazarus woke him up (fall of 1985) crying because John
Reutten had just broken up with her and that he'd told her he was getting married
to someone else. Lazarus had earlier told him that "John was her idea of a perfect
Stephanie Lazarus's diary entries are entered into evidence:
"I'm shattered by John's engagement."
"This is very bad. My concentration is negative-10."
Entry - "I've asked for time off work because I'm too stressed out about John."
Many within the department are stunned by Lazarus's arrest.
Mary Grady (LAPD Spokeswoman) "The department has begun the process of
figuring out why the original detectives failed to consider Lazarus a suspect.
We will be working not only on the current case, but will also investigate the
original homicide investigation. We're going to look at everything we can to
bring to some justice to the family."
Lyle Mayer (Retired LAPD Detective)
has publicy contradicted Nels Rasmussen's
statements, stating "I never discussed Lazarus with the Rasmussens. He also never
Chief William Bratton (LAPD) "This individual was investigated and arrested by L.A.
police officers who were going where the truth took them. Sometimes it's painful,
but murder is also very painful."
John Ruetten "It's safe to say we have some closure. It's been a horrible thing to go
through it all again."
Nels Rasmussen "I am extremely pleased and relieved."
Loretta & Nels Rasmussen
Photo Credit: Washington Post Newsweek