Stephanie Lazarus, the former LAPD detective who murdered her ex-boyfriend’s wife, Sherri Rasmussen, 30 years ago, is the leading story of crime and murder on Oxygen’s It Takes A Killer. The episode reenacting the Lazarus-Rasmussen case is titled, “The Casanova Killer.” In addition to Oxygen’s coverage of the case, Sherri Rasmussen’s murder was also the subject of CBS 48 Hours.
Husband Surprised By Wife’s Dead Body
In 1986, John Ruetten, an engineer, came home from work hoping to unwind after a long day. Instead, he found the dead body of his wife sprawled on the floor in a large pool of blood. When the police arrived at the Balboa Boulevard condo, they found that the dead woman had been beaten about the face and had bullet wounds to the body. The coroner’s report later concluded that 29-year old Sherri Rasmussen had been shot three times at close range.
The crime was so vicious that family members say it was more like an assassination than a random shooting. However, the police in Van Nuys back in 1986 believed that the crime was the result of a robbery gone bad.
Stalked By The Woman With Crazy Eyes
At the crime scene, there was no sign of forced entry, but the victim, Sherri Rasmussen, had struggled fiercely with her attacker. Investigators were told that in the weeks before her death, Sherri was being followed by someone with crazy eyes and that John’s ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Lazarus fit that description and was an LAPD detective who had once confronted Sherri at her job at the hospital.
However, family and friends say that investigators didn’t take the Stephanie Lazarus angle seriously and had failed to interview several key people who had in-depth information about Sherri’s problems with Stephanie.
Sherri Rasmussen’s grief-stricken parents made it their mission to prove that it was Stephanie Lazarus who had done this to their beloved daughter. They had no idea that it would take more than 20 years to bring the killer to justice.
Though the Los Angeles Police Department was criticized for not investigating the case in a proper way, they did do something right. They collected a saliva sample from a bite mark on Sherri Rasmussen’s arm.
This sample proved to be more than helpful when detectives decided to open up the cold case decades later. The bite mark sample was sent to the lab, where it was determined that the bite impression had been made by a woman.
Next, investigators devised a plan to collect Stephanie Lazarus’ DNA, which they successfully did after she discarded a cup and a straw. DNA evidence from the discarded items came back a match to Stephanie Lazarus and the bite mark that had been made on the victim’s body.
This new finding shocked the public and fellow police officers, who knew Stephanie Lazarus to be a stellar and well-respected cop.
Pulling The Case Together: One Of Their Own
At trial, prosecutors alleged that Stephanie Lazarus followed and harassed Sherri Rasmussen because she was jealous that John had moved on with his life, though he did admit to having sex with Stephanie after he was engaged to Sherri. The Daily Mail explains what John said happened once Stephanie Lazarus found out he was getting married.
“Stephanie Lazarus summoned him to her condo and through tears expressed her love for him. She also asked him to have sex with her, which he said he did but now considers a stupid move. He stressed that nothing changed that night.”
Deciding to take care of Sherri Rasmussen for good, Stephanie Lazarus stayed home from work, went to the Rasmussens’ town house in Van Nuys and killed Sherri in cold blood.
For the gruesome killing, disgraced cop Stephanie Lazarus was convicted and sentenced to 27 years to life in a California correctional facility, according to CBS News.
To see exactly how the case played out, watch It Takes A Killer tonight at 9/8 p.m Central on Oxygen. Last week, Oxygen’s It Takes A Killer aired the case of black serial killer Derrick Todd Lee.
[Photo by Los Angeles Times, Gary Friedman, Pool/AP File]