The murder of Sherri Rasmussen in 1986 was considered to be a botched burglary for nearly 23 years, and the unidentified murderer almost got away. It wasn't until 2009 that the police finally got a valuable lead, with DNA evidence linking police officer Stephanie Lazarus to the murder case.
In 2012, LAPD detective Stephanie Lazarus was ultimately found guilty of the murder of Sherri Rasmussen,despite her claims of innocence. Then 52-year-old Lazarus murdered her ex-boyfriend's wife out of jealousy and anger. She was sentenced for 27 years to life in prison, with the possibility of release in December 2034.
This Saturday, May 28, at 9:00 PM ET, NBC Dateline will explore the 1986 murder of 29-year-old nurse Sherri Rasmussen, a case that went cold for over two decades. The episode will trace how events finally led to the conviction of the LAPD detective who almost got away with murder.
Sherri Rasmussen was involved in a physical altercation with her murderer
Sherri Rasmussen, the director of Glendale Adventist Medical Center, became romantically involved with UCLA grad John Ruetten in 1984. The relationship culminated in their marriage the following year.
Rasmussen was brutally murdered in February 1986, after the couple had just returned from their honeymoon and were about to start their life as newlyweds. Reports state that the nurse had called in sick that day, only to be found dead in the living room by her husband Ruetten. Rasmussen, who was still in her bathrobe, was assaulted and then shot twice at point-blank range. Her dead body also had a bite mark on the arm, which was assumed to be left by the murderer. The front door and wall of the house allegedly had blood stains on them.
Evidence at the crime scene revealed that Rasmussen had been involved in a physical altercation with her murderer prior to being shot in the chest. The culprit used a blanket to conceal the sound of the pistol, as evidenced by the blanket with a bullet hole found at the scene. The police ruled the murder as a burglary gone wrong, taking into consideration all the evidence and the missing BMW.
Sherri Rasmussen's killer was a part of the police force
Although the victim's family pointed towards Stephanie Lazarus as the murderer, there was not enough evidence to support the theory. However, things changed in 2009 when a team of cold case detectives noted the case file mentioning Lazarus' name and her past with Rasmussen's husband John Ruetten.
Her hatred and envy were too obvious, indicating the former detective's involvement in the murder. It was also revealed that the accused and Ruetten had an on-and-off s*xual relationship for years after their break-up in college.
After a long and controversial trial in March 2012, the jury convicted Lazarus of first-degree murder to finally resolve the tragic murder case of Sherri Rassumussen.
According to the prosecutor's office, deputy prosecutors Shannon Presby and Paul Nunez presented a formal statement to the court ahead of the verdict:
"Lazarus has never taken responsibility for her acts. Lazarus has never expressed any regret or remorse for her actions. Lazarus' profound narcissism led her to kill and continues to motivate her denial of responsibility. This unrepentant selfishness poses a real and significant danger to any person whose interests conflict with Lazarus' egotistic desires."