Ex-LAPD detective convicted of murder faces 27 years to life
Lazarus will be sentenced on May 4. A corrections official told The Times she would be eligible for parole after about 14 years.
Thursday's verdict brought to an end to a remarkable case in which a new generation of the LAPD redeemed the failures of a past one.
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 in the 1986 slaying of Sherri Rasmussen, a 29-year-old nursing director.
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.
"This case was a tragedy on every level," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement released after the verdict. "To the family of Sherri Rasmussen, I am truly sorry for the loss of your wife, of your daughter. I am also sorry it took us so long to solve this case and bring a measure of justice to this tragedy.... It shows the tenacity of the detectives on the LAPD who will work tirelessly to bring a case to justice, whether that case takes them around the world or across the hall."
The case went cold for years as Lazarus built a successful career as a specialist in art fraud and theft cases. She married another LAPD detective and the couple adopted a young girl.
The case was reopened in 2009 and the advances in DNA testing helped lead back to Lazarus after a saliva sample taken from a bite mark on Rasmussen pointed to a woman.
Undercover officers spent weeks following Lazarus and eventually snatched a cup she discarded in a garbage can and rushed it to the lab. Jurors heard from DNA experts who testified that the test results were unambiguous: It had been Lazarus' saliva in the bite mark.
A jury of eight women and four men agreed. They deliberated less than two days before finding Lazarus guilty of first-degree murder.
-- Joel Rubin and Andrew Blankstein
Left photo: Sherri Rasmussen. Credit: Rasmussen family
Right photo: Stephanie Lazarus. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times