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Jury reaches verdict in ex-LAPD detective's murder trial

March 8, 2012 | 11:57 am

Former LAPD Det. Stephanie Lazarus

The jury in the murder trial of former Los Angeles Police Department Det. Stephanie Lazarus has reached a verdict after less than two days of deliberations.

Court officials said the verdict would be read at 1:45 p.m. in the Los Angeles County courtroom of Judge Robert J. Perry.

The verdict comes shortly after jurors had asked to review testimony from neighbor and housekeeper working next door about the day of the killing.

FULL COVERAGE: Trial of Stephanie Lazarus

The neighbor testified during the trial that she observed the garage door of Sherri Rasmussen's town house open and no car inside. The housekeeper recalled hearing sounds of a fight but no gunshots.

The panel of eight women and four men began deliberating Monday afternoon after a month-long trial and testimony from more than 50 witnesses.

Lazarus is accused in the 1986 beating and shooting of Rasmussen, who was married to a man Lazarus had dated. Prosecutors have argued throughout the month-long trial that Lazarus, who was 26 at the time of the killing and had joined the LAPD a few years earlier, was deeply in love with the man and driven to kill by the jealousy she felt over his decision to marry someone else.

Lazarus' attorney, Mark Overland, tried to cast doubt on the prosecution's most damning piece of evidence: a sample of saliva taken from a bite mark on Rasmussen's arm that DNA tests showed came from Lazarus. Overland has tried to convince jurors to disregard the saliva because of what he said were questions about how the cotton swab containing it was stored over the two decades and the possibility that someone may have tampered with it.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Shannon Presby said Lazarus was the only one with a clear motive to hurt Rasmussen. He also reviewed at length testimony about a small revolver Lazarus owned that matched the type used to kill Rasmussen and that Lazarus reported stolen shortly after the killing.

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-- Andrew Blankstein and Joel Rubin

Photo: Former LAPD Det. Stephanie Lazarus. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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