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LAPD detective Stephanie Lazarus allegedly threatened victim in slaying case

June 9, 2009 | 11:45 am


About a month before LAPD Det. Stephanie Lazarus allegedly beat and shot to death the wife of an ex-boyfriend, she confronted the woman at work and told her, "If I can't have John, nobody can," according to a lawyer for the victim's family.

The victim's father, Nel Rasmussen, told LAPD homicide detectives about the alleged confrontation and others in the months before the slaying, but he was rebuffed and told by the investigators "repeatedly that he was watching too much TV," attorney John C. Taylor said today.

Police have not responded to the family's claims.

After the arrest last week of Lazarus in the 1986 killing of Sherri Rae Rasmussen, her father has come forward to criticize the original investigation into the death. He has accused the detectives in the case of ignoring his pleas to pursue the possibility that Lazarus -- who had dated the victim's husband, John Ruetten, and was then a young LAPD patrol officer -- was the killer.

Along with the alleged confrontation at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, where Sherri Rae Rasmussen worked, her father also told detectives about an alleged incident shortly before the slaying, in which Lazarus allegedly "gained entry [into the couple's Van Nuys condominium] without breaking in, dressed in her LAPD uniform," Taylor said.

Days after the slaying, another woman in the area was robbed by two men at gunpoint, and the detectives in the Rasmussen case pursued the theory that the men were also responsible for killing the 29-year-old hospital nursing director.

Taylor, however, said at a news conference today after Lazarus' first court appearance that the only thing taken from the couple's condominium was their marriage license.

Lazarus' arraignment was postponed until July 6.

Retired detective Lyle Mayer, the lead investigator in the original case, said in an interview with The Times that he never questioned Lazarus in the case and that when he retired in 1991, he still believed Sherri Rae Rasmussen had been killed by burglars.

-- Joel Rubin and Andrew Blankstein


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Veteran detective's arrest in 1986 killing stuns the LAPD

From the archives: Murder of Sherri Rae Rasmussen


Photos: LAPD Det. Stephanie Lazarus, 49, appears in Los Angeles court for her arraignment on murder charges today. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times