Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Stephanie Lazarus and the Murder of Sherri Rae Rasmussen

Introduction

Sherri Rae Rasmussen
Sherri Rae Rasmussen
In 1986, Sherri Rae Rasmussen was 29 years old, living in a condominium with her new husband of three months, John Ruetten. In a few short minutes, though, her new, charmed life ended in a vicious brutal murder that would go unsolved for over 20 years.

On the night of February 24, her husband came home to discover his new bride, who had stayed home from work that day after injuring her back doing aerobics, bloodied, beaten and dead from numerous gunshot wounds to the chest.

But with the help of advancing technology, the Los Angeles Police Department's Cold Case squad cracked a case as dramatic as any on television. After running a DNA test on a bite mark on Rasmussen's body, they confronted a new and shocking likelihood: the perpetrator was one of their own, Officer Stephanie Lazarus.

Rising in the Force

Stephanie Lazarus
At the time of Rasmussen's murder, Lazarus had only been on the force for two years, as a patrol officer.

In the course of her career, she became involved with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program—D.A.R.E.—as a training officer and visited her former junior high school. She served as a treasurer for the Los Angeles Women Police Officer's Association for five years. She helped fundraise to provide reliable, round-the-clock childcare for parents who worked on the force.

At one point, she'd even started her own private investigation company, Unique Investigations.

After over 20 years on the force, she'd been promoted to the high-profile, high-stakes Art Theft Detail, which tracked stolen art and art forgeries. In April 2009, she was featured with the head of her department, Don Hrycyk, in L.A. Weekly's annual L.A. People issue. She told the paper that working the art beat inspired her to become an artist and had been taking oil painting classes.

But in 1986, she was working the streets. She had also just come out of a long-term relationship with John Ruetten, and it seems she was none too pleased with his new wife.

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