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    Parole delayed for former LA police detective convicted of killing her ex-boyfriend’s wife in 1986


    28 days ago

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — A chance for parole was delayed this week for a former Los Angeles police detective serving a sentence of 27 years to life in the cold-case slaying of her ex-boyfriend’s wife in 1986.

    Stephanie Lazarus was convicted in 2012 of killing Sherri Rasmussen, a 29-year-old nurse who was bludgeoned and shot to death in the condo she shared with her husband of three months, John Ruetten.

    A select committee of the state Board of Parole Hearings determined in November that Lazarus was eligible for parole. The full board took up her case on Monday and later voted to order a rescission hearing, referring the case to a lower panel to consider whether to rescind the earlier recommendation.

    Rasmussen’s sisters and widower gave emotional testimony during Monday’s hearing about their pain and described Lazarus as a conniving criminal who used her police training to cover up the killing.

    Ruetten told the board he doesn’t believe that Lazarus — whom he referred to only as “the inmate” — feels remorse. He said she engaged in “skillful deception” and only confessed to the crime during a hearing last year in order to gain parole.

    “I don’t think she comprehends the breadth and depth of the suffering she has caused,” a tearful Ruetten said.

    Among those speaking on behalf of Lazarus was Erin Runions, a college professor who co-facilitates a writing workshop for incarcerated people inside the California Institution for Women. She spoke to Lazarus’ “spiritual growth” and commitment to earning advanced degrees while behind bars so that she’ll be ready to find a job and contribute to the community if she’s released.

    “I’ve seen a person who is remorseful, who is caring, and who is very ready to reenter society,” Runions said during the hearing.

    The governor’s office had asked the board in April to review the plan to parole Lazarus. John Taylor, an attorney for Rasmussen’s family, said he was relieved by Monday’s decision.

    “We look forward to participating in the rescission hearing and hope that the parole grant is rescinded,” Taylor said Tuesday. He said he expected the hearing to be scheduled within about four months.

    Lazarus did not appear before the board Monday.

    At her trial 12 years ago, prosecutors focused on the romantic relationship between Lazarus and Ruetten after they graduated from college. They claimed Lazarus was consumed with jealousy when Ruetten decided to marry Rasmussen.

    The case hinged on DNA from a bite mark prosecutors say Lazarus left on Rasmussen’s arm.

    Lazarus was not a suspect in 1986 because detectives then believed two robbers who had attacked another woman in the area were to blame for Rasmussen’s death. The case file, however, did mention Lazarus because of her relationship with Ruetten.

    No suspects were found and the case went cold until May 2009, when undercover officers followed Lazarus and obtained a sample of her saliva to compare with DNA left at the original crime scene, police said.

    Prosecutors suggested Lazarus knew to avoid leaving other evidence, such as fingerprints. The idea that saliva from a bite mark could be her undoing was inconceivable in 1986 when DNA wasn’t used as a forensic tool.

    Lazarus rose in the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department, becoming a detective in charge of art forgeries and thefts.

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