Stephanie Lazarus, 2009
Opening statements are scheduled to begin today in the Stephanie Lazarus case. For those of you just dropping into T&T for the first time, I've been covering this case for the past year. You can find all my stories on this case as well as some from the mainstream media (MSM) at my Lazarus Case Quick Links.
Stephanie Lazarus, a 25-year veteran detective of the LAPD with a stellar career is charged with the 1986 cold-case murder of Sherri Rae Rasmussen, a critical care nurse at Glendale Adventist Hospital and the recent bride of Lazarus's ex-boyfriend, John Ruetten. A violent struggle erupted in Sherri's home where she was beaten, tied up and shot three times. The prosecution alleges the case was solved 23 years later with a DNA match.
Judge Perry has described the case as a "who done it." DDA Shannon Presby has said that the preliminary hearing was the "bare bones" of the case and at trial we will see "more meat". Lazarus' defense attorney Mark Overland has indicated to the MSM that he will point the jury to a different suspect.
I will have a short update at the lunch break on opening statements and hopefully a full report up later tonight.
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UPDATE 2:34 pm:
It's the afternoon break. Opening statements were finished by noon. We've had two witnesses this morning. I came out in the hallway without my notes to get the correct spelling but I will tell you briefly the first witness was Sherri's younger sister Teresa Lane, who spent part of Sunday with Sherri the day before she died. The second witness was a paramedic who was called to the scene and pronounced Sherri dead. I will post more much later tonight.
UPDATE 12:02 am, Feb. 7th:
Mr. Sprocket picked me up at the Orange Line Station and we did some much needed shopping. Consequently, I didn't get to start writing until after 9:00 pm so I'm already way behind and it's only the first day.
DDA Presby outlined in great detail the series of events of February 24th, 1986 until 2009 when Lazarus was arrested. After that, he talked about the circumstantial evidence against Lazarus. The DNA from the bite mark swab. The report of Lazarus' gun disappearing 13 days after the murder. The tool marks on the bullets that Sherri were killed with that were fired from a 38 Smith & Wesson snub nosed revolver, the same type of gun that Lazarus had purchased from the LAPD for her personal weapon; not department issued. Those same bullets being the only ones allowed that were LAPD issued back in 1986. The BMW found intact with the keys still in the iginition and not stripped. They looked at the robe (?) used to muffle the gun, only made by a revolver. The stolen marriage certificate. The writings in Lazarus' journal. Lazarus showing up at Sherri's work.
Mark Overland began his opening statement by going over a detailed review of Lazarus' life from the time she graduated from UCLA to her work assignments with the LAPD. He mentioned the positive statements from supervisors in her personnel file. Overland said he would go out on a limb here and state there were no eye witnesses to this murder.
He said that Lazarus was not obsessed with John Ruetten and the relationship was more than what the prosecution has presented. Ruetten and Lazarus had sex twenty or thirty times, so it was not a one sided relationship. He painted a different picture of that last meeting between Lazarus and Ruetten before Ruetten married Sherri. He spent some time explaining the 1986 investigation and why Lyle Mayer thought this was a botched burglary, because the situation was virtually identical to another burglary several weeks later.
He then went onto challenge the scientific evidence, claiming that it cannot be relied on because it was not properly stored, nor is the chain of custody clear. He questioned the work performed by coroner's investigator Lloyd Mahanay, who sometimes said "swabs" verses "swab." (Which is it?) Overland then went into an overly detailed explanation of DNA, what it is, how it's coiled up in the cell, what is a chromesome (sp?), what an allele is as well as what is a tandem repeat.
Five witnesses took the stand in the afternoon session. We are still with the fifth witness.
1. Teresa Lane - Sister of Sherri; testified about their day on Sunday. Did not see any injuries on Sherri on Sunday.
2. Gregory Telian - Paramedic who responded to the scene and pronounced Sherri deceased.
3. Rodney Forrest - Retired LAPD officer responded to the scene and secured it.
4. Anastasia Volanaitas - Neighbor who observed the Sherri's garage door open and no car inside.
5. Steve Hooks - Retired LAPD Detective who investigated the case in 1986 with Lyle Mayer.
I'll try to post part of my detailed notes tomorrow morning, before court. Court resumes at 12 noon, tomorrow. A juror has a doctor's appointment.