Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Trial Day 7, Part II

Per T&T reader's request, I am transcribing the testimony on the day John Ruetten took the stand. Here is Part II, the witnesses who testified just before John Ruetten. I will be posting Ruetten's testimony in a few hours as Day 7, Part III. Sprocket

February 15th, 2012

DDA Presby presents the witness.Retired LAPD officer after 20+ years. He retired at the rank of sergeant. He knew Lazarus.

I see Lazarus look briefly at the witness.

They met in 1983 or 1984 at Hollywood Division. They became friends and socialized outside of work. There was no romantic relationship. They became roommates in late 1984 or early 1985. He moved into Lazarus’ condo and stayed a little over a year. He moved out on February 14th, 1986.

Color photos are introduced, People’s exhibit 159, 160, 191, 162. The witness identified interior and exterior photos of the condo he shared with the defendant. He states Lazarus was the owner.

SP: You had your own bedroom?

MH: Yes, I did.

From 1984 through 1986 he participated in organized sporting events, the Cal State Employee Olympics and Police and Fire Games. He specialized in decathlon and track and field. A photo of a much younger man People’s exhibit 165 is a photo of him, competing. He won the state decathlon in 1990-1991.

Hargreaves states the defendant also competed in the games. She ran track and field, ran in 400 (yd?) relays and also competed in basketball.

SP: (What was the defendant’s) level of fitness?

MH: Outstanding.

SP: (What was her) level of strength compared to other women?

MH: Superior.

People’s exhibits 164, 166 167. Mona Edwards sketches beside me. The photos show Lazarus in competition in one of the Olympic type games. Another photo of Lazarus running track. Another photo of her playing basketball. During that time Hargreaves remembers Lazarus working out daily, lifting weights as well as participating in sports.

Hargreaves remembers the defendant telling him about John.

MH: They met at UCLA I believe.

SP: Aside from the person John, (did you) know (of) any other boyfriend?

MH: No.

He never met John. He never came to the condo. He never saw him come to pick up the defendant for a date.

SP: Describe her emotional feelings for John.

MH: She was in love with him.

SP: Did she tell you?

MH: Yes.

SP: (In prior testimony) did you ever describe it as “head over heels”?

MH: Yes.

SP: Did the defendant ever talk to you about being emotionally upset (over her boyfriend)?

MH: (On) more than one (occasion?).

One event particularly stands out in his memory. Lazarus came home late at night. One or two AM. John had broken up with her and she wanted Hargreaves to console her. She was crying.

SP: Did she tell you (?)?

MH: John told her he was going to marry someone else.

SP: Did you talk to the defendant?

MH: Yes. (snip) We talked for a while and then Steph suggested we do buddy sit ups.

The witness explains this is where you interlace your ankles and you alternate doing sit ups. They did this for about fifteen minutes.

SP: After (that) did she appear to calm down?

MH: Yes.

SP: Did, at any time, did you see her crying or emotionally upset about anyone other than John?

MH: No.

SP: Did she ever tell you the occupation of the person he was going to marry?

MH: I believe a nurse.

He had no independent information about John Ruetten or Sherri Rasmussen. All his information came from Lazarus.

Lazarus told him about a confrontation with John’s girlfriend at a hospital.

SP: Did the defendant relate to you any information about the other woman?

MH: (That) she wasn’t that good looking.

SP: Did this occur after incident (where) she woke up up in the middle (of the night)?

MH: I don’t recall specifically.

SP: Sometime when you were roommates?

MH: Yes.

SP: Her general demeanor, did it change?

MH: She was more sad. (snip) She would leave notes on dishes. Wash that; clean this.

He went through the LAPD academy in 1981. He was issued a service weapon by LAPD. He also carried a back up weapon. His back up weapon was smaller. It was common for police to carry a back up weapon at that time. Hargreaves states the defendant carried a back up weapon. The personal weapon was not issued by LAPD, you had to purchase it yourself.

Presby asks him about a 38 caliber 2 inch “snub nose” and if it has a short, 2 inch barrel. Hargreaves states, “Yes.” He believes the capacity was a five shot.

SP: At some point did she tell you about losing her weapon?

MH: Yes.

SP: Was that over the phone or face to face?

MH: Face to face.

SP: Did (this) occur after (you) moved out?

MH: Yes. (snip) The only part I recall, she lost it in Santa Monica. (snip) She lost her fanny pack with her gun in it.

SP: (When was that, that she told you?)

MH: I believe it was a few days prior (that she lost the weapon). (snip) I don’t remember the exact context.

She was asking him about how to report it but the gun had been stolen a few days before.

SP: Did she tell you about (her) car, or broken out of car?

MH: Not that I recall.

He remembers the type of car she had at that time, a Toyota Tercel. Hargreaves states he rode in her car after he moved out and he never saw any damage to her car.

There is a question about whether or not Lazarus told him her car had been damaged but I don’t have the text of the question right.

SP: Did you know the defendant to have a boyfriend after John ended and before her husband?

MH: No.

SP: Did the defendant ever give you reasons?

MH: That she was very picky. They had to be tall, athletic, like John.

SP: They had to be handsome like John?

MH: Yes.

SP: (Did that) conversation take place after (you moved out of the) condo?

MH: Yes.

Hargreaves and the defendant went on trips together while they were roommates. One was a cruise. They went with a cousin and one of her roommates from West LA... he’s not sure.

Lazarus leans in and whispers to Overland. Photos of him and other people on the cruise. Photos of the defendant on the cruise. The photos of her are very slender, fit. There’s a photo of him doing skeet shooting off the boat.

SP: How proficient was the defendant as a shooter?

MH: She was an expert.

The boat stopped in San Diego then Encinitas.

Direct ends and cross begins.

Overland asks how many times he talked to investigators or the prosecutors before trial. Hargreaves states the initial interview was before pretrial (?) and just before this testimony, today. He agrees that one date might have been June 10th, 2009. He doesn’t really recall the interview before pretrial, not the month or year. Hargreaves states he talked to a detective sitting in the back.

The people stipulate. Detective Stearns was also in the interview. He also spoke to someone three days ago.

MH: It wasn’t by phone. I met with him here, in this building. (snip) I was here to prepare for this.

He spoke three days ago to Jaramillo, Stearns, Nunez and Presby.

Hargreaves is asked if he ever had any romantic interest in the defendant.

MH: I made a pass or two, yes. (snip) I got engaged while living with Steph.

MO: Were you single at that time, chasing every skirt available to you?

MH: Yes. (snip) I made a pass at her. (snip) The few attempts I made to suggest any attempts at intimacy were rebuffed.

MO: You wanted to have sex with her?

MH: Yes.

Overland asks if at night he went out chasing women.

MO: So you didn’t hang out and see who picked her up. You had your own life?

MH: Yes.

From the time he moved in until he moved out he lived there a little over a year. They talked about John abut half a dozen times during that time period.

Overland is now crossing Hargreaves on his preliminary hearing testimony. At the prelim, he said half dozen times. Hargreaves agrees that was an approximation.

Overland asks him what other women would he compare Lazarus’ strength to.

MH: I would compare her to the average woman who did train. (snip) I would say superior to other police women.

MO: She was in good shape?

MH: Yes.

MO: She trained?

MH: Yes.

Overland now crosses Hargreaves on the break up. Hargreaves doesn’t remember when that was. He affirms that he remembers her demeanor at the time. He remembers that specifically.

MO: In terms of (her) demeanor, did you thin anything inappropriate in that response?

MH: No.

MO: She was expressing her (feelings?)?

MH: Yes.

MO: Do you remember telling her John was using her? (snip) Did you tell her John was going out with both at the same time?

MH: Yes.

MO: How did she react?

MH: I don’t recall specifically.

Overland states he mentioned the woman at the hospital, and asks if John had a connection to the hospital also.

MH: (That’s) not clear to me.

MO: Did you tell the detectives at that time (a pretrial interview) that John had a connection to the hospital, that John was an EMT or Firefighter?

MH: Yes, (I remember0 but I was confused as to where that information came from.

Nunez sits facing the jury. He’s tapping his fingers on his face, holding his face in his left hand, his elbow on the arm of the chair.

Overland now shows the witness his testimony from the preliminary hearing. Something about notes that he wrote.

MH: When my wife informed me that (she? Steph?) had been arrested for murder, I knew that I would be involved since I knew her. I wrote notes to the best of my memory. (snip) I didn’t know what it was. (snip) John was connected in some way.

Overland has him read back more of his prior testimony but the witness is firm with Overland about his testimony now. There are more questions about that incident where she woke him up upset about the break up.

MO: It wasn’t like she was hysterical or out of control?

MH: No.

Overland tries to pin Hargreaves down as to when this could have happened. Hargreaves states the closest he could come would be late 1985, or the fall of 1985. Overland asks him what fall means to him.

MH: After summer.

I believe someone states they would settle on September 1985.

MO: Did you know if Lazarus was still seeing John on a fairly regular basis (after that?)?

MH: I don’t recall.

Another part of his prior statement (to investigators?) is gone over. I see Lazarus watches the witness for a moment. Her arms are in front of her, on the table. Her fingers interlaced.

Hargreaves agrees that before the break up, Lazarus was seeing John on a regular basis. Overland asks him about his interview in June 2009, and how much he remembered at that time (about 20 years ago). Overland asks if during the time he lived in the condo, if Lazarus was so close to him, she would confide everything to him.

MH: I have no way of knowing that sir.

Lazarus appears to be writing notes on a yellow legal pad.

MO: Do you feel that you were so close she would confide...

MH: I couldn’t say that now. I didn’t say that then. She had closer confidants (then? than?)....

There is more confrontation with the prior statements in either interviews or from the preliminary hearing.

MH: If I knew someone that had better knowledge and understanding...

MO: My question was, were you trying to help the police and prosecution?

MH: Sure.

MO: You felt her reaction was appropriate?

MH: That’s correct, yes.

MO: Did you feel that Lazarus was a calm person?

MH: When?

MO: In handling disputes?

MH: Yes.

MO: Did you ever see her have an outburst?

MH: No.

MO: Did she ever tell you that she was going to get John back?

MH: I don’t recall a specific statement.

MO: Did she ever tell you (snip) did she ever say she was going to meet him after the (B/U?)

MH: I don’t recall.

MO: After you moved out, did she ever talk about John?

MH: Yes. There were conversations when we talked about John in passing, yes.

MO: On the June 10th, 2009, (you were) asked this question by Detective Stearns: “Do you have any recollection of her talking about John? (and you answered) No.

MH: That’s correct. That’s not what I was referring to.

MO: You talked also today about learning about some confrontations, is that your word?

MH: Yes.

MO: You talked today about remembering Ms. Lazarus told you about going to (the) hospital and meeting a person John was going to marry, and you described it as a confrontation.

MH: That’s how it was described to me.

MO: And you remember that specifically?

MH: Yes.

Overland goes over his statement of June 10th, 2009 again and asks him to read some lines. From my notes, I can’t tell if this next part is Overland reading the prior statement, or the witness.

And I can’t say, I can’t recall. The conversation about other woman and John had an association there of some sort. I knew those things. But Steph (?) (snip) had a confrontation there. I honestly don’t recall.

MO: You were doing your best to remember there?

MH: Yes I was.

There is a question about Hargreaves being a reserve training officer.

Objection! Sustained! 352!

MO: Did you, at any time, feel that you needed to change your attitude as a police officer?

Objection! Sustained! Move to strike!

JP: Objection sustained. I don’t think it’s relevant.

MO: Did you remain friends after you moved out?

MH: Yes.

The worked in the same division and the DARE program. Hargreaves has met Lazarus’ present husband on several occasions. He did not go to their wedding. Hargreaves is asked about the transition from the 38 caliber to the 9M Baretta semi-automatic verses the revolver at the LAPD. With the semi-automatic, you could be 14 cartridges in one chamber.

MO: You considered Lazarus and expert? (with a firearm)

MH: I didn’t. She met the department standards as an expert.

To reach expert, one must shoot 280 or more. Hargreaves states he never obtained that level of proficiency.

MO: That was unusual for a woman?

MH: Yes.

MO: In 1983, did the academy have a special program to train (women) as police officers?

MH: Yes there was. (snip) Don’t recall exact name (CPA?) just knew what they did.

MO: During the June 2009 interview, did you ever say anything about Lazarus losing her weapon?

SP: People stipulate. Not mentioned before.

MO: Only time you told anyone about it was three days ago?

MH: No.

The witness is finished with cross and there’s no redirect.

Overland apologizes. He has more questions for the witness.

MO: You also said Lazarus had standards for a boyfriend? (83? 85?)

MH: I remember we had a discussion when (we? she? was) working DARE in 1988. (snip) I remember talking with Steph and another police officer while we were in DARE. (snip) I can’t recall everything that was said. (snip) One time that Step (reg?) her standards in dating. “Tall, athletic, like John.” (snip) She didn’t say what about John, we just quipped that was “the John standard”.

MO: What was her reason for not going out with just anybody?

MH: That would be an assumption on my part.

Overland asks another question about his June 2009 statement. To me, Overland tries to make the witness look bad by the skirt chasing comments, but he came off as a red blooded male.

Hargreaves states he doesn’t recall at the moment ever seeing any injuries on Lazarus.

Hargreaves is finally off the stand and the next witness is called. I believe Presby presents the witness.


Gail Lopes is John Ruetten’s older sister. She is five years older than John. Back in the late 70’s, she knew the defendant. Lazarus looks over at the witness. She met Lazarus through John. During that time John went to UCLA, she thinks she may have met Lazarus three times.

SP: Did your brother ever introduce the defendant as his girlfriend?

GL: I don’t know that I have a recollection of those words. My understanding was that they were friends and that they dated.

SP: At UCLA and after, did you meet Sherri Rasmussen?

GL: Yes.

SP: How did you meet her?

GL: My brother introduced her.

When Rasmussen was introduced to her, it was as her brother’s girlfriend. She saw them together about three or four times. They came to visit her in Northern California and they would stay a couple of days.

GL: Yes, they seemed very much in love (snip) Very much so.

SP: Did he tell you he loved her?

GL: Yes.

SP: What was his emotional demeanor after she was killed?

GL: He was devastated.

SP: What was your mother’s name?

GL: Margaret.

SP: Last name Ruetten?

GL: Yes.

October of last year she passed away. Lopes was her executor and trustee of her mother’s estate. Her mother had folders on different family members.

SP: What is your occupation?

GL: I’m a lawyer.

SP: At the time you went through your mother’s papers, did you know about the case?

GL: Yes.

SP: Did you speak to your brother about the case?

GL: Yes.

SP: When you went through your mother’s papers, did you find something you thought might be relevant?

GL: I found an envelope addressed to my mother. Inside a letter signed Stephanie.

People’s exhibits 175, 175b, 175c. The first is a photo of the outside of an envelope. The second exhibit is a blue, card sized envelope. The third is a small letter, two sided on blue paper.

The people introduce another white envelope with pictures, five photos. 175 e,f,g,h,i. It’s 10:20 AM.

The outer envelope. Lopes states she made that envelope. She put the letter and it’s envelope and all the things she found that might be relevant. She found the envelope addressed to her mother. She opened the envelope and read the letter.

SP: Is this the letter you found?

GL: Yes. (snip) Signed, Love always, Stephanie.

SP: Did the envelope have a postmark?

GL: Yes.

She reads the postmark. August 6th, 1985.

Lopes identifies the photos she found. Some of the photos are the ones that Hargreaves identified as a cruise he went on with Lazarus and a few others.

Presby has her read the third paragraph from the letter.

GL: “I’m truly in love with John and this past year has really torn me up. And I really don’t think I’ll understand John’s decision.”

Lopes gave the letters to Detective Jaramillo.

SP: The first part of the letter, did it refer to (the) photographs?

GL: Yes.

I try to copy down as much of the letter as I can.

“I wanted to thank you for the pictures. The reason it has taken me so long, I had to build up the courage (And I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again.)

I do want you to know that your family has meant so much to me. I learned so much from you.”

That’s not all of the letter, but the most I could copy the short time it was up on the overhead screen.

Direct ends and cross begins.

Overland asks when she found the photos.

GL: Early October of last years.

MO: As far as you know, your mother had kept them?

GL: Correct.

Lopes states that Lazarus knew other members of John’s family.

Judge Perry interjects and asks his own question.

JP: Did you have an understanding they were friendly?

GL: I understood they were friendly. I don’t know that they were friends. (other members of her family with Lazarus)

(MO:?) Do you have any idea why your mother kept the letters?

GL: I don’t.

Overland goes over the letter with her.

MO: the first line, “I wanted to thank you for the pictures.” Do you know what pictures that refers to?

GL: I do not.

MO: Do you know why your mother might send Lazarus photos?

GL: I do not.

Overland introduces a photo, Defense exhibit EEE photo. It’s another brother Tom, her sister Janet, she’s not sure if another person in the photo could be herself, or Lazarus. They are all very young, in their 20‘s.

DDA Presby offers her some reading glasses since she forgot hers. She then thinks the female in the photo could be her.

Lopes is asked where the photo was taken. She’s not sure and Judge Perry tells her not to speculate. Lopes states it looks familiar. It might be some place around the plaza in Sonoma where (we?) live. She does not know who took the pictures. More photos are gone over, who the women are and who the babies belong to.

Overland asks if she knew if Lazarus had a friendship with her other bother Tom.

GL: I know (he/she?) attended some of (his?) sporting events.

MO: Do you know if her brother assisted Lazarus in getting her condo?

GL: No I do not.

At the morning break, out in the hallway Lopes and Loretta Rasmussen exchange a long hug. Then she hugs Nels. It’s very emotional for all of them.

At 10:48 AM the break is over and Judge Perry asks to see counsel at sidebar. John Ruetten was standing with the Rasmussen’s as his sister hugged them. Inside the courtroom, Lopes joins the Rasmussen family in the gallery.
To be continued in Part III....


Utah Chris said...

Thanks Sprocket.

The more I read, the more convincingly the evidence points towards the defendant. The next few days there will be a verdict and I'm sure there will be no one connected with this case that is happy either way. I'm going to try and read your post tonight on John's testimony. I'm not sure I will be able to read it without chocking up.