UPDATED May 3rd, 2012 for spelling, clarity.
Early on in the trial, I inquired about obtaining a few of the exhibits. I only wanted diagrams. Unfortunately, Judge Perry did not release any items of evidence until the case was settled. I had decided early on that I would not publish photos of Sherri or any photos that had blood smears in them. This was a personal decision. I felt these images would be too painful for both the victim’s and defendant’s families to have out there on the web. One of the things that bothered me the most about the first Spector trial (that was televised) were the images of Lana Clarkson’s body that hit the Internet and how painful that must have been for her loved ones.
One of the main points of the prosecution’s case against Lazarus was the theory that the crime scene was staged. What does that mean? It means the killer (or killers) manipulated the scene to direct attention away from the real perpetrators. The only evidence of a "robbery" was in the living room. No other room in the town home was disturbed. They were in pristine condition. Sherri kept a neat and tidy home.
One of the prosecution’s key witnesses was Mark Safarik, a former FBI profiler, the people's crime scene analyst. Safarik testified that Sherri’s town home was not in an ideal location for a burglary. The complex was surrounded by walls and gated entrances. The driveway gates needed a remote sensor to open them. The front entrance, you needed either a key or to be “buzzed” inside. Unit 205 was set deep inside the complex and not on an end or near the street.
Below is a layout of the grounds of the town home complex with Unit 205 marked.
Site Plan - 7100 Balboa
Another important element of the staging in the living room was the pulled out drawer from a small table between two chairs. It was the only drawer in the house that was pulled out and it was pulled all the way out of the table and up-ended. It’s also a location where one would not expect to see valuables. Although it is difficult to see on this image, there is evidence that the drawer was not riffled through, to look for valuables because a box of sewing pins is still in place, altogether. On the chair next to the table is the blanket/garment with the bullet holes and indicating the barrel cylinder GSR residue.
Table Drawer Pulled Out
Another element that Safarik believed was evidence of staging was the two pieces of video/stereo equipment stacked in front of the stairway in the entrance foyer. It’s believed this equipment was placed there after Sherri was killed. According to the prosecution’s theory of the crime, the attack on Sherri started in the upper level, in the dining room. This was evidenced by the bullet holes in the kitchen patio sliding doors, and the trajectory of one of the bullets back to a wall in the dining room. In the defense theory, that Sherri interrupted a burglary, Sherri and her attacker would have had to have stepped over this equipment at the bottom of the stairs. From the crime scene, we know the attack continued in the entrance way/foyer, where several blood smears and stains were found. In this photo you can also see part of the living room and the stairs up to the upper kitchen and dining room levels.
VCRs and Stairs
Close up of the equipment.
VCR & DISC PLAYER
Below is a photo of the ironing board in the undisturbed dining room. If there was a major struggle in the dining room, there is no evidence of it. Safarik mentioned that ironing boards are items that are not very stable and would easily be overturned in a struggle. There has been speculation that Sherri could have been sitting at this table when Lazarus entered her home. Also in this photo you can see some reading materials on the dining room table. Although you can't see it in this image, there was a chair that was pulled out from this table. It's shown on the diagram of the town home unit.
On the dining room table are the three roses Ruetten gave his new bride the day before to celebrate their three month wedding anniversary. It’s my personal opinion that Ruetten deeply loved his wife.
Roses on Table
Below is a floor plan of Unit 205. It is a tri-level floor plan. The garage area is underneath the kitchen, with the kitchen patio overlooking the driveway behind the unit. Hopefully this floor plan will tie everything in place. You can see by the notations that the blood smears were all in the entrance way foyer and most were very low to the ground. It’s believed the killer dragged or placed Sherri’s body from the foyer to the location where she was found.
Floor Layout - Unit 205
The first time John Ruetten broke down on the stand occurred when DDA Presby asked Ruetten about telling Sherri's parents they were engaged. Nels and Loretta Rasmussen had a boat in San Diego. John and Sherri went down over Memorial Day weekend in 1985 and told them. This is the photo that Ruetten was looking at on the overhead screen that caused him to cry.
John and Sherri on Boat
John & Sherri's wedding.
John and Sherri Wedding