Defense attorney Mark Overland, Stephanie Lazarus,
March 8th, 2012 at the reading of the verdictUPDATE 2:45 PM
I just got home and I'm exhausted. The heat in the Valley is a bruiser today. As soon as I rest up (and get my kitchen cleaned up from this morning) I will put up my notes. I could not see Stephanie's face from where I was sitting. She kept her head down and turned slightly to her right, away from the media video camera that was set up in the jury box. According to the District Attorney's press release, she showed no emotion during the sentencing. She was in an orange jail jumpsuit, not civilian clothing. She did not have her hair back in a ponytail; it did not look like it had been brushed.
Lazarus' husband Scott Young was in the gallery along with several other of her family members. The last sentencing hearing I attended (Tyquan Knox case) the defendant's mother addressed the court. I thought for sure that someone from Lazarus' family would address the court but they did not. It could be because Judge Perry did not allow it. Judge Perry did not allow Sherri's former roommate, Jayne Goldberg to read a statement since she was not a direct family member. I will have her statement up on T&T when I write my update. Sherri's mother Loretta spoke first, then her sister Teresa then her sister Connie. John Ruetten's voice broke into sobs many times during the reading of his statement. DDA Shannon Presby was asked to read a statement for Nels Rasmussen. In less than 30 minutes, it was all over. Judge Perry did not add any statements or comments to reading the sentence into the record and the calculation of her credits so far for time served. I will have much more about the sentence, when she will first be eligible for parole, etc., either later tonight or tomorrow morning. I'm going along with fellow contributor CaliGirl9's insightful guess that Lazarus will be sent to the same facility as the Manson girls. Sprocket.
UPDATE 8:15 AM
I'm in the hallway. John Ruetten, his sister Gail Lopes nad possibly her husband are here. There are many more members of Sherri Rasmussen's family here. I got to meet Sherri's cousin, who could not attend the trial. I believe it's going to be video taped today, but I don't believe it will be live streamed. I haven't checked with the PIO yet. I was just catching up with Steven Mikulan. Now I have to get in line.
At 8:30 AM PT today, in Dept. 104 of the downtown Criminal Justice Center (CJC) former LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus, 52, will be sentenced by Judge Robert J. Perry for the February 1986 first degree murder of Sherri Rae Rasmussen, a Glendale Adventist critical care nurse and the new bride of her ex-lover, John Ruetten.
For those of you living in a cave, Rasmussen was badly beaten (her face disfigured), bitten on the forearm and shot three times in the chest in her Van Nuys town home, sometime in the morning hours of February 24th, 1986. Her body was discovered around 6 PM that same day when her husband, Ruetten, came home from work. The cold case was solved in 2009 by the Van Nuys Homicide Unit (Detective Rob Bub, unit supervisor, Detective James Nuttall, Detective Pete Barba, and Detective Marc Martinez, a fabulous group of cowboys. Sprocket) when Detective Nuttall picked up the cardboard box containing the four murder-book binders that had been waiting patiently on his desk for many months, opened the case file and started looking at the crime scene photos with fresh eyes.
It is my understanding there is very little leeway Judge Perry has in sentencing since the punishment for murder is included in the California Penal Code 187. Lazarus will be sentenced under the Penal Code that was in effect when the murder was committed back in 1986. She is expected to be sentenced to 27 years to life; 25 years for the murder and 2 years for the gun charge. If Lazarus had committed the murder in more recent times, she would be facing twice as much time in prison. (Read the sentence of Tomiekiea Johnson, recently convicted of first degree murder with a gun. Johnson collapsed when her sentence was read in court.)
The Superior Court's Public Information Office (PIO) has informed the media that there will be "additional seating limitations" for the sentencing. It's a good bet there will be a reduced number of seats awarded by lottery for the general public. Although I have a guaranteed seat for the sentencing, I have to be on the 9th Floor very early to claim it. I'll be taking the Red Line Train not long after the sun rises.
There is a strong possibility that there will be video of the sentencing since Judge Perry has approved video cameras for the reading of the verdict, but I wouldn't count on there being live streaming of the sentencing anywhere on the web (mostly because of the difficulties I know news media has had in the past of trying to arrange live streaming in the CJC). I will post an update about cameras as soon as I'm on the 9th Floor and am able to ask the PIO staff.
The sentence won't be a mystery. The big mystery is if Lazarus will speak at her sentencing. I'm not the best predictor of these things but it's my guess that we will not hear from Lazarus herself. It's my opinion that she has more to lose (via appeals) if she speaks to the court at this time. The other mystery is whether or not John Ruetten will speak about the impact Sherri's death had on him and his family. My opinion is that he will, but we'll see. To me, it's a foregone conclusion that members of the Rasmussen family will speak and I believe this will be a difficult time for all of Sherri's loved ones. I will also be interested to see who from Lazarus' family attends the sentencing and if any of them put a statement to the Court on the record.
Since Judge Perry is very strict about electronic devices inside his courtroom, I will not be publishing an update until after the hearing is completely over, most likely in the late afternoon.
Continued in Part II....
Sherri Rae Rasmussen