Friday, May 11, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Sentenced Today

Defense attorney Mark Overland, Stephanie Lazarus,
March 8th, 2012 at the reading of the verdict
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.

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.

5:00 AM
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


Anonymous said...

So grateful to you for covering this sentencing. I am live streaming Foxla right now, and they just did a story on the upcoming sentencing.

Marva said...

So want to know what was her reaction when she had to listen to all of Sherri's family/friends statements before the 27 yr sentence was handed down...sprocket you have done an excellent job in the coverage of this case.

MT Kris said...

This is do Sherri's day, one devoted to her by her family + John Reutten's. So glad to hear he is there. I hope + pray for their courage to say what they need to say. Look fwd to updates later. Thanks...kris

Charlie N. said...

Does 27 yrs to life mean she must stay in prison for 27 yrs then be eligible for parole or can she get out before the 27 yrs goes by?

Anonymous said...

Sure hope we'll get a video of the sentencing. Lazarus deserved the rest of her life in prison. But at least she will be in prison 15 years more and her days of being a police officer are over. At least there's that. Thank goodness for DNA. I sure look forward to the book coming out about this case. It is such a classic story of justice, of the past finally catching up to reveal a murderer among us posing as an ordinary well liked person. Living as though murdering a wonderful woman never happened. What a freak Stephanie Lazarus is.

TS said...

Was Stephanie's husband in the courtroom today? I don't recall seeing him there.

Anonymous said...

Do you know what prison she will be sent to?

Soapbubble said...

Stephanie and the Manson girls in the same facility? Interesting?

Anonymous said...

If Lazarus has any medical issues(thyroid problems)She'll be sent to the Central Calif.Women's Facility.according to a friend of mine who spent some time there for a drug violation.

Anonymous said...


Annette said...

God Bless the Rasmussen family. Sherri, you are so loved and missed. Justice has finally been served. I hope SL never gets out of prison. She is an incredibly horrible person and I just don't understand how anybody can walk around living a "normal" life after doing what she did. I was so glad to see John was at the sentencing. I believe he truly loved Sherri and has been devastated by this. Sherri, we love you.
Annette Hindman Mehlhorn

NancyB said...

I too hope that SL never is allowed her freedom again. All of her smiles and winks at her family during the trial were understandable however those behaviors had absolutely no place at her sentencing hearing, in my opinion. I truly do not believe that in her heart of hearts that she has even a smidgeon of remorse for committing this heinous and cold blooded murder, that ruined so many lives.

In the poll that you posted I voted that John would make a victim impact statement - it was just fitting for all that he has suffered during these last 26 yrs. I totally agree with your above comment Annette - that he truly loved Sherri and was devastated by SL murder of her. My heart breaks for all of Sherri's loved ones. There are some events in one's life that there is no "getting over" it and the murder of Sherri is surely one example.

Sproket, do you have any idea of when SL will be transferred to Ca Institute of Women or whatever prison she will reside in?

Anonymous said...

Nancy B, I agree with your posting 100%! Her smiling and winking during sentencing is a blatant disregard for the victim's family! Also, it's a disregard to Sherri too! It shows she is as I posted before a cold calculating-murdering narcissist! Her actions have hurt so many people, because she wanted a man, who simply saw her as a "bed partner" too badly! What stupid judgment!In my opinion, she can do one thing that would be a measure of justice AND that one thing is to by pass all appeals and don't put the Rasmussen family thru anymore hell!

Anonymous said...

Referencing Mark Overland, he's NOT sad nor disappointed of Lazarus' conviction! I honestly believe, deep within, he knew this case was a "slam dunk" for the prosecution team! The DNA was too powerful to explain away! He's just lining his pocket off of Lazarus' bank account. I read somewhere that he's already filed for an appeal. No wonder his wife is so well-manicured and put together!

Robert said...

This tragedy has drawn to a close, and it is fitting that John Ruetten was able to speak at the sentencing, even with difficulty. It was important for him to speak, both for Sherri and for all those who wondered where he had been all of these years.

We will never know his inner workings, but I believe Ruetten addressing the court will allow him to finally start the healing process. On the first day he testified, it was obvious to me that he was a broken man for whom Sherri's loss was still a fresh wound.

In the comments section some of Sherri's friends have wondered why he did not do the things they expected him to do, and I believe the only answer to that is that one never knows how they will react to an emergency, or to a death until the situation presents itself. We are all different, and in Ruetten's case it quite obviously broke his heart to lose his precious wife, and to be the one who found her beaten and shot.

He did not do what many thought he should do and act as an advocate for Sherri, but there is no prescription for how someone 'should' act - there are just human beings who sometimes cry, sometimes go into a shell, and sometimes run away and hide. What to some seemed to be suspicious behavior now looks like the actions of a man wandering through life in a daze. I admit to wondering about him myself, and I did so until the day I saw him testify.

Mr. Ruetten, I'm sorry you lost your wife, and I'm sorry you had to be the one who found her. But I'm also sorry to have been one of those people who viewed you with suspicion. I should have waited to hear your side of the story.

Well done, Sprocket and may God bless and keep you and yours, the Rasmussen's and Sherri's friends, and Mr. Ruetten, and of course the DA's and the policemen who brought Sherri justice. It took all of you to make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Will Lazarus be allowed conjugal visits with her husband?

Sprocket said...

I'm sorry I have not published part two of my notes on the sentencing yet, as well as the text of the impact statements from Sherri's family as well as Jayne Goldberg's statement she was not allowed to read.

Real life responsibilities have kept me from writing and answering your questions. I will answer your questions and start on my notes and put them up as soon as possible.

Thank you all for your patience and for reading T&T.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Sprocket!!

I have a question. Will Lazarus serve out her time in general population or protective custody? I hope to goodness it's general population. Just curious. Thanks for all you do!!! YOU ARE AWESOME!! INDEED A SUPER WOMAN!! : )

Anonymous said...

OT - I was very saddened to see that The Hinky Meter is no more, and the Hinky website is up for sale. Valhall did an outstanding job advocating for justice. Her intelligence and quickly getting to the heart of matters will be sorely missed.

Sprocket, thank you for all your time, effort, and hard work being our eyes and ears in the courtroom. Looking forward to reading your next post.

Larry L. said...

Hi, Betsy,

Thanks for your comment. I was beginning to worry about you. Here's a question to add to those already posed:

I did see a brief video of the sentencing. It appeared that the speakers were behind SL. Thus she would have had to turn around to see the speakers (she didn't). This physical arrangement seems strange to me. I have no idea about courtroom protocol and am not sure whether the speakers are officially addressing the judge, the defendant or both. In "victim impact statements" I've seen in the past, it seemed the speakers were primarily addressing the defendants. If I were a speaker, I'm pretty certain I'd want to be facing the defendant. Presumably (?) the judge has the say on where the speakers stand. In respect for the speakers, the ideal situation would seem to be for them to be given the option of standing in front of the courtroom (facing in the same direction as the judge) or to speak from their seats. Any comments? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I am so eager to read you posting on SL sentencing. Also, like a previous individuals, if there is a link I/we could go to to see it that would be much appreciated. You have been our ear, eyes and voice for us. Great reporting and thanks for all your hard work in getting this info on line. Much respect.

MTkris said...

Sprocket, good to know ur ok! Yes, real life does get in the way! I've been thinking much about SL's adopted daughter her loss + how angry, hurt + abandoned this little girl is experiencing now + will contend with as she grows up. Even w/other family members around the broken bond loss is piercing + is made worse when well meaning ppl lie to the child as she grows. The pain of abandonedment begin to heal + the gap begins to close only w/the truth; even if the truth is horrid. I know something about this.
SL's daughter will begin to absorb facts w/in 10 years or less. For myself, I was 12 yrs when I began searching for the truth, "why/what/where was my Mom from age 4yrs?"
Now, SL seems "narcissistic, arrogant, self serving + all about appearances", same as Daryle, my birth mom. This young girl will get to the truth faster than I did (pre-internet). Interesting, SL will be eligible for parole about the time her daughter is age wise, capable enough to discover the truth. One of the questions she'll have is, As
a murderer, what made you choose me or even think you'd be emotionally/mentally capable to be my mother? She'll wonder why she couldn't have been raised by a truly loving mother, one whom wasn't a killer. SL will have some years to think how she'll answer: lie for early parole or tell her teenage daughter the truth.

MTkris said...

Hi Sprocket + All,
Just wanted to f/u on my last comment; at times I can make a point harshly. I view SL's daughter as a preventable victim, yet SL shows her true colors when she adopted a Needy child she assumed she deserved to be a mother to regardless of committing a brutal murder in her past. I'm sure her daughter is loved + well cared for by remaining family. SL continues to hold her family emotionally hostage
by not divulging her obsession w/herself that convinced her ultimately erasing the human being that surpassed her in SL's "obsessed, no lose, don't ignore me, narcissistic" mind. By killing Sherri, SL sure hurt John, as she was hurt. That's pure revenge, nothing to do w/love. SL will have to answer her daughter, whom she professed to adopt, love + be a loving mother to, when you brutally took another human being loved by do many + whom gave love to others.

Had SL not stalked Sherri so meticulously, being so obsessed SL could have killed John also. Yet, SL was obsessef, patient+ smart; doggedly followed Sherri, knew
her sched. RN's work long hrs+ we don't know if Sherri called in late nite prior or early am hours. No cell phones in 86', yet SL most likely used a pay phone on a corner, confirmed Sherri called in sick + Sherri being a Dir+ responsible human being would have called in as early as possible. Had the lead cop not been a lazy moron, it would have been a great circumstancial case then. Not sure of such guilty verdict, tho. Which is harder, doing time after you have accomplished so much? SL's daughter is+will experience the effects of "broken-bond syndrome" via loss of a primary parent (mom usually) during critical child growth yrs thru age 5. This is a reality+challenge regardless of other family members involvement. As a therapist + personal experience, I've seen this. My point is that this adopted daughter could have been spared being
invovled in turmoil that follows a murder. Yet, SL w/her selfishness+arrogance chose another victim. If SL answers to anyone w/truth (before God) it may be her daughter. Actually, SL's family could handle+be relieved w/truth. Odds are SL will continue to play the narcisstic victim+ hold her family emotionally hostage.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie may have been winking and smiling at her family during the sentencing phase of her trial, but trust me, once she re-entered that cold cell reality returned once again. Being in prison 27 years to life is no joke!! She's going to have even bigger problems because she's a former cop. So she can smile, wink, and pretend like it's no big deal all she wants. Inside she wishes she had her old life back, which included lots of travel and fun with family and friends. HER LIFE IS OVER!!!! More than likely she will die in prison!! And that's a good thing!!

Sprocket said...

Real life responsibilities have to come first but I wanted to drop in for a moment to share my thoughts.

I do not believe that people are one-dimensional. We are multi-layered beings. We can be a bundle of contradictions, and I think that Lazarus is no different in that aspect.

I believe people can compartmentalize their lives to forget painful experiences or experiences they do not want to face. They wall them off from their day to day reality.

I don't believe Ruetten would ever have been a target of Lazarus. I think DDA Shannon Presby's closing argument in this case outlined Lazarus' thought process and actions correctly. Lazarus believed that Rasmussen was the reason she was no longer with Ruetten. The letter she wrote to John's mother supports that.

I have nothing but sorrow and sympathy for both families.

Anonymous said...

I agree Sprocket. It's a sad situation and everyone on both sides are hurting regardless of the situation. My prayers and thoughts are with them for true healing.

Anonymous said...

So... I read someone's article or blog somewhere & it said Lazarus will be going to Chowchilla. I called Century Detention Ctr & they don't have anything yet re: transfer. The woman there said sometimes it takes WEEKS to complete the paperwork & move. From what I understand being in County is the WORST & when finally getting to their STATE location things are much better for the inmates...

Sprocket said...

I don't believe it's already been decided where Lazarus will go.

Where Lazarus ends up won't be determined until she's been evaluated by the Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation. She isn't even in their hands yet.

Anonymous said...

Do you know when you will be able to give us a detailed account of the sentencings???