Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Stephanie Lazarus Parole Board Hearing November 16, 2023

 Full T&T Lazarus archive

Sherri at home, December 1985.
Tomorrow, at 8:30 am, Stephanie Lazarus will have her first parole hearing for the murder of Sherri Rae Rasmussen, on February 24, 1986. The murder occurred three months after Sherri married the love of her life, John Ruetten. 
For 23 years, Sherri's murder remained unsolved. Lazarus was arrested for Sherri's murder on June 5, 2009, found guilty of first degree murder on March 8, 2012 and Sentenced to 27 years to life on May 11, 2012. She's been in custody ever since her arrest. 
As of tomorrow, Lazarus will have been in custody for 14 years, 5 months and 7 days. Because Lazarus' crime was committed in '86, she was sentenced under California law that was in effect at that time. Back then, the use of a gun only added 2 years to the sentence (25 for murder + 2 for the gun). Today, murder or attempt murder with a gun automatically adds 25 years to a defendant's sentence. 
Additionally, Lazarus earns "good time" credit in custody at a much higher rate than if she murdered someone today. 
I have been told by sources that in her allocution to the parole board, Lazarus will admit to murdering Sherri. I've also been told that John Ruetten will make a statement. 
The current District Attorney of Los Angeles County, George Gascón, has implemented policies that are very favorable to the defendant and not so much to victims or their families. 
One of his first policy changes after he was sworn in, was to forbid Deputy DA's from having any participation or input at parole hearings. This means there is no advocate for victims at these hearings that know the facts and prosecuted the case that could counter any false statement the defendant might make to the parole board. 
Additionally, a lot of the information the parole board receives, such as the defendant's official statement to the board and other documents are not considered public documents. They don't have access to them.
There is another 'thing' in California law called "youthful offender" that the parole board can put a lot of weight into in favor of the defendant. What do you think the top age is for a defendant to be considered a "youthful offender"? It's 26 years of age. Lazarus was 25yrs and 9 months old when she murdered Sherri. I don't know if Stephanie's defense attorney will present a youthful offender argument at her parole hearing, but it is something that the parole board could consider. 
Another thing is, these hearings are all done on Zoom since the pandemic. Because of that, it creates an environment of emotional distance between the witnesses who will be allowed to speak and the parole board. Much different than if you are there in person, speaking to the board. 
Will Lazarus be granted parole on her first appearance before the board, with only serving a bit more than half of her minimum 27 years to life sentence? Who knows. 
Sherri's parents are both deceased. The Rasmussen family, Connie and Teresa, Sherri's sisters, have gathered a lot of counter-arsenal support, despite the obstacles in front of them. One of the DDA's who prosecuted Lazarus, Paul Nunez, now works for the Ventura County DA and is not bound by DA Gascón's policies. He will be one of the family's advocates. Additionally, Detective Greg Stearns, one of the detectives who interviewed Lazarus in that video I uploaded on T&T's YouTube channel, will also be there to represent the family. The Rasmussen family reached out to everyone who knew Sherri, asking them to write letters to the parole board. They gathered as large an arsenal as they could to represent Sherri. 
I did not get my request sent in time to attend as non-speaking media. However, I will be able to receive a copy of the transcript 30 days after the hearing. 
Fortunately, my friend and author Matthew McGough DID get his request sent in on time and will be there as another advocate of Sherri and as T&T's eyes and ears. 
Send some good thoughts and healing energy to Sherri's family and loved ones tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Lauren Saene Key - 8/29/1996 - 11/8/2000

 Note: I originally posted this in 2016. Remembering Lauren on her birthday. She would have been 27 years old today. Sprocket

Lauren Sarene Key, date unknown
Lauren Sarene Key was murdered a few months after her 4th birthday. She would have been 20 years old today. 

Lauren was thrown off of Inspiration Point, a 120ft cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, by her biological father, Cameron Brown in November 2000. Fifteen years later, Brown was convicted of Lauren's murder on May 13, 2015. He was sentenced to life without parole on September 18, 2015.

Even in her short time on earth, Lauren was a delight to those who knew and loved her. Her mother Sarah, her step-father Greg, step-brother Josh, her teachers, and close friends.

Lauren could best be described as a girly girl. She played with dolls, believed in fairies and enjoyed playing house under the dining room table. Her mother's best friend Annette said, "It was easy to fall in love with this baby,"

At Brown's sentencing, her brother Josh described what she was like. "Her personality would brighten up the room. She would dance, sing and tell jokes. She would draw everyone in. She enjoyed making people happy. She had a fascinating imagination and she loved playing pretend. ... She would have me play, too."

During the two trials, I got to see photos and video clips of Lauren playing, walking on the beach, and learning how to roller skate and use a skateboard.

Photos of Lauren in happier times:

Lauren and her mother, Sarah

I have my own little remembrance of Lauren that I see everyday. It was given to me by her family. It sits on my desk, right beside my ring cup and laptop. The medallion says, "Always Remembered, Lauren."

Complete Cameron Brown murder trial case coverage HERE.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Monica Sementilli Pretrial Hearing, Case Update 1

 The previous post can be found HERE.

 August 1, 2023

There was a pretrial hearing in Dept. 101, Judge Ronald Coen's courtroom for Monica Sementilli. I did not attend but I was able to obtain an update from a reporter who attended the proceedings. 

The case will be delayed until April of 2024. The only possibility of the trial happening sooner is if another case on Judge Coen's calendar is pushed forward in time.  Then the Sementilli case could take it's place.

It appears Monica's defense team informed Judge Coen that Monica's convicted, former co-defendant, Robert Louis Baker will testify at her trial that she had nothing to do with the murder.

Monica Sementilli is charged with first degree murder in the stabbing death of her husband, Fabio Sementilli.

More to come...