Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Trial: Q & A IV

Sherri Rae Rasmussen


CORRECTION 5/9/19: See below. Sprocket
UPDATED 3/12/12 5:35 pm

Now that the trial is over and Dateline aired an updated episode on the case, (I'll comment on the show in a moment) I'm sure many of you still have some questions. I will try to answer as many of your questions as I can. I'm still not caught up on answering all my mail, so please do not think that I'm ignoring you. And, as soon I publish this entry, I will be answering my mail then working on the last day of closing arguments which cover the rest of Overland's defense argument and Presby's rebuttal argument.

I've read through several days of comment questions by T&T readers and I've included many of them below.

Question from TS: If there is a hung jury (and I certainly hope not!), is it automatic that there will be another trial? If so, the attorneys on one or both sides may change - yes? Would SL then have the option of a plea deal if offered? And last, SL would still remain incarcerated waiting for another trial unless the 10 million dollar bail was met?
Answer: If there had been a hung jury it's a good bet the case would have been retried. There could also be a change in counsel on both sides, but I would guess that situation would be less likely on the prosecution side. (In Phil Spector, DDA Alan Jackson was involved in both prosecutions. In Cameron Brown, DDA Craig Hum has been the prosecutor on both hung trials and will be handling the third trial. The defense attorney on the Brown case has been different each time.) Yes, I believe shoe would still have been incarcerated until she met bail.

Question from Shannon fr. Seattle: I would love it if you would provide a list of some of your favorite books in this genre. Specifically, I am looking for books that teach people how to recognize lying by face, body language, etc.
Answer: I personally don't know of any books but there might be some out there. Remember, you need to actually "see" the expression being made. However, there are online courses you can take on how to spot and identify micro-expressions. I believe Dr. Paul Ekman has some. I'd also recommend reading the blog Eyes For Lies. She has helped many of her readers hone their skills on how to spot deception.

Question from Robert: I'd love to hear how it was closed out, and if mention was made of Lazarus' lack of an alibi / paper trail (snip).
Answer: Off the top of my head, I'm not remembering a "lack of a paper trail" being mentioned in the rebuttal, but the fact that it was her day off was mentioned. I'm still going to write up my notes from the last day of arguments, so please be patient for that.

Question from Maddie: Looking forward to your reporting on what everyone's reactions were -- particularly the defendant's. Does this mean she'll be stripped of her pension? I think it's unbelievable that she would still be entitled to that.
Answer: From where I was sitting, I could not see Lazarus' face. Standing behind her for virtually all of the time I was in the courtroom were two deputy sheriff's, facing the gallery. The brief look I saw of her mother's face was heartbreaking. She retired before she was convicted of anything so she receives her pension. I believe even if she was convicted, she would still receive her pension.

Question from LC California: Where will you take us next?
Answer: Unless something compelling comes up quickly, I will be covering the Cameron Brown third trial in Judge Pastor's courtroom (Dept. 107) later this summer. This is a very compelling case. It's a true mystery as to what happened on Inspiration Point. I covered the second trial in July 2009. During that trial I got sick at the start of the defense case and so I wasn't able to cover that case in a completely balanced manner. I hope to rectify that. Beyond that, I hope to cover Kelly Soo Park and possibly Lonnie Franklin Jr., (both in Judge Kennedy's courtroom, Dept. 109). The "long shot" I might cover will be Christian Gerhartsreiter, and that will depend on if it's tried in the Alhambra or Pasadena Courthouse or moved to downtown LA.

Question from Anon @3:01 PM 3/8: Who from Stephanie's family was present for the verdict? The LA Times said her mother was escorted out but didn't say a thing about her husband.
Answer: Lazarus' siblings, Judi and Steven were there. Steven's companion was there and a few other people that were there throughout the trial that I've never had identified. I have a bit of information on Lazarus' husband from a trusted eyewitness source in the back row who wishes to remain anonymous.

QUOTE SOURCE: The moment the word "guilty" was read by the court clerk, two deputies separately and immediately put their hands on Carol and Scott Young, helping them up and escorting them out of the courtroom. This was even before the clerk had read the "first degree" part of the verdict. (I believe this is correct. I saw Carol being helped out of her chair before I left, and I was waiting to hear first or second. Sprocket) It appeared to the observer that this was prearranged with Carol and Scott and neither seemed resistant in any way or surprised by the touching of the sheriff's or any other aspect of this "escorting".

Furthermore, Scott Young usually sat in the front row behind the defendant. For the verdict, he was positioned in the chair closest to the exit door with two or three deputies next to him and interacting with him in a polite, professional way. I inferred from all this that both of them wanted to be out of the room immediately if any form of a "guilty" verdict was reached. Scott, being so well positioned, was out of there in a nanosecond; Stephanie's Mom took longer to get up and I think to grab her purse. As she was walking out, and again, while the proceeding was still underway, Steven Lazarus turned around to her from his seat in the front row and mouthed the question "do you want me to go with you?" I didn't catch what her answer or signal was to him because her back was to mine at that point. She must have demurred because he then turned back to resume watching what remained of the proceedings.

Also, one other observation that might be of interest, that may relate to this. When Stephanie walked in the courtroom for the verdict, she turned and warmly (If briefly) smiled to her "section." Then her expression quickly changed, to one of puzzlement—as if someone was missing. Then she looked further to her left and saw Scott Young, in the seat at the end next to the door, gave a quick "aha" expression, and her smile returned, as if to say, "ah, ok, there you are, I'm happy now." I would infer she was briefly unaware of this reconfiguration of Scott, which I would guess was done by voluntary prearrangement.

Question from Anon @ 3:38 PM 3/8: Wonder if she's headed for Chowchilla or Fontana?
Answer: I agree with T&T contributor CaliGirl9 who has insight about these things. My money is on Fontana with the Manson girls.

Question from LC: Excuse my ignorance but who decides the sentence?
Answer: From my understanding, the sentence is written into the California Penal Code 187 for murder at the time of the murder. For example, if she had committed this crime today, it's my understanding she would have received 50 years to life instead of 27 to life. (There was a female CHP officer who was recently sentenced to 50 to life for shooting her husband a few years ago.)

I honestly do not know at what point she is eligible for parole since there have been different answers from different sources. She may be eligible for parole earlier than I had originally thought due to when the crime was committed. It is doubtful she will be granted her freedom at her first parole hearing on first degree murder. It's my belief that to gain parole at any time in the future she would most likely need to admit guilt to the parole board, but I have no evidence to support that.

Question from Shannon fr. Seattle: Will she get credit or will the time be reduced for good behavior etc?
Answer: Lazarus will get credit for time served in the County jail. I believe her time can be reduced for good behavior, but I do not know if that goes into effect since her incarceration, or after she has been transferred to state prison.

Question from Larry L: Now it's time for you to get some needed and well-earned rest and to do something nice for yourself and Mr. Sprocket, as well as "the 'real' Sprocket".
Answer: I took a day off and we treated ourselves to a restaurant meal so Mr. Sprocket did not have to cook. I am one of those lucky women where I don't have to cook; Mr. Sprocket does it all. Sadly, the "real" Sprocket is no longer with us.

Question from Utah Chris: Has there been any discussion of the case convictions SL has completed since the time of the murder and possibly jeopardizing her testimony due to the obvious character defect since identified? I'm sure every convict put away by her is happy to see her past testimony put into a negative light and possibly opening an appeal door for their convictions. What do you think?
Answer: Her conviction for murder had nothing to do with her being "on the job". She was off work that day. I don't see how someone convicted of a crime from Lazarus' testimony at their trial could make an appellate argument for reversal due to her conviction. However, I've been surprised by court rulings before.

Question from Anon @ 11:50 AM 3/9: Does anyone know about the Rasmussen's civil case against the LAPD? Also, Sprocket mentioned working on Cameron Brown's third trial. It's been awhile since I heard his name. Is he in or out of custody at this time and what charges are they looking at?
Answer: I will check with the Rasmussen's family attorney regarding the civil case. I thought I heard in the Dateline piece it was thrown out against the LAPD but that may not be correct. Cameron Brown has been in custody with no bond since his arrest on November 16th, 2003. Brown is charged with 187, felony murder.

Question from Becky: Were you ever able to clear up whether or not the marriage certificate was stolen? Will Stephanie remain in jail until sentencing, or be shipped out to prison now?
Answer: When I have more information on the marriage certificate, I will share it. There was no testimony during the trial as to what happened to it. I'm pretty certain Lazarus remains in jail until she's sentenced. The state prison needs the official sentence before she is shipped off.

Question from Anon @ 8:54 PM 3/9: LAPD was under pressure to clean up their act and while looking onto cold cases they see a familiar name " Stephanie Lazarus" Knowing she has a desk a few cubbies over from the cold case homicide unit, they think " How easy would it be to close this cold case and get the Rasmussen Family closure. (snip)
Answer: Unfortunately, it's clear you are not familiar with the facts of the case and who was responsible for solving it. The cold case unit when it was first started in 2001 was in an old storage closet and not "a few cubbies over" from Lazarus' desk in the Commercial Crimes (Art Theft) Detail Unit. You are confusing the Robbery/Homicide Unit at Parker Center with the Van Nuys Homicide Division that ultimately solved the case. Robbery/Homicide was not handed the case until AFTER the DNA was tested, came back a match and the case was solved. Robbery/Homicide only interviewed Lazarus at Parker Center and made the arrest. That's all they did.

CORRECTION: 5/9/19 RHD took over the investigation from Van Nuys Homicide once the DNA match came back. Besides interview Lazarus and arrest her, this unit did quite a bit of work on the case behind the scenes, getting the case ready for trial. I apologize for this mis-characterization of RHD's work.

The DNA profile came back in 2005. The case went cold a second time when the DNA put into CODIS did not come back with a hit. The case was considered inactive, and left the cold case unit and went back to the originating division, which was Van Nuys. It was there under a standard review that Detective James Nuttall looked at the case with fresh eyes.

Question from Anon @ 8:57 PM 3/9: Sprocket What do you think about this comment I read at the LA Times. Here is a copy of a comment left after the LA Times ran a ad several weeks ago! Makes You Think! MJDavis747 at 1:28 PM February 16, 2012 The DNA evidence will be ruled inadmissible due to contamination and chain of continuity. Judge Perry should have ruled the evidence inadmissible in response to the defense motion to suppress.(snip).
Answer: Mark Overland presented arguments pretrial to exclude this evidence. Judge Perry wasn't swayed by those arguments; I don't believe it had anything to do with "courage". I'd also recommend reading my coverage of the motions to exclude some of the blood evidence and DNA testing on the fingernails. Judge Perry ruled that you couldn't exclude something Ochaie collected but then also include something she did collect. He ruled it all came in and the jury would get to decide what was relevant.

Question from Anon @ 9:00 AM 3/10: Betsy...I feel as though I know you as a friend and silly as it sounds, I will miss you. I know you've said you are shy but for all your T & T friends, please, publish a picture.
Answer: I've already addressed this in a previous Q&A so you can look back and see the answer. I am in my 50's. I need to lose weight. I have graying brown hair past my elbows. I wear wire-rimmed glasses. I am a casual dresser usually wearing jeans and black tennis shoes. The tennis shoes are for comfort and don't set off the security walk-through scanners like my nicer shoes do.

Question from SeniorMoments: It is really ironic that Judge Perry had two cases in his courtroom regarding female law enforcement officers found guilty of murder within a couple of days. Sprocket, do you have any idea how cases are assigned to judges?
Answer: No, I do not know how cases are assigned to the various judges. I'll put that question to the Public Information Office.

The Dateline Episode:
Here are a few things off the top of my head. I will add more, once I view the episode a second time. The episode was edited in such a way that it appears Detective Nuttall stated that Rasmussen received one shot to her body in the kitchen. That's not the case. Of the five shots fired at the scene, Detective Nuttall is saying that at least one of those shots was fired from the dining room/kitchen area. The three shots to her body were fired while she was on the living room floor, flat on her back unconscious from being hit in the head with the vase.

I don't believe the image of the freezers that they showed on the episode were the actual Coroner's Office freezers. It's not my understanding of what those freezers are like.

All the information from Nels about his daughter being stalked was not entered into evidence. It was ruled hearsay. And as we know, the marriage certificate was not testified to at the trial.

The Dateline Episode:
The Dateline episode states that lockpicking books were found in her home.

I don't believe there were lock picking books found in her home. Detective Stearns testified there was an entry in her daily planner for the week of February 18th-24th 1985 that had the title of two books on locksmithing. They were Complete Course in Professional Locksmithing and Modern Locksmithing. This is in my detail notes that I did not get around to transcribing for the blog.

UPDATED March 12th, 2012, 9:05 AM
It appears I may be wrong about the Dateline edit of Detective James Nuttall's comments on the shots fired. So a belated kudos to "Armchair Detective" for their comment. It appears I may have jumped the gun in not contemplating your supposition more thoroughly. I apologize.

Could there be another theory of the sequence of the shots fired that differs from what detectives in Robbery/Homicide concluded and the theory presented by the prosecution at trial? I don't know. All I know is, there was no blood in the kitchen area.

UPDATED March 12th, 2012, 5:35 PM
I feel I need to make a correction. I know at some point, I said that the Robbery/Homicide detectives only interviewed and arrested Lazarus; they didn't solve the case. That's not completely accurate. Once Lazarus was arrested, Robbery/Homicide performed countless man hours on the case, investigating Lazarus and putting in the research necessary for the DA's office to prosecute her. I apologize for the mis-characterization of their service.


Anonymous said...

I still can't get over how stunningly beautiful Sherry Rasmussen was. AND how CREEPY Stephanie Larzarus's eyes were. She has that Manson look to her. Even back in some of her police photo's her eye's had that wild crazy look to them. EYES ~ window to the soul.

Susan said...

I have a question for you... what do you make of SL and the defense team not standing for the jury when they entered, neither during the trial or when the jury came in to issue the verdict? I've never heard or seen a defendant-- or at least the defense lawyers-- notstanding. To your knowledge, is it common? What would have been the purpose of this show of disrespect?

Sprocket said...

I have not attended hundreds of trials, but I had never seen anything like it. It's just my opinion that it's very possible though, that Overland's vision disability and how slowly he had to move from the defense table to the podium had something to do with this.

Shannon from Seattle said...

Getting back to murder theory and how the crime occurred. If Lazarus wore her uniform with standard issue shoes, it might explain why they did not get footprint or fiber evidence at the scene. We all feel pretty confident that she wore gloves, and it makes sense that she'd have worn them even if her intension had been to snoop around and not to kill.

Remember that Sherri reassured her dad that she would handle the situation. This leads me to believe Sherri became more forceful with Lazarus on the second break in encounter and let her know her intention to report her.

Maybe is 14 years when Lazarus goes before the parole board she will admit her crime and provide detail. I seriously doubt it though.

I do think if she'd intended to kill Sherri, she would have brought an untraceable weapon.

NancyB said...

It's wonderful that you will be able to clarify with the atty about the civil suit status. My interpretation of what the Dateline episode was referencing was that the portion of the civil suit claiming that the LAPD was actively protecting one of their own was dismissed. I did not infer that their entire civil suit was thrown out. I'm hopeful that they still can pursue the civil claim as I am of the belief that they have a valid and strong claim that deserves it's day in court.

Agree with you about the freezer pics! Oh and very helpful that you pointed out the misleading editing of Det. Nuttall's description of the GSW's.

Anonymous said...

Sherri's family should be able to win significant damages in a civil suit. The burden of proof is much easier. I am sure a very significant portion of Lazarus' retirement will go to Sherri's survivors.

Lazarus and her family will be paying for her crime for the rest of their lives.

anonymous said...

I am looking forward to a civil trial (if there is one) because I think we'll hear a little more about the stalking and what, if anything, the LAPD did to rule SL out as a suspect like they told JR they had done. It will be interesting and I think the LAPD has some explIning to do.

Anonymous said...

The defendents family should sue the LAPD also, for not following through with looking into SL immediately after her name was mentioned! They could have tested all her firearms, looked to see if she had any injuries and asked her how she spent her regularly scheduled day off for a alibi! They failed both families for not questioning her! She went on to marry, adopt a child and 26 years later had difficulty defending herself because LAPD lost, destroyed and possibly fabercated evidence........ Yep the LAPD should pay both surviving family members for the grief and loss of a Wife,Daughter,sister and mom...

PS: The husband wasn't very helfull 26 yrs ago either! Wonder Why?

Anonymous said...

The police immediately ruled out John Ruetten as a suspect. Do you wonder why? It is because he was stone cold innocent. He was a man who was in love with his new bride but unfortunately could not shake the crazy stalker ex-GF.

He fully cooperated with police. He did not seek attention in the media or participate in the 48 Hour show or accept other requests for interviews.

The police were very happy with his cooperation and participation. That is all that mattered.

Say, did anyone see SL's brother on the news claiming the jury only deliberated for "a couple of hours"? The lies just keep coming. Thank GOD for science!

NancyB said...

Looks like Dateline was correct about the civil case being thrown out. From 3/8/12 CNN:

"The Rasmussen family will pursue civil action against the police department and the city of Los Angeles, Taylor said. The family has sued the police for failing to investigate one of their own officers, but a judge tossed out the case. The family is appealing."

Kathy said...

I will be thinking about this case for a long time. Thank you for your insight.

I am still mulling over the weapon she chose to use. Do you know if Officers carry two weapons (guns) in their course of work?

If I am remembering correctly, the gun used in this crime was a gun she personally purchased as a backup. If Officers do not usually carry both weapons, it goes to show premeditation before entering the condo and not a split-second decision to kill.

As always, many thanks for all you do.

Armchair detective said...

Just a quick note here, and I realize you have to go off trial testimony. But, and I'm hypothesizing here, Rasmussen was struck three times by bullets. Two were through and through wounds. Two bullets were recovered during the original investigation. One during the autopsy and a second at the Coroner's office in Rasmussen's clothing. Why couldn't Nuttall be correct? There was evidence of two shots fired through the glass doors in the kitchen, correct? Why couldn't one of the shots, the through and throughs, have been fired upstairs? The small revolver that Lazarus got rid of, was a five shot. Why are we assuming that all five shots were fired? Two shots upstairs, one of which went through Rasmussen, but both went through the windows. Then two more shots downstairs. On of those went through her and remained in her clothes, the other was recovered during the autopsy. That would explain why only two of the bullets were recovered. Otherwise, wouldn't three bullets have been found downstairs?

I'm not saying Lazarus didn't do it. I'm just saying maybe Nuttall was right.

Anonymous said...

LOL @ someone mentioning that the LAPD should pay SL's family for their loss & grief?!!! THEY PAID THAT MURDERING CREEP FOR 25 YEARS!!!

Anonymous said...

Maybe when someone posted that the husband was very helpful, they meant with going after SL? Was there a little covering up for her by him also? I think I read he met up with SL several times over the years. Is that true Sprocket? Also I think I read The Rasmussen family only put Sheri Rasmussen on her head stone opposed to Sheri Ruetten or Sheri Rasmussen-Ruetten. What does one make of that?

Sprocket said...


Officers who wish to carry a "back up" weapon must purchase it themselves. It was not provided by the department. In the officer's training manual, there were only certain weapons they were allowed to carry on or off duty as back up weapons. Lazarus purchased this back up weapon in (I believe) 1984.

Armchair Detective:

Because that theory does not fit the evidence, the facts of the case or the autopsy report.

I saw the autopsy photos and Dr. Selser testified the three shots to Rasmussen's body, each one individually would have killed her. I saw the bullet wounds. There were three shots to her body. One shot went through her spine and she would not have been able to stand afterwards. Another shot was a contact wound shot.

We know all three shots were close range shots by the amount of unburt gunpowder found on the red robe she was wearing.

We know there was no blood in the kitchen area. We know that one bullet went through the body, through the carpeting, through the padding and into the cement flooring but detectives could not find it, even though they took up the carpeting and the padding.

One bullet was found in the body up next to the skin of her back.

How could a bullet go through Rasmussen and end up through the kitchen window and not leave any blood in the kitchen or any damage to anything else in the kitchen? See? That scenario does not fit the facts.

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 6:56 PM:

John Ruetten was devastated by the death of his wife. He immediately quit his job. He never returned to the apartment to live. He went to say with his older sister in Northern California for nine months. I'm betting it took him that long before he felt ready to go back to work. He did join the family in a press conference in November 1987.

Sprocket said...

Yes, many officers carry back up weapons. That's common.

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 8:15 PM:

Like me, Sharri Rasmussen did not take her husband's last name. (Betsy A. Ross is my maiden name, not my married name.)

If you read Ruetten's testimony I painstakingly transcribed for T&T readers (Day 7, Part III and Day 8 Part II), he testified about his after murder contact with the defendant that occurred sometime after 1989. He testified that in 1986, police told him Lazarus was NOT a suspect.

Shannon from Seattle said...

Ruetten also maintained that Lazarus being a suspect never crossed his mind whatsoever.

Nels Rasmussen described John and Sherri as very much in love, and they've maintained all along that they never believed he was involved. The evidence simply does not point to any involvement whatsoever.

Now consider the fact that he was friends (in his mind) with Lazarus -- with benefits.... Casual and occasional sex partners. Several years after the murder, they got together for a tryst or two. This is totally plausible.

I am also quite sure that the thought of touching her is sickening to him. One really could not take enough showers after learning she murdered your wife. I really feel for him and I hope he's had a good therapist to work through his healing. At one point he blamed himself for what happened to Sherri and apologized to Mrs. Rasmussen after Lazarus' arrest.

Lazarus left quite a wake of victims. It's sad. I've always thought John Ruetten was a good man and is a victim of this horrible mess. It was very tough reading how Lazarus' attorney pointed blame in his direction. I am so happy the jury did not fall for that crap.

Anonymous said...

I'm just imagining God whispering to Sherri, 'I told you I was going to get her. But I wanted to wait until she was at the height of her life and about to retire. And I was going to make sure your parents lived to see the day she was brought to justice. You can now rest, my child." : )

Anonymous said...

AMEN ANON @ 10:52!!! AMEN

Anonymous said...

Every night before I go to bed...I think of SL in Century Jail, the concrete walls, florescent lights, the thin bedroll, the sounds & smell of Jail & how she deserves to rot in there till the day she dies. Then I snuggle into my warm comfortable bed here at the beach and fall to sleep soundly. Did I forget the part where I think of Sherry and say a prayer for her to finally rest in peace? RIP Sweet Princess

anonymous said...

I read that Mark Overland tried to get the case thrown out right at the beginning by saying there was a preponderance of evidence pointing to SL as a suspect at the time of the murder and she was deprieved of her civil rights by not investigating her and putting her on trial back in 1986. He was absolutely right. She may have been acquired without the DNA evidence at the scene but that outcome is still better than what we have now. An unsolved murder is better than the resolution of it and the wake of destruction with it. Sherri is still dead but SL has left behind two innocent victims in her husband and daughter. I am not saying that they should not have investigated this murder when they found it in the cold case file but they should have been all over it in 1986. If anyone is owed compensation it is her kid. She'll need it for help getting over the trauma. I cannot imagine what her father says to her but there are no good explanations. It all goes back to the arrogance of law enforcement and SL had it written all over her face at trial.

Sprocket said...

Anon @1:25 PM

During the preliminary hearing, Overland did make an unusual argument along those lines. I covered it in my synopsis of the preliminary hearing.

Lazarus has her pension that I suspect will help towards her daughter's care.

Anonymous said...

EVERYDAY mother's die of cancer, car accidents, & the like. SL MURDERED someone. Det Young can just acclimate. There are single father's EVERYWHERE that seem to do the job just fine. It's not like he's the ONLY father with a child who's wife is incarcerated or divorced or lost due to death! Young has a good job, not like thousands of single father's right now in the U.S. who are supporting their children on MUCH less than he makes. Save the BooHoo's....

Anonymous said...

I have a question did Scott Young work at the Van Nuys station when they were investigating the case and is he still currently working there?. Have you or will you ever interview the Lazarus family? I can't imagine Scott going back to police work knowing that all the other officers will talk secretly behind back. If he decides to divorce SL would he still receive part of SL's pension for their daughter? Sorry for so many questions.


Sprocket said...

I have not tried to approach any of the Lazarus family. I hope if they do decide to talk, they will speak to my good friend, Matthew McGough, who will be writing a book on the case. I believe he would treat them with compassion.

From my understanding Scott Young still works at the Van Nuys Division Station. He is a detective, but not in the homicide unit.

I don't know that the officers will "speak behind Young's back". I'd like to think that they would have compassion for him and this difficult event he's been thrust into.

Pat LaLama from Investigation Discovery's The Criminal Report Daily reported the following:

Mark Overland said, “He’s convinced she’s innocent and I believe he’s going to stand by her.”

So at this point, I don't believe Lazarus and Young are headed for divorce.

Anonymous said...

Dt. Young is young and handsome and from all accounts, he is a good guy. I am sure he will eventually divorce her. I hope he goes on with his life and meets a nice woman who can help him raise his little girl.

That is a dose of reality for Lazarus. She ended up meeting a nice man and married him, but her evil past came back to haunt her.

Anonymous said...


Correct me if I heard this . . . At the end of the verdict reading Mark Overland was asked by the court if SL wanted some kind of evaluation conducted by the Dept. of Corrections. Overland declined. Do you know what this was regarding and why he declined?

Sprocket said...

Anon @6:30 PM

Here is what Matthew captured when I rushed out to publish.

The jury exited the courtroom at 1:52 PM. Perry orders the probation report. Perry asks Overland if he wants Lazarus to be interviewed for the probation report, and Lazarus declines.

I believe (someone who knows better can correct me if I'm wrong; I'll have to ask CaliGirl9) this is standard procedure by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs, and it's most likely in preparation for her sentencing.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you're absolutely correct Sprocket. I googled probation report sentencing & asklawyer dot com has that referenced.

Larry L. said...

Hi Betsy,

Again, thanks for all your reporting and for answering all your readers' questions. Here is yet another one: There was a comment by TS (March 8 6:40 pm) that ". . . SL has not seen her [daughter] since she has been in jail". I suppose it's possible that SL's husband, didn't want their daughter to visit SL, or even less likely, the daughter didn't want to see her mother, but these possibilities seem extremely unlikely to me. Is there some rule against children visiting parents who are in custody? If so, this seems totally unjustifiable. Why punish the children?

Sprocket said...

I do not know what the rules might be for small children. If anyone knows what they are for LA Sheriff's women's lock up, please post.

Here are my thoughts. It's based on what I heard during the pretrial hearings.

During the pretrial hearings, Lazarus' counsel and investigators were having difficulty getting to see her, and see her in a private room and not have to talk through a glass window.

I think at one point the jail was instructed by the judge to make a room available to her and her attorney then that was somehow rescinded then Judge Perry reinstated it.

It's not like Lazarus would be able to hold her daughter if she was brought to the jail even if children that small are allowed to see her.

Without having been to the jail to see what it is like myself, my understanding is that they could see each other only through plate glass, and they have to talk via a phone. And, remember, all jail conversations are recorded.

It's very possible that she has spoken to her daughter on a regular basis via phoning home. We just don't know.

Anonymous said...

SL chose not to see her daughter so she would not know she was in jail. I dont know how they will deal w this now that she is in prison for the duration. It is my understanding they would talk on the phone only.

debbiescalisi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
debbiescalisi said...

Sprocket, very sad but I think Scott Young made a decision EARLY on in this trial to keep his daugher isolated from SL with the pending GUILTY verdict so that the daughter would not remember any real contact. My feeling is this little girl has no clue where SL is for the main reason that Scott Young knew the ending. I have to respect his feelings and intentions...he will move on with his adopted daughter.

NancyB said...

I’ve changed my mind and I now believe that Steph did intend to kill Sherri that day. She had been closely stalking Sherri in the week prior to her death. She may have seen John leave for work that morning and also noticed that Sherri stayed home. She brought the rope with her. John testified that the rope had not been in the home.

I find it uncanny how many of the traits of an 'eraser' killer that Steph seems to have. Just keep substituting woman for man, her for his and she for he.

"Most men who kill their wives or partners do so recklessly, in the midst of a rapidly escalating and violent confrontation, and after months, years, or decades of physical and emotional abuse inflicted on their victim. These kinds of killers have been studied and researched and categorized, although they have not received the amount of research or attention that much smaller, though more sensational groups (serial killers, for example) have received.

But a subgroup of domestic homicides are committed by men who are not driven by the "heat of emotion" by instead by an utterly cold, calculated design. These are the cases I call "eraser killings." Based on research from about 100 cases (only about 40 of which are actually included in my book) I have drawn a psychological portrait based on the common features we are able to tease out of the data. These killers represent a previously unrecognized subset of intimate partner murderers, different in distinct ways from other domestic killers:

• The eraser killer is a master of deceit and expert manipulator. His killing is carried out in total secrecy (unlike many domestic homicides which often are committed even though there are witnesses present) and then very highly “staged,” to use the investigators’ term for a crime scene which is arranged like a stage set to create an illusion intended to confuse the police and send them down a wrong trail."
-Marilee Strong

NancyB said...

Part 2

• Most domestic homicides involve jealousy, money, another woman, or explosive and vengeful rage felt by the killer because the woman is planning to leave him. While there subsidiary motives involving monetary gain or other women, the eraser killer is not “driven” by these things. His real motivations stem from the unique psychology of men with a particular set of dangerous traits which psychologists have recently named “the Dark Triad.”
• He is killing because the woman in question has become inconvenient. In his eyes, she no longer meets his needs or stands in the way of something he wants. She is not allowed to leave him or take away anything he holds dear, be it a home, or children, or the lifestyle he has come to enjoy. He will only let her go on his deadly, unilateral terms.
• He plans his killing well in advance, once again distinguishing him from the standard wife-killer. Far fewer than half of all wife-killings are actually planned in advance of the final encounter according to available research.
• Eraser killers exhibit key elements of psychopathy such as lack of empathy and lack of remorse, but they do not necessarily rank in the high levels of psychopathy the way a serial killer or sexual sadist does. The eraser killer’s personality traits may be more usefully described as high levels of narcissism and a high level of Machiavellianism, blended with the psychopathic traits. (As will be explained in the next chapter, these three traits are closely linked, partly overlapping, and often shared in eraser killers.)
• The eraser killer will exhibit neither mourning, nor real signs of emotional loss, and will almost always exhibit strangely inappropriate behavior and speech after the mysterious death of his wife or girlfriend. (Sometimes he even starts speaking about her in the past tense before he has killed her.) At the same time he will be using his full array of skills to direct any inquiries or police investigation toward fictitious threats and other suspects even if he himself is participating in the “search” for the missing woman.
• He may have hidden his contempt for the object of his enmity, especially if doing so gives him tactical advantage when the moment of attack arrives. But once he makes up his mind to erase her, his determination is all consuming. When the act begins—once he puts his hands around her throat or strikes her as she sleeps with a heavy object—there is no turning back, no hesitation, no twinge of conscience or compassion.
• He is generally intelligent, though he also greatly overestimates his talents. He believes he is smarter and better than the rest of us, certainly smarter than the police and more deserving in all ways than his victim. He often has considerable familiarity with the law and how police work. He may have read up on these matters diligently to help him with his plan. Or he may have used his unusual ability for absorbing things around him, observing with the cold eye of a lizard in the desert how other predators kill and get away with it, because getting away with murder is his goal.
• To achieve that goal he may follow one of two distinct strategies. Either he can erase the victim’s body by destroying it entirely or secreting it where it won’t be found, or, he can rearrange the crime or stage a wholly false scenario to erase all connection between himself and any criminal act. Either way, he appears to remain free and clear of any involvement in a his act."
-Marilee Strong

Anonymous said...

OH MY ...... The Verdict is in ..... You would think that I would stop with from reading and the searching for videos. NO IT DID NOT! The various articles and related videos seemed to convey the same overall message EXCEPT the two below.


After viewing the video and reading the lapd article one after the other, it became clear to me why I spent the time this weekend searching for more information. The chilling shock of the Verdict "hit" me differently. I had devoted most of my time, interest and feelings on Lazarus' conviction; which I feel was the right decision (don't get me wrong)! I had a curiosity about JR and how he must feel and I tried to understand his actions after discovering his wife and in the years that followed. However, this weekend, I was searching the Internet for information/videos on Scott Young. This is when I happened upon the two links on after the other.

My heart sank! There is nothing that I find on Scott Young that isn't connected to SL's predicament, not even on the LAPD website!!!! When you look at the video in the first link and compare it to SL in the interrogation tapes, there is a big difference in how SL presented herself. Comparatively, her reaction to the verdict speaks volumes. Scott Young knows this in his heart; his wife's guilt more obvious to him than anyone. When you search the LAPD website for Scott Young as an "individual", you come across the next to nothing.

How does Scott Young face other officers? How does he live beyond this point in time? For all of us who could not get enough of the details in this SUPERB blog, we could not even get past the aftermath of the verdict! How does Scott Young re-establish himself and live ......??? I am sad for him. I just had to express this before rushing off to get ready for work.

Kitten said...

Just as SL will most likely never hold her child again, John and Sherri will never hold their child.
And Sherri's parents will never hold that grandchild. So cruel.

TS said...

In answer to an earlier question about children visiting the jail...childre under the age of 16 may visit as long as accompanied by a parent or guardian; children between the ages of 12-16 may be allowed a visit unaccoompanied with prior approval by the facility.

Two questions: What exactly is the probation report that Judge Perry ordered and SL declined the interview for it?

Perhaps premature and/or confidential (!), but any general idea about the focus of Matthew's book? I just wondered if it would be primarily an accounting of the crime, trial, interviews, etc. or perhaps a particular viewpoint or focus?

Shannon from Seattle said...

I am coming around to NancyB's way of thinking. I had forgotten about the rope and JR saying that it did not come from their house.

Now ponder this...... Motive to kill was jealousy, of course. However, she did not seem to desire to get back together with John Ruetten. Do you think she was trying to punish him for selecting Sherri over her?

You could really go in loops trying to figure out the motivation of a murderer.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that jury was comprised of geniuses, honey!! They definitely got the verdict right!! Praise God for justice after all these years!! Just the video interrogation would have confirmed her guilt for me!! I hope those two detectives get promoted; they deserve it!! And you deserve KUDOS to the high heavens, Sprocket!! : )

P.S. If you have a LinkedIn profile or FB page, I'm sure your readers would not mind if you posted the compliments we've given you so far : ) Just wanted to mention it.

Anonymous said...

Sprocket - a $10,000.00 reward was offered in 1986 to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of Sherri's killer.
Do you know if this still stands and will the detective that solved this case will be entitled to that money??? Just a thought!

I enjoyed reading your blogs and sincerely hope that you will continue to keep us informed of future cases.

Grainne Dhu said...

I still think that SL did not intend to kill SR on that particular day at the time SL entered the condo (although SL may well have been planning to do so at some point in the future).

If you take into account the things that SR told her father (that were not allowed into trial), it's clear that SL was playing an elaborate game of cat and mouse with SR as the victim.

I believe SL brought the rope with her that day as part of her ongoing "psyops" against SR. If SR had gone to work as usual, I think SL was going to leave the rope, probably tied into a noose, as yet another way to threaten SR.

Sprocket said...

I respect what Marilee Strong has done, however, I personally don't see Lazarus as a female "eraser" killer.

I am sad for Scott Young too. I am sad for the entire Lazarus family and all her loved ones. This is a horrible situation for them.

Shannon Presby addressed why she did not "try" to get back together with Ruetten after the murder. So that answer is coming when I get those trial notes up.

The probation report is something that is generated out of the LA County Sheriff's Office. I do not know what it entails or if it is something that is ordered by the court for individuals convicted of crimes before sentencing.

I believe the prosecution got it right. The motive was Lazarus' broken heart.

I appreciate all the kind words all of you have shared about my coverage of this case. I am humbled that so many were reading. Most of my Facebook page friends know what I do and read T&T.

I do know know how Matthew plans to structure his book. I have complete confidence and faith in him that he will do right by this story.

The reward. I don't believe officers are eligible to receive financial rewards for doing what they are already paid to do, go to work, do their job and solve murders.

Shannon from Seattle said...

Kill us with suspense, Sprocket! I would like to know what the prosecutors theorized about why Lazarus did not try to rekindle the relationship.

Was it your impression too that the prosecutors thought this was premeditated murder? I don't see how it could have been. How could Lazarus have known Sherri would be home and not at work that day? Also, unless she was asleep at Cop 101 school, she would have known better than to have used her own weapon!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard a peep from the jurors? It seems like they just vanished into obscurity. I would love to hear from them!

TS said...

I found information (below) on what constitutes a probation report when someone is in jail. And an interesting bit of information...the "housing" for SL right after the verdict showed on line as USC Medical Center. She is now back at Lynwood Detention.

•A presentence investigation report, often called a "probation report," is a report prepared to help the judge decide what sentence to give someone who has either pled guilty to a crime or been found guilty of a crime.

The report is prepared by a probation department, which should be a neutral agency. It's independent from both the prosecution and the defense. The report will include sections on the defendant's personal and employment history and prior criminal history, as well as details of the offense. While the probation officer interviews the defendant, he often describes the details of the offense as set out in police reports received from the prosecutor. The report may also contain statements from victims. The report will often conclude with a sentencing recommendation.

With the possible exception of the final sentencing recommendation, the report is given to the defendant before sentencing so he can object to anything in it if wants to.

While presentence reports don't determine a judge's sentence, judges rely heavily on them.

Anonymous said...

With the exception of the Simpson criminal trial, when there has been solid DNA or fingerprint evidence, a guilty verdict has resulted in the trials I've followed. Without the bite mark and the DNA from it, this case would not have been filed.

David In TN

Soapbubble said...

Did the prosecution submit the other evidence from the case such as the clothes Ms Rasmussen was wearing when she was assaulted?

Sprocket said...

Probation report. It's like I thought. It's standard procedure, regardless of the charge and the legal sentencing guidelines.

For murder 187 the sentencing for this conviction is written into the California Penal Code. Judge Perry doesn't have any leeway in the sentencing.

NancyB said...

Soapbubble, I was wondering the same thing. I also wanted to know if the jury saw the blanket?

The premeditation was proven by taking the time to wrap the gun in a thick blanket that lay nearby to muffle the noise of the gunshots. She took the time to wrap the gun for all 3 GSW's. It was very deliberate.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to read your transcript of DDA Presby's final rebuttal. I have heard from many sources that were present in the courtroom, that it was the best cross examination they had EVER seen in their entire career. And this came from veterans who had heard hundreds of crosses. Apparently, he had a way of really talking to the jury in a very visceral way. And his logic and reasoning absolutely annihilated every single argument the defense brought.

Anonymous said...

Mark Overland knew deep inside his gut that he couldn't win this one. He just had to cover the next few months of boat and mortgage payments, so he took the case. Oh well! She got what she deserved.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know when SL does come up for parole someday will it be required of her to admit her own guilt to actually go free (on parole)? I wasn't sure if the parole board would need to hear her admission of guilt as well as sincere remorse before they parole her? Or is it possible good behavior is enough these days to "get out early?" I just want her in the Gray Bar Hotel as long as possible!! I guess in the end I just can't see her admitting to the murder (after lying to her family this whole time).

Anonymous said...

In watching SL during the delivery of the verdict, does anyone else notice she seems to have something in her mouth, ie. gum or a mint? Perhaps she was given a LifeSavers candy? Something disturbingly funny about that thought!

LC, California