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Real Life

From cop to killer: Jealous ex murdered my new bride

A jealous ex-lover got away with murder for 23 years - while working as a policewoman.

By As told to Take 5

Take 5 crime file:

Nurse Sherri Rasmussen was a 29-year-old at the start of her exciting new life.
She'd recently married the love of her life, John Ruetten, and the couple lived in an apartment in a gated complex in Los Angeles, USA.
Then, three months after their wedding, she was shot to death.
The crime scene appeared like a botched burglary.
Her living room was ransacked and her BMW was gone.Sherri had been beaten and shot three times during a struggle that left her with a bite mark on her arm.
A swab was taken, but at the time, DNA hadn't yet been used to solve a case.
Shortly after Sherri's death, another nearby home was burgled.
Police suspected two unidentified Latino men as the culprits for both crimes, but no arrests were made and Sherri's case went cold.
Sherri's family fought hard for justice. (Image: Getty Images)
Her husband, John, and the family were heartbroken and desperate for answers.
So much so that her dad, Nels, began to play detective.He remembered a disturbing story his daughter had told him before her death.
Sherri's husband, John, had an ex-girlfriend, an LA Police Department officer, who had aggressively confronted her at the hospital where she worked.
"If I can't have him, nobody can," Stephanie Lazarus told Sherri.
Nels wrote a letter to the police chief and relayed the story, asking them to look in to the ex-girlfriend and cop.
John getting emotional in court. (Image: Getty Images)
"You've been watching too much television," was allegedly the response he got from officers.
Years later, Sherri's case remained cold.
But with the rise of DNA fingerprinting, Sherri's parents offered to pay for private DNA analysis.
But they were refused.
Not long after, a different LAPD officer signed out the evidence in Sherri's case and it was never seen again.
As the case sat cold, Stephanie Lazarus's career thrived.
She received multiple promotions and commendations.
She even went on to become a detective in the same jurisdiction as Sherri's murder.
What's more, Stephanie and John had a romantic encounter.Finally, 18 years after Sherri's death, evidence was re-examined as DNA technology improved.
Saliva from the bite was identified as female.
Saliva from the bite was female. (Image: Getty Images)
And in the file were reports of a woman called Stephanie harassing Sherri before the murder.
But Stephanie was a popular detective and no-one took her involvement seriously.
The case went back to the archives, until five years later when it was re-opened by new investigators.
They began to think the burglary was staged.
Finally, they turned their attention towards Stephanie Lazarus.
They discovered Stephanie and John dated until he met Sherri.
He considered their relationship casual, but Stephanie had not.
She wasn't able to accept John had moved on and constantly contacted him.
They even slept together when he and Sherri were a couple.
Stephanie wrote to John's mother to declare her love for John.
Stephanie was a popular detective. (Image: Getty Images)
Then, she went to Sherri's work to tell her if she couldn't have John, no-one would.
Officers hatched a plan to bring Stephanie in for questioning.
They invited her in on the pretext of needing her help on a case.
Once in the room, as the following extracts from that interview show, the killer's ability to evade justice was finally up.
WATCH: Chris Dawson is questioned over his wife Lyn's disappearance. Post continues after video...

Stephanie’s incriminating interview:

DJ: Dan Jaramillo
G.S: Greg Stearns
S.L: Stephanie Lazarus
DJ: 'We've been assigned a case and there are some notes as far as your name being mentioned. Do you know John Ruetten?'
S.L: 'Do you mean John Rut-ten? I went to school with him. I went to UCLA – 1978, I started, and I met him in the dorms.'
D.J: 'Were you friends?'
S.L: 'Very close friends. What's this about?'
D.J: 'It's a case we're working on that involves John. In the things we've reviewed, there's stuff that he knew about you.'
S.L: 'We lived in dorms for two years.'
D.J: 'Were you just friends or anything else?'
S.L: 'We were good friends.'
D.J: 'Was there any kind of relationship between you?'
S.L: 'Yeah, we dated. What's this about?'
D.J: 'It's relating to his wife. Did you know her?'
S.L: 'Not really. I knew he got married years ago.'
D.J: 'Did you meet her?'
S.L: 'God, I don't know.'
D.J: 'You said that you dated John. How long did you guys date?'
S.L: 'What? Is this something?'
G.S: 'Stephanie, here's the situation. We knew when we saw this chronology that maybe there was some relationship there. We didn't want to come up to you at your desk and ask those kind of questions.'
S.L: 'It's been a million years. I couldn't even tell you the last time I talked to him. It was a weird relationship. I can't say he was my boyfriend. I don't know if he would have considered me his girlfriend. We dated.'
Stephanie in court. (Image: Getty Images)
D.J: 'You met his wife?'
S.L: 'I may have.'
D.J: 'Do you remember her name, what she did for a living, where she worked, or anything about her?'
S.L: 'I think she was a nurse. I can't remember how he said he met her. It's been so long.'
D.J: 'Do you know what happened to his wife?'
S.L: 'I know she got killed.'
D.J: 'When did you hear about that?'
S.L: 'I saw a poster at work.'
D.J: 'When you heard about John's wife being killed, what was your reaction?'
S.L: 'I called the family. I called some of his friends I knew. Obviously, it's shocking to hear.'
D.J: 'Do you know what the circumstances were regarding her death?'
S.L: 'I don't know if it was a burglary or something? I can faintly think I may have seen a flyer. It may have had her picture on it. If somebody called me, I may not have known what her last name was.'
D.J: 'Do you know the first name?'
S.L: 'Shelly. Sherri? Something. Like I said, it's been so many years.'
D.J: 'Do you remember ever talking to her?'
S.L: 'I may have. I'm thinking I may have met her, now you guys are bringing up all these memories. Because he would date other people and I would date other people, and I think he may have been dating
her. Maybe he was married. Now I'm thinking, I may have gone to her and said, 'Hey, you know what? If he's dating you, he is bothering me.'
D.J: 'At work or their house?'
S.L: 'I'm thinking it was a hospital in LA. What year was that? I'm trying to think. When did you say they got married?'
D.J: 'It was in '85 or '86, something like that.'
S.L: 'I could have been working in Hollywood. I went and talked to her and said, 'He is dating you, he keeps calling me, why don't you tell him to knock it off?'
D.J: 'When you talked to her, was it civil?'
S.L: 'The conversation lasted a few moments. It wasn't like we went to lunch or anything.'
D.J: 'So, you would more than likely have gone to her work and had this discussion?'
S.L: 'Now you guys are bringing this stuff up, that sounds familiar. But what does it have to do with me dating him and her being killed? I don't have anything to do with it.'
G.S: 'Like I said, we got this the other day and we're going through it and we see your name.'
S.L: 'Then you saw I work next door.'
G.S: 'Right, we recognised the name and we know you work next door to us, and so we're trying to get some background, trying to figure this all out.'
D.J: 'Let me ask you this: did the detectives ever reach out to you?'
S.L: 'No one ever talked to me about him… No, I'm thinking maybe I did talk to a detective. What division was it?'
D.J: 'Van Nuys.'
S.L: 'You know, I'm thinking I did speak to somebody.'
G.S: 'Did you visit the couple's home?'
S.L: 'I don't think I've ever gone there. I don't want to say I've never gone there and (have you say) I was there at a party. But I don't think so.'
G.S: 'But it's safe to say the only time you would have was for something social?'
S.L: 'Yeah, I don't even know if I knew where they lived.'
Stephanie Lazarus. (Image: Getty Images)
D.J: 'But you didn't have any issues with her?'
S.L: 'No. But I mean, if he were dating me and dating her, I probably said something. I can't say we never screamed or yelled. I don't think we had some huge blow-up.'
D.J: 'Would you remember if she snapped at you, like, 'Hey, that's my man. Leave him alone.' That kind of stuff?'
S.L: 'Maybe that happened, it's been so long. People think I'm hyper, and I can get upset, you know, and I forget five seconds later.'
D.J: 'How about going to her house and having a dispute?'
S.L: 'Maybe I could've met her at the apartment, but I'm thinking the hospital sounds familiar, that I met her there. I don't think I ever met her there or him there.'
D.J: 'We've read the notes (from) Sherri's friends saying you guys had words and it got heated. The reason we are asking you is there was an incident at her work, and they told us (there was) an incident
at her house.'
S.L: (Shaking her head and smiling) 'That does not sound familiar. Was John there? Did John say this happened? And other people were there?'
D.J: 'This was an incident where you showed up, you weren't supposed to show up, and things got heated.'
S.L: 'At his house? That doesn't sound familiar.'
G.S: 'Did you ever fight with her?'
S.L: 'Have we ever fought?'
G.S: 'Yeah. Did you ever duke it out with her?'
S.L: 'No, I don't think so.'
G.S: 'You would remember?'
S.L: 'Yeah, I would think so. I mean, what are they saying? I fought with her, so I must have killed her? I mean, come on.'
D.J: 'OK, this occurred in '86, right? The detectives processed the scene, they did fingerprints and all that stuff. They did the best they could at the time, and they looked at a lot of people and
different things.'
S.L: 'If you guys are claiming I'm a suspect, I've got a problem with that. If you're doing this as an interrogation, I've got a problem. You're accusing me of this?'
G.S: 'We're just trying to figure out what happened, Stephanie.'
S.L: 'Do I need to get a lawyer?'
G.S: 'You don't have to. You're here of your own free will. You're not under arrest. You can leave whenever you like.'
D.J: 'If we asked you for a DNA swab, would you be willing to give us one?'
S.L: 'Maybe, because now I'm thinking I'm probably going to need to talk to a lawyer. I know how this stuff works. I wish I had been recording this, because it sounds like all of these people are saying I
was fighting with her. Now you sound like you are trying to pin something on me. I got that sense.'
D.J: 'You know as well as we do, our job is to identify and eliminate suspects.'
S.L: 'I can't believe it. I'm shocked someone would be saying I did this. We had a fight so I killed her? Come on.'
At this point, Stephanie walked out of the interrogation and headed down the hallway, but was stopped and arrested.
Lazarus had murdered her love rival and Sherri hadn't stood a chance.
During the prosecutor's closing statement, he said, 'This wasn't a fair fight – this was prey caught in a cage with a predator.'
In March 2012, Stephanie was convicted.

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