Custodian testifies about Rasmussen evidence during Lazarus murder trial
By Alex Alonso
Streetgangs.com Staff Writer
February 8, 2012 | 7:27 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — Testimony resumed on Wednesday morning in the murder trial of Stephanie Lazarus, the former LAPD detective that is accused of murdering her ex-boyfriends wife, Sherri Rasmussen, in February of 1986. Lazarus, 51, was arrested in 2009, 23 years after the crime occurred, when saliva from a bite mark on Rasmussen’s left arm matched the DNA of Lazarus that investigators had gathered.
Defense attorney Mark Overland continued cross examination of former detective Steven Hooks regarding the 50-page police report that he and primary detective Lyle Mayer signed off on after the investigation of the Rasmussen’s murder. Hooks told the jury that the report did not include his conclusions about the possibility of a female assailant.
Is the DNA evidence enough to convict Stephanie Lazarus for the 1986 killing of Sherri Rasmussen?
- Yes, she will be convicted of 1st degree murder (58%, 115 Votes)
- Hard to say, I don't know (17%, 33 Votes)
- Yes, she will be convicted of 2nd degree murder (10%, 20 Votes)
- No, she will be acquitted (8%, 16 Votes)
- No, she will receive hung jury (7%, 11 Votes)
Total Voters: 199
The LAPD report concluded that the murder of Rasmussen was most likely committed by two male intruders. Overland asked Hooks if he made it clear to his partner, Mayer, that he did not agree with the conclusions in the report and if he expressed his own conclusions regarding a female assailant with Mayer. Hooks responded that he did not recall, and further there is no mention of a possible female assailant mentioned in the report.
After Hooks testified, Joe Murillo, who worked in the evidence room of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office in 1986 testified that he received evidence connected to the Rasmussen crime scene that was collected by investigators. Murillo described the process of collecting cloths and storing them in the evidence room. Under direct examination, Deputy District Attorney Paul Nuñez was establishing the chain of custody protocols regarding evidence handled by the coroner’s office to substantiate the careful manner in which evidence from 1986 has been preserved. Nuñez is perhaps expecting the defense to question the legitimacy of evidence that is now 26-years old.
At times Murillo appeared to be confused and had difficulty remembering facts, often hesitating at questions ask by both the prosecutor and defense attorney. Murillo retired from the coroner’s office in 1999, after working for over two decades. Under cross examination by Overland, Murillo stated that only two persons would have had access to the Rasmussen evidence in 1986, but according to an evidence log sheet, there was a third signature. When asked about the third signature, Murillo testified that there was a student worker named Patino that apparently signed out evidence.