No finger prints but jury sees interrogation video of Lazarus

By Alex A. Alonso Staff Writer
February 19, 2012 | 11:10 p.m. PST

On Friday morning, LAPD latent fingerprint expert George Herrera testified about examining prints that were lifted from Sherri Rasmussen’s homicide scene in 1986. Deputy District Attorney Paul Nuñez called Herrera who conducted fingerprint comparisons in an effort to identify a possible assailant in Rasmussen’s murder.

Finger prints were lifted from Rasmussen’s condo and from her 1985 BMW that was taken by the killer(s). According to Herrera, finger prints were categorized as either identifiable or unidentifiable. The ones characterized as unidentifiable, could not be matched to another human due to insufficient characteristics, smearing or smudging. Identifiable prints had enough characteristics to make a reliable match to a person, and most of the identifiable prints matched with the victim, Rasmussen, her husband, John Ruetten or a friend who visited the condo. The husband and the friend were ruled out as possible suspects early on.

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There was an identifiable print that was lifted from a telephone in the condo that remained unknown. Defense attorney Mark Overland, wanted to draw attention to that print, because it did not match the defendant, Lazarus, and it would possibly support his theory that Rasmussen was murdered during an interrupted burglary.

In the afternoon, LAPD Det. Daniel Jaramillo was called by Deputy District Attorney Nuñez. Det. Jaramillo was assigned to investigate the Rasmussen murder when Lazarus was considered a person of interest in 2009. Lazarus was working in the commercial crimes section which was located on the 3rd floor of Parker Center, LAPD’s then headquarters, next to robbery-homicide where Jaramillo and his team were investigating Lazarus. In order to maintain the integrity of the investigation, Jaramillo told the jury that they relocated the investigation to the court house.

On June 5, 2009, Jaramillo and his partner Det. Stearns conducted an interview of Lazarus, 49 at the time, in the Jail Division of Parker Center, a location that would guarantee that Lazarus would not be armed. They lured her down into that part of the building by creating a story about an art theft that they wanted her assistance on. By now the detectives knew that her DNA was a match to the bite mark made on Rasmussen’s arm in 1986 and the goal was to see how much she would talk about what they believed she did – murder.

The detectives had the interrogation room prepped with a video camera and on Friday, the prosecution played the videotaped interview in front of the jury. The two detectives are not in the viewed shot, but you hear their voices, as the methodically ask questions about a 23-year old murder surprising Lazarus as she nervously responds. She describes this period of the early 1980s, as occurring “a million years ago” justifying her lack of recollection of certain details.

The jury is getting a glimpse inside of Lazarus’ personality without her testifying. Lazarus stated that she “may” have met Rasmussen but cannot say for sure. In the interview, she stated that Ruetten dated other women while she was dating others. Lazarus continued that she was not his girlfriend and called the relationship “weird.” Her nervousness is obvious in the manner she answers questions and how she incoherently integrates irrelevant information into her answers in an attempt to avoid the detective’s direct questions.

Do you know what happened to his wife? the detective asks. “Yeah, I know she got killed,” Lazarus responds in a numbing manner. She cannot recall when the killing occurred and cannot remember how she heard of the murder. She recalls, “I think she worked at a hospital, I may have met her at a hospital, I may have talked to her once or twice or more.”

She claims that she may have approached Rasmussen regarding Ruetten’s continued calls to her. She has characterized Ruetten as the one still trying to connect with her, but there was evidence in the form of a letter that Lazarus mailed that explains she was distraught by Ruetten dating Rasmussen. She told the detectives that she has no idea how many times, what year it was, or how long any of those conversations with Rasmussen may have lasted.

Although many of Lazarus’ responses are vague as to time regarding questions about Rasmussen, she vividly remembered that Ruetten lived on Rosco, an apartment he had from 1981 to 1984, and confidently stated she never visited the newlywed couple at the condo the moved into in 1985. Later in the interview she stated that she “may” have been to the condo before.

About half of the hour-long interview was played for the jury before Judge Robert Perry excused the jury on their 3-day weekend. The remainder of the video will be played on Tuesday morning while Det. Jaramillo is still under direct examination.

Wonkeun Choi, a computer forensics investigator for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and LAPD firearms expert, Richard Smith, also testified.


Alex Alonso is an author, film maker and founder of He is also a contributing author in the 2010 book entitled Black Los Angeles: American Dreams Racial Realities (New York University Press). He can be reached via email, toll free at 800-249-1324 or on Twitter.

Posted by on Feb 19 2012. Filed under Features, People of CA v. Stephanie Lazarus. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “No finger prints but jury sees interrogation video of Lazarus”

  1. The I

    She should get death penalty

Leave a Reply to The I


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