Stephanie Lazurus trial update: witness Roberto Morales (Day 4)
February 12, 2012 | 3:40 9.m. PST
On Thursday, Det. Roberto Morales of the Los Angeles Police Department, testified in the Stephanie Lazarus murder trial. In 2009, LAPD investigators began to look at Lazarus as a person of interest in the 1986 murder of Sherri Rasmussen in 2009.
In 1986, detective Lyle Mayor falsely concluded that two illegal aliens most likely entered Rasmussen’s condominium to burglarize it. After being surprised at Rasmussen’s presence, the two intruders beat and killed her after a struggle. Det. Mayor’s 50-page police report, that was also signed off on by Det. Hooks who testified on Tuesday (Day 2), caused the Rasmussen case to go cold until 2004.
After the LAPD opened the cold case in late 2004, it took nearly five more years before Lazarus became a person of interest. Det. Morales testified on Tuesday that he was assigned to surveil Lazarus in May of 2009 along with Det. Dante Palacio. They were working out the Professional Standards Bureau doing internal surveillance, a department that investigates other police officers.
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
Det. Morales testified that he was assigned to surveil Lazarus along with Det. Dante Palacio to secretly obtain a DNA sample from her in a public place. The LAPD crime lab had a DNA profile of a bite mark from Rasmussen’s arm and the LAPD were now working off the theory that Rasmussen’s killer was the one that bit her. On May 28, 2009, while following Lazarus to an outside food court at a Costco grocery store, they were able to retrieve a white cup that she was drinking from. Morales testified that Lazarus was eating with a child at the food court area of Costco and noticed her drinking from a white cup. After over a week of surveillance, the two detectives seized upon an opportunity to retrieve a saliva sample.
Morales told the jury that he observed Lazarus discard her cup in the trash and then walked away. He was sitting about 20 feet away and quickly approached the trash at 12:41 p.m. and pulled out 2 similar looking cups that were at the top of the trash. Det. Palacio who was positioned in another location observing Lazarus, met Morales at the trash with an envelope where the cups were placed.
The two detectives then left separately from the trash location as Palacio had the cups in his possession. They never tipped off Lazarus and they drove to a nearby location to pass the evidence on to Sgt. Jim Hensley. Hensley then delivered the cups to the LAPD crime lab at Cal State Los Angeles at 1:30 p.m. to lab criminalist Yamauchi for tests.