Manage episode 297343193 series 2077470
On February 24, 1986, John Ruetten came home from work to the condominium in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles that he shared with his bride of three months, Sherri Rasmussen. What he found inside the condo changed his life forever – and it also changed a lot of people’s perception of the Los Angeles Police Department. On the living room floor, still wearing the robe and underwear she had worn to bed the previous night, was the body of Sherri – her face beaten beyond all recognition, and the three bullets that finally ended her life. Little did John know then that it would take 23 years and a determined, unafraid LAPD detective to both solve the murder and expose a rotten corner of the department’s inner culture. It turns out that for several years Sherri Rasmussen had been stalked and terrorized by one of LAPD’s young superstars – then still a uniformed officer named Stephanie Lazarus. Lazarus had been friends with Ruetten when they first met in college and the two had been occasional sexual partners for a while after school ended. Problem was, Stephanie Lazarus was crazy in love with John and thought he belonged to her – and John had no such feelings for Stephanie. Instead, John fell in love with Sherri Rasmussen. And when Stephanie learned that John and Sherri were engaged, Stephanie lost it – and began stalking and threatening Sherri at home and at work. Unfortunately, Sherri and John never reported these events to the police – the only people who knew other than themselves were Sherri’s parents. So it was only natural for Sherri’s father, Nels, reported the stalking incidents and that his strong feeling was that Stephanie Lazarus had to be a prime suspect. To which the police promptly ignored any suggestion that Lazarus could have anything to do with the murder. And refused to even explore the possibility even when all other suspects were cleared. And this went on for over two decades, until a couple of reform-oriented new police Chiefs for LAPD, over the period of several years, a mysterious (and still unknown) whistle blower and a dedicated detective who would not cover up any misdoings finally put all the pieces together and finally put Stephanie on trial – and eventually behind bars for 20-to-Life. Join Melissa on her 200th episode as she retells this sad but enlightening story of jealous homicide, possible police cover-up and, ultimately, the strength of the family of a murder victim who would not sit down or shut up, but kept Sherri Rasmussen’s flame burning brightly.