In Plain Sight - Los Angeles magazine

In Plain Sight

Stephanie Lazarus was an exemplary cop. She is also a murderer. How did she evade suspicion for 23 years when she should have been the prime suspect? The story behind the story


Illustration by Sean McCabe

“Her face is just the wrong color," thought John Ruetten as he approached the supine figure of his wife on the night of February 24, 1986.

Moments earlier he had pulled up to the couple’s Van Nuys condominium after returning home from work. The garage door for Unit 205 was open, and Sherri Rasmussen’s 1985 BMW—Ruetten’s engagement gift to her—was gone. Glass fragments glittered on the asphalt. Ruetten’s mind filled with questions, but he figured that his wife was away and perhaps had done something to her car backing out. Nor did he panic when he found the upstairs door ajar. At each step Ruetten seems to have been oblivious to the gathering signs of tragedy.

That Wednesday morning Rasmussen told him she wasn’t feeling well. A 29-year-old supervising nurse at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, she was going to linger at home a bit—maybe even skip work. Why not? She had been scheduled to deliver one of those motivational HR speeches she hated giving, a pep talk titled “People Difference.” Six feet three and TV handsome, the 27-year-old Ruetten was complemented by his wife, a big-boned light brunet who stood only a few inches shorter. By 7:20 a.m. he had left for his engineering job at Micropolis, a hard drive manufacturing company 20 minutes away; he eventually called home and Rasmussen’s office five times but thought nothing of it when he couldn’t reach her. The couple’s townhouse, located in a gated complex that dominates the 7100 block of Balboa Boulevard, had three levels and a garage below. Their bedrooms, kitchen, and dinette were on the upper floors, with a short staircase leading down to a carpeted living room.

It was on this carpet, in front of the fireplace, that Ruetten discovered Rasmussen, who was wearing her red bathrobe, a camisole, and black panties…

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  1. AlinaG posted on 08/14/2012 08:30 PM
    I have officially tried the best Granola in LA from the Sunny Spot in Venice! Nice job Los Angeles Magazine, not only was the place sweet and quaint the granola was indeed delicious! Cant wait to try the rest of the best ;)
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