There were no witnesses, no fingerprints, no gun and little forensic evidence when a woman was found slain 26 years ago. But there was a human bite mark on her arm — a bite that came back to haunt a female police detective who was unmasked as the killer of her former lover’s wife.
Stephanie Lazarus, trained in police procedures, knew enough to cover her tracks, prosecutors said, but could not have guessed in 1986 that the bite would be analyzed by a tool known as DNA testing, which was in its infancy then.
The advances of DNA analysis were underlined by the presence in court Thursday of Superior Court Judge Lance Ito who presided over the first famous DNA case in the Los Angeles courts, the 1995 O.J. Simpson murder trial which ended in acquittal. Ito, whose court is down the hall from that of Superior Court Judge Robert Perry, had occasionally stopped in to listen to DNA testimony during the Lazarus trial.
Lazarus faces a sentence of 25 years to life after a jury found her guilty Thursday of the murder of Sherri Rasmussen, a 29-year-old nursing supervisor who had married the man that Lazarus loved.
Lazarus, 51, was impassive as she heard the first-degree murder verdict. Her long-ago lover, John Ruetten, now white haired, watched grimly in the courtroom with the family of his slain wife.
That opening paragraph really sucked me in. Pretty good, huh?