Stephanie Ilene Lazarus is a former policewoman who murdered her ex-boyfriend's new bride. The murder was a cold case until 2009.
In 1978, Lazarus was a UCLA Freshman at 18 years old. There, she met John Ruetten, a fitness fanatic at a party. They both were heavily focused on working out and physical fitness. Soon, they were friends with benefits. The open relationship continued after graduation. Lazarus applied for the police academy, surprising her friends and family. Ruetten got a career as an electrical engineer.
In the 1980s, John Ruetten met another woman, 27-year-old Sherri Rasmussen. They instantly fell in love and were engaged with a year. But Lazarus still had feelings for Ruetten, evidenced by her journal. She did not take the engagement well. She called him over and begged him not to marry Rasmussen, revealing that she loved him. When Ruetten said he had to leave, she asked if they could have sex one more time, which he agreed to.
Lazarus, wearing short shorts and a crop top, later went to Rasmussen office at a hospital and revealed that she and Ruetten had sex two nights previously. Rasmussen was frightened of Stephanie but forgave Ruetten and married him in November 1985.
Ruetten's marriage didn't stop Lazarus, now an officer in the LAPD, from stalking and harassing his new wife. One day, she entered Ruetten's condominium, claiming she was waiting for Ruetten. She was abusing and stalking Rasmussen out of jealousy. Ruetten suggested ignoring Lazarus and hoping she would go away, thinking she would get over it.
Stephanie believed she was in a love triangle but it was a fantasy. On February 24, 1986. Lazarus picked the lock on the Ruetten's home and entered when Sherri was home while John was elsewhere. When Sherri detected Lazarus' presence, the obsessive policewoman fired a shot from her .38 caliber revolver, hitting a window. Sherri ran but Lazarus ran after her. The two struggled in a fight to the death. Sherri was taller than Lazarus and strong, but Lazarus was a police officer trained for combat. She bit Sherri on the forearm, causing her to let go of a sleeper hold she had on Lazarus, who then smashed a vase on her head. Sherri stopped struggling after being struck in the head with the butt of her revolver. Lazarus then wrapped a blanket around the barrel of the revolver to act as a silencer and then fatally shot Sherri three times in her heart and face.
Once Sherri Ruetten was dead, Lazarus got to work, making the murder look like a home invasion and robbery gone wrong. She proceeded by knocking over furniture, pulling out the drawers and stacked a VCR and CD player, as if the alleged robbers escaped what they intended to steal in the house after murdering Ruetten. The LAPD believed this and hunted for an armed robber, not knowing that the real murderer was one of their own. There was no leads. The crime scene did not leave a lot of physical evidence; no hair, fiber or blood evidence (besides Ruetten's own blood) to connect to a suspect.
It seemed like Stephanie Lazarus committed the perfect murder. The case went cold for at least 23 years.
Any hope of Lazarus' relationship with John Ruetten being reconnected was dissolved, along with their friendship. Lazarus even married another detective. She had survived thyroid cancer and even raised money to start a daycare program for members of the LAPD. She even adopted her own little girl.
By 2006, Lazarus had become a detective, investigating an art fraud.
In 1986, a coroner investigator is taking a swab off the bite mark on Ruetten's body. The sample remained in DNA storage for 23 years. Until 2005, the LAPD did not have the technology to do DNA detection on such a minute sample. All of Ruetten's acquaintances were secretly swabbed. The police discovered a link between Sherri Ruetten and Stephanie Lazarus. The police followed her around, waiting for her to discard an item containing her DNA. Eventually, they took her DNA from a styrofoam cup and matched it on the bite wound.
When questioned, Lazarus denied responsibility but couldn't explain the saliva on the murder victim. In March 2012, she was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 27 years to life in prison.