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Family of woman killed by jealous ex-LAPD detective hopes parole is denied

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The family of a 29-year-old woman who was shot and killed nearly 40 years ago by a Los Angeles Police Department detective in a jealous rage, is hoping the former detective isn't granted parole.

Stephanie Ilene Lazarus was convicted in March 2012 of first-degree murder for the Feb. 24, 1986 killing of Sherri Rasmussen.

John Ruetten, Rasmussen's widower, urged the state's parole board Tuesday to revoke a decision recommending parole for Lazarus. Rasmussen was shot to death inside her Van Nuys condominium by Lazarus, who was jealous of her ex-lover's new wife.

Ruetten told the board that Lazarus lied for decades until her only option was to pursue parole. He said his slain wife's parents lost a child and her sisters lost a dear friend and confidante "because Sherri loved and married me."

A state parole board panel recommended parole Nov. 16 for Lazarus, an art theft investigator and 25-year LAPD veteran.

Gov. Gavin Newsom subsequently asked the full parole board to review the parole grant for Lazarus, who is now 64 and serving a 27-year-to-life state prison sentence. The board is expected to issue a ruling Tuesday.

At a hearing last Nov. 16, Lazarus publicly admitted that she had killed the Glendale Adventist Medical Center nursing supervisor.

Rasmussen was shot three times in the Balboa Boulevard condominium she shared with Ruetten, her husband. Rasmussen had married Ruetten, Lazarus' one-time love interest, three months before her death.

"It makes me sick to this day that I took an oath to protect and serve people, and I took Sherri Rasmussen's life from her, a nurse," Lazarus said, according to a transcript of the parole hearing last November.

"I didn't do the right thing because I didn't want to face the consequences of my actions. I didn't want to go to prison."

She said she subsequently threw the gun into a bushy area off the freeway and reported her gun stolen to the Santa Monica Police Department, according to the transcript.

She continued to say at last November's hearing that she will never harm another person like she did on Feb. 24, 1986, "When I murdered, callously murdered and heinously murdered Sherri Rasmussen,"  the transcript read.

Two of the victim's sisters and two of her nieces joined Los Angeles police Det. Greg Stearns, former prosecutor Paul Nunez, two of the victim's friends and an attorney representing the victim's family Monday in opposing the parole grant.

Rasmussen's father had insisted shortly after his daughter's killing that police investigate Lazarus, who had been an officer for two years at the time of Rasmussen's death.

But the case went cold until 2004, when investigators with the LAPD's Cold Case Unit reopened it and asked the coroner's office to locate the bite mark tissue sample, which had been stored in a freezer in an evidence room since 1986.

Detectives had been following Lazarus and managed to get a DNA sample from her in May 2009 from a drink cup and straw she had thrown in a trash can outside a Costco store.  

Lazarus was arrested at the department's downtown headquarters, largely as a result of DNA evidence taken from a bite mark on Rasmussen's left forearm, and she subsequently retired from the LAPD.

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