A deeply-reported, riveting account of a cold case murder in Los Angeles, unsolved until DNA evidence implicated a shocking suspect – a female detective within the LAPD’s own ranks.
On February 24, 1986, 29-year-old newlywed Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in the home she shared with her husband, John. The crime scene suggested a ferocious struggle, and police initially assumed it was a burglary gone awry. Before her death, Sherri had confided to her parents that an ex-girlfriend of John’s, a Los Angeles police officer, had threatened her. The Rasmussens urged the LAPD to investigate the ex-girlfriend, but the original detectives only pursued burglary suspects, and the case went cold.
DNA analysis did not exist when Sherri was murdered. Decades later, a swab from a bite mark on Sherri’s arm revealed her killer was in fact female, not male. A DNA match led to the arrest and conviction of veteran LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus, John’s onetime girlfriend.
The Lazarus Files delivers the visceral experience of being inside a real-life murder mystery. McGough reconstructs the lives of Sherri, John and Stephanie; the love triangle that led to Sherri’s murder; and the homicide investigation that followed. Was Stephanie protected by her fellow officers? What did the LAPD know, and when did they know it? Are there other LAPD cold cases with a police connection that remain unsolved?
In this engrossing true crime account, McGough, the author of a memoir, Bat Boy, and a former legal consultant for TV's Law & Order, exposes a horrifying Los Angeles murder that was not solved for decades and an even more disturbing LAPD cover-up. In 1986, 29-year-old nurse Sherri Rasmussen was killed in her home by someone who battered her face and shot her multiple times, leaving the corpse to be found by her husband, John Ruetten. Though there was an obvious suspect Ruetten's ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Lazarus, who had threatened Rasmussen the investigating officers pursued the theory that burglars killed Rasmussen. McGough proposes a possible explanation for that choice: since Lazarus was an LAPD officer, some of her colleagues were less than diligent in exploring any possibility that led to her. Eventually, a cold case investigator tracked down DNA evidence from a bite mark on the victim's arm that implicated Lazarus. By then an LAPD detective, Lazarus was arrested in 2009 and convicted in 2012. Despite that verdict, readers will be left with a sense that justice has not been done, since no one at the LAPD was held accountable for the many mistakes that enabled Lazarus to get away with murder for more than 20 years. This memorable and powerful work deserves a wide readership.
Absolutely riveting. Aside from a chapter on a different murder that seems better suited to a separate book, this book is so well-detailed and so well-written you feel as if you are there. It so well captures the emotion of the Rasmussen family as well as teaching some of the inner workings of the LAPD. You can’t help but feel the shock and sadness of the Rasmussens and as you progress through the book you can feel the tension rising. Watching the YouTube video of Lazarus’ interrogation makes the book even better. It’s worth a second or even a third reading.
The Lazarus Files
Longer than "War and Peace".
Could have greatly benefited with an editor!