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Bite mark ties LAPD detective to slaying victim, expert testifies

A criminalist says the odds that DNA evidence found on Sherrie Rae Rasmussen's body belongs to anyone other than Det. Stephanie Lazarus are one in 400 quadrillion.

December 09, 2009|By Andrew Blankstein

The odds that DNA found in the wound of a slaying victim belonged to anyone other than LAPD Det. Stephanie Lazarus were one in 400 quadrillion, a police forensics specialist testified Wednesday.

Los Angeles Police Department criminalist Jennifer Butterworth told a judge that she analyzed the swab taken from a bite mark on the left forearm of Sherrie Rae Rasmussen and found it belonged to a woman, despite the theory put forth by original case detectives that Rasmussen had been beaten and shot by two men on Feb. 24, 1986.

After reopening the case, police detectives identified Lazarus as a suspect and secretly obtained a DNA sample from her. That led to what Butterworth described as "a match" with the genetic sample from the bite mark.

The testimony came on the third day of the preliminary hearing in the case, which also included LAPD Det. James Nuttall, who testified about reopening the case.

Nuttall said that he was given Lazarus' name during an interview with Rasmussen's husband, John Ruetten, who described his relationship with Lazarus as a friendship that became "fully intimate." Ruetten later married Rasmussen, a hospital nursing director.

On cross-examination by defense attorney Mark Overland, Nuttall said Ruetten also told him that he went to Lazarus' home after he was engaged to Rasmussen and had sex with Lazarus.

andrew.blankstein @latimes.com

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