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A colleague's arrest on suspicion of murder stuns the LAPD

Police allege veteran detective Stephanie Lazarus, 49, shot her ex-boyfriend's wife in 1986, then harbored the secret for more than two decades.

June 06, 2009|Andrew Blankstein and Joel Rubin

Lazarus joined the department in 1983, a year after she graduated from UCLA with a degree in sociology, LAPD and university records show. After several years as a rank-and-file patrol officer, she was promoted to detective and, in 2006, landed a high-profile assignment with Hrycyk tracking stolen artwork and forgeries. There are references in department publications to Lazarus earning public commendation for her work.

She hardly shunned the spotlight. In a recent LA Weekly profile, Lazarus joked that all she knew about art was that it "hangs on the wall" and that "after working here and seeing all the phony art, I said, 'I can do that.' " Lazarus, who according to police has a young daughter and recently married another LAPD detective, told the newspaper that she had started taking oil-painting classes and had first become interested in art when she visited Europe as a teenager. Last year, she gave interviews after helping capture two men convicted of a string of art thefts in the Wilshire area and in Beverly Hills.

Until her death, Rasmussen was director of critical-care nursing at Glendale Adventist Medical Center. Her slaying stunned colleagues, who referred to her as a vital member of the staff, according to news reports. On the day she was killed, she had reportedly stayed home from work after straining her back in an aerobics class. In an article about the family's reward, her father said Rasmussen had entered college at 16 and had taught for a period at UCLA.

"It's safe to say we have some closure," said Ruetten, the victim's husband, when reached at his home in San Diego. "It's been a horrible thing to go through it all again."

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

joel.rubin@latimes.com

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