Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Los Angeles Murder and the Statute of Limitations

Posted on: June 15, 2009 at 10:20 a.m.

Los Angeles violent crimes can often be a bit of a spectacle, in part because the city has a flair for the dramatic. Los Angeles violent crime defense attorneys can often find their name in newspapers as a result of their clients' alleged actions. Take for example a recent "cold case" involving the LAPD's finest.
Veteran Los Angeles Police Department detective Stephanie Lazarus found out the hard way that there is no statute of limitations on certain violent crimes, such as murder cases. For many Los Angeles violent crimes, a statute of limitations exists that places time constraints on sending a case to trial, meaning that from the time a crime happens, detectives and prosecutors have only a specified amount of time before they can bring a suspect to trial. Medical malpractice cases, for example have a statute of limitations of just three years. But murder, as well as the embezzlement of public funds, have no time limits and charges can be brought against a suspect at any time that investigators feel they have enough evidence.
Detective Stephanie Lazarus had made a name for herself in Los Angeles by tracking stolen artwork and hunting down art forgeries. In 1986, two years after Lazarus had joined the Los Angeles Police Department, Sherri Rasmussen, the wife of one of Lazarus former boyfriends, was found beaten and shot to death in her Van Nuys apartment. Investigators at the time noted that Lazarus had been involved with Rasmussens husband, but believed a string of robberies in the neighborhood had actually led to her death. Rasmussens husband, John Ruetten, had allegedly broken off his relationship with Lazarus and soon after started dating Rasmussen. Rasmussens family publicly offered a $10,000 reward for whoever could bring her killers to justice, but the thieves Los Angeles investigators believed had committed the murder were never found.
More than two decades later, Los Angeles Police investigators began reviewing Rasmussens case and noted that DNA evidence from the violent crime scene revealed that a woman besides Rasmussen had been present at the time of her killing. Just last week, an undercover investigator began trailing Lazarus, waiting for her to leave anything that might leave a saliva sample behind. He found it when she discarded a plastic utensil after eating. The DNA collected from the fork conclusively linked Lazarus to the scene of Rasmussens murder. Lazarus was arrested by homicide detectives in early June and is being held without bail. Her arraignment has not yet been scheduled. Los Angeles Police department officials do not know whether Lazarus was deliberately or accidentally overlooked by investigators back in 1986.
While many violent crimes still go unsolved, many more do eventually get resolved. New evidence may continually resurface in cases that, like Lazaruss, are decades old. New scientific developments also enables investigators to re-evaluate evidence that was previously collected and make connections they would not have been able to just a few years ago. And since more serious crimes such as murder have no statute of limitations, if investigators can gather enough evidence, they will pursue leads in cases that have long been neglected.

If you have been charged with a If you have been charged with a serious criminal offense, do not hesitate to call Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin at (877) 781-1570. Our knowledgeable legal team can evaluate your case and advise you of your legal options.

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