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L.A. detective pleads not guilty to 1986 killing

/ Source: The Associated Press

A veteran Los Angeles police detective pleaded not guilty Monday to murder in the 1986 killing of her ex-boyfriend's wife.

Stephanie Lazarus, 49, remained in custody without bail pending a July 21 hearing on a prosecution motion to get dental impressions from the detective.

A hearing will also be set to determine if there is enough evidence for her to stand trial.

Lazarus was charged with capital murder in the Feb. 24, 1986, shooting death of Sherri Rasmussen, 29, a hospital nursing director, at the victim's condo in Van Nuys.

The detective was recently connected to the crime through a DNA match of saliva taken from bite marks on the victim, Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said earlier.

Defense attorney Mark Overland told reporters Monday that Lazarus, a 25-year veteran of the department, was "anxious to get this to trial."

The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a burglary. Lazarus also faces a separate allegation of personal use of a handgun.

Prosecutors are expected to decide later whether to seek the death penalty.

Robbers initially suspected
Rasmussen's body was found by her husband of three months, John Ruetten. Before he married Rasmussen, Ruetten and Lazarus had been involved, detectives have said.

Lazarus was not a suspect in 1986 because detectives believed that two robbers who had attacked another woman in the area were to blame, police said.

Attorneys for the victim's parents have asked for an investigation into the way the case was handled.

Lazarus, who has been in custody since her arrest on June 5, was an expert in cases involving art forgeries and married a fellow officer who knew nothing about the killing, police said.

She was arrested by detectives who worked across the hall from her.

LAPD public information officer Richard French declined to provide details on her current status with the department because it is a personnel matter.