Closing arguments delivered in LA detective trial

LINDA DEUTSCH AP Special Correspondent Published:

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A prosecutor told jurors Monday that a former Los Angeles police detective hunted down another woman and killed her out of jealousy 26 years ago.

Deputy District Attorney Paul Nunez said in his closing argument that defendant Stephanie Lazarus was consumed with love for a man who had married victim Sherri Rasmussen.

The prosecutor said the strongest proof was a bite mark on the victim's arm that contained DNA matching that of Lazarus.

At the end of the presentation by Nunez, the defense moved for a mistrial because the prosecutor told jurors no alibi was presented.

The judge denied the motion, saying he did not take that as a comment on the fact that Lazarus did not testify in her own defense.

A defense attorney for Lazarus told jurors in his closing argument that the prosecution's centerpiece DNA evidence in the cold-case murder trial can't be trusted.

Lawyer Mark Overland said the passage of time caused DNA from the bite mark to become compromised. In addition, it was improperly packaged and preserved, he said, arguing that the rest of the case was based on circumstantial evidence.

Rasmussen was murdered in 1986 and the evidence lay dormant until a cold-case team subjected it to DNA analysis. They found a probable match with Lazarus, authorities said.

Lazarus is charged with killing Rasmussen in a pitched battle that left the walls of her condo smeared with blood. Jurors saw photos of the 29-year-old nurse, her face bashed by her killer, her torso pierced by bullets and her arm marked by the human bite.

Rasmussen was killed there months after she was married.

Lazarus was ultimately confronted by her own colleagues in the police department where she had risen to be an expert in art forgery cases. Lazarus denied killing Rasmussen.

The defense showed during the trial that the bite mark DNA was extracted from swabs in an unsealed tube contained in a torn envelope at the bottom of an evidence box.

Overland previously challenged firearms experts on whether the bullets that killed Rasmussen could have come from a gun owned by the police officer. The gun, which was reported stolen, was never found.

Overland said Rasmussen was most likely killed by burglars who had committed other crimes in the neighborhood.