It's not every day a police officer is arrested for murder, but in this case it was one of the city's top detectives. Stephanie Lazarus was one of only two female detectives on the department's elite art theft detail. She had risen through the ranks, survived thyroid cancer and helped raise money for childcare for officers' families. She was also a devoted neighbor in Simi Valley, giving her neighbors chocolate-covered cherries and homemade soap for Christmas.
But 23 years after the murder of Sherri Rasmussen, Lazarus was charged in her killing. Detectives who had sparked the investigation with a DNA match from a bite mark snagged a break by trailing her and surreptitiously collecting a cup she discarded during a shopping trip. They used the drink to test against the DNA on the bite mark and found a match.
Then they discovered that the gun she reported stolen matched the weapon found at the crime scene. "48 Hours Mystery" reporter Joel Rubin says it was a big blow.
The detectives had a challenge on their hands: they couldn't arrest Lazarus without tipping her off. So they devised a plan. They would have her report to a station across town, then secretly follow her there. They knew that if she brought her service weapon with her, she'd be forced to surrender it for inspection and risk losing the evidence they were trying to find. They made their plans, and in 2009, detectives busted Lazarus for Rasmussen's murder.