LOS ANGELES — The lead detective in the case of a newlywed slain 26 years ago concluded just after the death that she was killed by two burglars, a retired police officer testified Tuesday in the murder trial of a former Los Angeles police detective.
The retired officer, Steven Hooks, said he disagreed with the conclusion about Sherri Rasmussen's death but signed off on the report written by his superior.
Prosecutors have said that the former detective, Stephanie Lazarus, was obsessed with her former boyfriend and was driven to vengeance three months after he married Rasmussen. Lazarus was charged on the basis of DNA evidence which linked saliva on the bite wound to her genetic profile.
Arguments flew in court Tuesday about how much jurors could hear about official findings in the case following the 1986 shooting death.
Superior Court Judge Robert Perry at first stopped Hooks from saying why he disagreed with the official report on the case. But after Lazarus' lawyer began exploring the issue of a third party as a possible killer, Perry changed his mind and said that Hooks could tell jurors that he voiced the opinion at the time that the killer was a woman because of the bite mark on Rasmussen's arm.
Deputy District Attorney Shannon Presby told the judge outside the jury's presence that Hooks had offered his superior his opinion that a woman had killed Rasmussen "because that's how women fight, by biting."
He said the lead detective dismissed that suggestion and closed the case by concluding Rasmussen interrupted two burglars who killed her.
In another development, Perry said he may block the defense from exploring other burglaries in the neighborhood at the time. He put off ruling but said he wanted to hear legal arguments from both sides. He said that there would have to be "amazing similarities" in the situations to allow testimony about other crimes.
Jurors were given a virtual tour of Rasmussen's condo with Hooks identifying photos from the crime scene, pointing out bloody marks on walls and a glass door shattered by bullets. They also saw a close-up view of gunshot wounds to Rasmussen's chest.