Cold Case Coverup

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Nineteen seventy-eight I started, and, you know, I met him at school in the dorms. Very mildly. This was personal, but she was in her fraternal mode, which ran deep with her. She seemed determined to be helpful. Why are you asking me such a bizarre question, out of the blue? Her expression also conveyed annoyed surprise, but Jaramillo was speaking softly and politely and she was on board. John Ruetten was crazy about Sherri Rasmussen. They met in the summer of , John a talkative, charming young man with a thick mop of dark hair, as handsome as a male model, and Sherri a tall Scandinavian beauty, with light-brown hair, a broad face with high cheekbones, and wide-set eyes under dark, arching eyebrows.

Both were lean and athletic, runners, and both were on a fast track. He was a recent graduate of U. Sherri was hot stuff. She had entered Loma Linda University at age 16 and now lectured internationally on critical-care nursing.

PDF Cold Case Coverup

She was beautiful and she was considered brilliant. She was also confident and directed. She was the kind of person John wanted to be, or, rather, a personification of how he saw himself in his best moments. And she fell just as hard for him. Their connection was immediate and untroubled. It was as though everything in their lives just fell away when they met, old relationships, future plans. They met, and they were together. Just like that. They were married in November It had been a busy holiday season after the wedding, with happy visits to both sets of parents, and by Monday, February 24, of the following year they were settling into the comfortable rhythm of married life.

A Case So Cold It Was Blue

John had started a job with an engineering company. When he left their Van Nuys condominium for work that day, Sherri was still in bed. They had gone out to a movie Sunday night. It was mandated by the hospital, and Sherri was less than sold on its value, so she told John she was thinking about just calling in sick and staying home that day. He encouraged her to just go in and get the class over with. She was still undecided under the covers when he walked out the front door at about Ordinarily, Sherri left for work first. On his way in, John dropped off some laundry and was at his desk shortly before eight.

He tried at midmorning and, when there was no answer, assumed she had decided to teach the class after all. John tried to call home three or four more times but did not get an answer.

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It was odd that the answering machine had not been turned on, but Sherri sometimes forgot. John was not especially concerned. The Balboa Townhomes consisted of three-story white mock-Tudor buildings with garage entrances on the ground floor in the back alley. Just above the garage was a small balcony before two sliding glass doors. The garage was just wide enough for their two cars. She must have run into something pulling out.

Weeks earlier she had clipped the door and broken the aerial on her car. He thought, Uh-oh, what did she do now?

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  4. He lifted the plastic bag of dry cleaning out of the car and headed up the garage stairs to the living room. Sherri was dead on the floor of the living room. She lay on her back on the brown rug, her face swollen, battered, and bloody.

    She was barefoot, still in her red bathrobe. She looked fixed in the act of trying to get up. John touched her leg, and it was stiff. Her skin was cold. He put his fingers to her wrist to feel for a pulse. There was none. You heard about such things, of course. There would be homicides in Los Angeles that year. But hearing about them never made the prospect of such a thing possible in your own life. Here was Sherri, so alive to him in every way, still so vividly and shockingly present and yet irremediably, utterly gone. Her face was covered with dried blood, the right eyelid bluish and puffy and closed.

    Her left eye was open, staring up, and her mouth was open in a final gasp.

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    She had been dead for hours. Just below the rim of her delicate, formfitting pink camisole, right in the center of her chest, was a black bullet hole. Y ou know, Lazarus had said with exasperation, a comradely protest. But Jaramillo pressed on. She was experienced enough at this to have realized by now that she was being played.

    She might have just stood up and walked out. Lazarus remained friendly, if annoyed. You could see she wanted to know what was going on, which was reason enough to stay. But she was willing to proceed. She described her relationship with John in college, all the while shaking her head with bewilderment. They had hung around together with a group of friends. We just dated. She had a circle of friends from those dorm years at U. John was just one of that crowd. The wires had been removed from it. A gray ceramic vase with a heavy base lay shattered on the floor.

    The top two shelves of the wooden display cabinet had been knocked askew, and an amplifier and receiver dangled forward on top of the television. At the base of the stairs leading up from the living room to the second floor, a VCR and a CD player had been stacked neatly, as if assembled for carrying out but then left behind. There was a single bloody smudge on top of the CD player.

    There were smears of blood on the east wall and another smear on the front door. On the floor just inside the front door were two intertwined cords; one was apparently the wire from the fallen speaker. Upstairs, one of the two glass sliding doors to the back balcony was shattered. This was the glass John had seen on the pavement outside the garage.

    There was no sign of forced entry, and other than the objects left on the living-room floor, there was no sign of ransacking. Homicide detective Lyle Mayer discovered that a pink-and-pale-green quilted blanket on the living-room chair had a bullet hole in it, with powder burns.

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    It appeared that the killer had used the blanket to muffle the sound. Any of these three shots alone would have been rapidly fatal. Somebody had wanted to make sure she was dead.