No one truly expected the murder of Sherri Rasmussen to be solved. Detectives had just a few tools at their disposal: witness testimonies and some honed crime scene observations. This was the 1980s, after all, a time without face recognition technology, fingerprints databases, and DNA testing.

But technology changed, and decades later, investigators approached the long-frozen murder case with modern tools. With tech previously thought to be impossible, experts noticed one key clue they’d missed so many decades earlier. Suddenly, justice for Sherri was back on the table.

Sherri Rasmussen started college at age 16. With a bright mind and tireless work ethic, she became director of nursing at the Glendale Adventist Medical Center near her California apartment. Life was good — then she met John Ruetten.

John was a handsome and successful guy, and Sherri was immediately enamored with him. They started dating and, soon after, walked down the aisle together. Not long after their wedding, though, the honeymoon phase came to an abrupt end.

It was February 24th, 1986. The newlyweds had celebrated Valentine’s Day only weeks before. Returning from work, John couldn’t wait to see his blushing bride. However when he entered the garage he was met with a puzzling sight: Sherri’s BMW was missing.

Continuing into the living room, he turned the corner. A horrifying scene awaited him. Furniture was everywhere, a clear sign of a struggle. Someone had attempted to push the panic button unsuccessfully. Then he saw it: Sherri’s body.

Murderpedia

His beautiful wife was lifeless on the floor, covered in a blanket with a bullet wound through her chest and a clear bite mark on her body. He called the police, never anticipating that it would take nearly three decades for her killer to be brought to justice.

ABC7

But the Los Angeles Police Department wasted no time launching their investigation. Officers’ early conclusions were that her death was the result of a botched robbery; the killer, they said, had intended on simply taking electronics and leaving. There were major problems with this theory.

Photo by Bill Nation/Sygma via Getty Images

First off, Sherri’s car was found a mere week after her body, ditched on the side of the road. In fact, the only item police could say with certainty was taken from the home was her marriage license. This just didn’t add up. Then there was the bite mark.

YouTube – Low Mileage

While lead detective Lyle Mayer staunchly insisted it had been a robbery, his partner Steve Hooks wasn’t so sure. He knew that most burglaries are perpetrated by men, while women are far more likely to bite their victims. Then, Sherri’s parents dropped a bombshell.

Photo by Paul Harris/Getty Images

Desperate for answers, the Rasmussens asked Mayer to train his efforts on Officer Stephanie Lazarus, below. Sherri had evidently expressed a fear of this law enforcement agent in the time leading up to her murder.

But Mayer refused, and the case went cold. What the police didn’t know was that the grieving parents were on to something. See, John came with some little-known baggage. Before meeting Sherri, he’d been in a passionate romance with Stephanie.

Film Daily

When Stephanie and John first met, their relationship was normal. However, Stephanie soon started leaving him deeply unsettled. She took pictures of his naked body as he slept and took clothes from his apartment. If that’s not a red flag, what is?

Photo by Heinz Browers/United Archives via Getty Images

John tried to cut things off with his lover after meeting Sherri, but her actions only escalated. It was clear that she carried a deep obsession for him, and perhaps an even deeper contempt for his wife. Soon, the wrath would be projected onto Sherri as well.

Stephanie started showing up at the young bride’s apartment when she was home alone, often armed and in uniform. Sherri told her father about an incident in which Stephanie showed up at her job, allegedly threatening her, “If I can’t have John, no one else will.”

Despite this alarming evidence, the case sat in its file until 2004, when LAPD criminalist Jennifer Butterworth noticed items had gone “missing” from the case’s evidence bag. Thankfully, one crucial piece still remained.

US Air Force

Saliva extracted from the bite mark on Sherri’s body all those years ago was perfectly preserved. By 2004, DNA testing had already been popularized as a method for solving crimes, so Jennifer went straight to work. Could she land a DNA match?

Results showed the DNA belonged to a female. Curious, Jennifer kept digging. She came across notes from the decades-old file mentioning a “third-party female” that had allegedly been harassing Sherri prior to her violent death. Her superiors needed to hear this.

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

But, astoundingly, Jennifer was met with more denial. It was a robbery, the LAPD detectives insisted. There was nothing more to discuss, and the case went cold for five more years.

Finally, in 2009 — 22 years after the murder — Detectives Jim Nuttall and Pete Barba took another look at the case. The robbery evidence didn’t add up, so they trained their focus on Stephanie Lazarus. One unfortunate detail made their jobs seriously difficult.

Wikimedia Commons

Stephanie and her husband both worked directly across the hall from them, so Nuttall and Barba had to be surreptitious in their efforts to catch her. They used only the code word “No. 5” when referring to her, and worked after hours or with the door locked.

ABC 7

Finally, they secretly secured a sample of Lazarus’s DNA and tested it against the saliva found at the scene. Bingo: it was a direct match. Still, they weren’t yet ready to make an arrest. The detectives needed a genius plan to nail her.

Keesler Air Force Base

Nuttall and Barba lured Stephanie to a site where she was forced to disarm herself. Then, they caught her off guard with an interrogation. It didn’t take long for her to crack under pressure and reveal that she knew more than she was letting on.

The second Stephanie left the interview room, she was handcuffed and arrested on charges of first degree murder. After a couple days of jury deliberations, she was sentenced to 27 years to life in 2012.

The case meant a lot to Nuttall and Barba, who wanted to hold America’s authority figures to a higher standard. Taking down a crooked cop was never easy, but they knew from past murder cases that it wasn’t an impossible feat.

It was a chilly day in October when Louise Pietrewicz, went missing. At first, no one in Cutchogue, New York, knew anything was awry. However, after hours passed, and she didn’t return home, her daughter really started to worry.

Focus Features

Something was very amiss, and the local cops immediately launched their investigation. However, anyone looking for an easy answer would come to be severely disappointed.

Photo by Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images

This is because it wouldn’t be until more than half a century later, in March of 2019, that the townspeople finally got some clarity on what had happened to Louise. It all started with an exposé in the Suffolk Times that made some pretty damning allegations.

Suffolk Times

The paper claimed that William Boken, a man who had been a local police officer in the area but had since died, was responsible for Louise’s murder. So, officials reopened the case.

Suffolk Times

The first person investigators went to question was the person closest to Boken: his former wife, Judith Terry. However, there was one less-than-minor problem that made it difficult for authorities to interview her.

The issue was that Judith had dementia and was in an assisted living home. Still, police knew that if they were going to get to the bottom of the decades-long mystery, they had to be able to extract information from her.

Photo by Eric Bard/Corbis via Getty Images

Detective Richert, who interviewed Judy in the home, stated that while at times the elderly woman got confused, she was still credible, capable of identifying her current husband and others by name. Richert remembers asking her one crucial question.

YouTube – Times Review Media Group

Did Judith remember telling anyone that she’d witnessed her husband, the late Officer Boken, burying a body in their basement? Her answer made his whole body go cold: Yes, she said. She did. But only one person.

Amazingly, the 83-year-old admitted that she had indeed confided in someone about the crime: her neighbor, Joseph Sawicki, who lived across the street. Hearing this name made the interviewing detective stop dead in his tracks.

News Day

Why? Because it was well known that, in 1966, Joseph Sawicki — pictured below at his retirement — had been the town police chief! And Judith went on to reveal that the two families had shared a particularly intimate relationship.

Suffolk Times

“She was very close with him and his wife and was godmother to one of their children,” Richert added, and “because he was a police officer” this was starting to seem more and more like a cover-up. Officials still had no concrete evidence. Where was the body?

YouTube – Times Review Media Group

Upon hearing about Judith’s statement to authorities, Louise’s only daughter, Sandy Blampied, was indignant. “She told the police chief about the murder?” she asked. “What did he do about it?” Well, the story only became more nefarious from there…

Because of Judith’s compromised mental condition, authorities needed several interviews for her to reveal all the information that linked Boken to the crime. Then, one day, the case abruptly reached a key turning point.

YouTube – Times Review Media Group

Judith Terry had a mental breakthrough, and unveiled even more upsetting and incriminating news: not only had she been aware of the body in the basement, but she’d actually seen her husband carry Louise’s lifeless body into the house! She went into detail.

Suffolk Times

“I was there when he brought her into the house,” she told the detective, continuing, “He laid her on the cement floor. I don’t know if she was dead or alive. I would assume she was dead because she was wrapped in burlap or something.”

Paul Martinka – New York Post

Judith said Boken had indeed stowed Louise’s body in their basement. She then drew a diagram from memory, including what she could recall about how deep the hole was. This would lead to a horrifying discovery that no one could have anticipated.

After following Judy’s diagram, officials found Louise’s remains buried 7 feet below the ground in the exact spot she’d pointed out. However, they also found something else: one crucial piece of evidence that fingered the real killer.

Along with Louise’s remains, .38 caliber bullets were found in the hole. Records stated officers at the time were mandated to carry .38 revolvers. Reports also indicated Boken had used 3 sick days immediately leading up to Louise’s vanishing — and resigned the day after she went missing.

The only thing left to do was try and give some semblance of closure to Louise’s daughter Sandy. Officials sent her the shirt, slip, and garter found in the hole next to her mother’s remains, as she’d asked for. Naturally, Sandy had a lot to say about the tragedy that shaped her life.

ABC

“It’s like she wasn’t even a person. It was a cover-up. There’s no doubt in my mind,” she said. The twisted nature of this murder investigation is reminiscent of other crimes that aren’t immediately what they appear on the surface.

YouTube – Times Review Media Group

Helen Hargan was beginning a brand new season of life in 2017. As a recent college graduate, she was looking for a safe place to land for a while, as she was waiting for the construction on her new home to be done.

Helen Hargan / Facebook

Luckily, her mother, Pamela Hargan (left), owned a stunning colonial-style home in the cushy suburb of McLean right outside of Washington, D.C. Though her children were all grown, Pamela was not an empty nester.

Pamela lived with her niece and oldest daughter, Megan, who had a 7-year-old daughter of her own. So, the household would become five if Helen joined the four of them. It seemed like a perfect plan. There was just one problem.

Helen was the proud mom of three large dogs. Pamela said Helen was, of course, welcome to come live with them for awhile, but there would not be enough room for her dogs. Helen had a very tough decision to make.

Helen Hargan / Facebook

In the end she decided it would be best for her to board them. It would be a temporary measure, until she could move into her new house with her dogs by her side. The day she dropped her beloved pooches off, her heart broke a little.

WikiCommons

But Helen was compassionate and hard working, which meant that nothing could stop her from getting her dogs back and making a life for herself. In the interim, she was happy to spend time with her family after being away at college.

Except, only a few months into her stay with her mother and sister, the most unexpected tragedy struck. On July 14th, 2017 Fairfax County Police answered a call from the Hargan’s neighbor. The aftermath rocked the suburban neighborhood and shattered a family.

There were reports of gunshots from the Hargan home. When officers arrived on the scene, it was haunting. Pamela was found dead of a gunshot wound on the first floor. Officers began to search the house for other victims — or possibly a suspect.



Fox 13

Upstairs they found Helen’s body with a gunshot wound, which appeared to be self-inflicted. It was obvious to investigators that a murder-suicide had occurred: Helen had killed her mother and then taken her own life. But why? How?

Fox 13

But when Tamara North, Pamela’s sister, heard the news, she knew details weren’t adding up. Helen was happily in love with her boyfriend and excited to move into her under-construction home with her dogs. “It didn’t make sense,” she said.

“She was beautiful and smart,” North said. “She had everything to live for.” In order to uncover the truth, investigators had to look past the obvious and into the dark secrets of the Hargan family. It turned out, nothing was as it seemed.

WTOP

Detectives thought they had it all figured out. But then they learned the family had financial troubles. More specifically, they noted one very concerning disruption in the transaction history of Pamela’s account.

Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce / Facebook

Exactly one day before her murder, one of Pamela’s daughters had attempted to transfer money from her account, even going so far as to reach out to a bank. The case had just become a lot more complicated, so detectives dug deeper.

Because it wasn’t Helen who made the call. Megan — the older sister with the daughter who lived in the household as well — attempted it, except Pamela rejected her transfer. Another unnerving detail soon emerged to turn the entire case upside-down, thanks to Helen’s boyfriend Carlos.

Fairfax County Police

On the day of the murder, he received a panicked call from Helen, in which she said that Megan had killed her mother. After that, the phone call abruptly ended. That was the last time anyone heard from Helen.

Fox 13

With this new evidence, it became clear that Helen was not to blame for the death of her mother. Megan had staged the entire crime scene, blaming the murder of their mother on her sister after murdering her as well. But why?

WTOP

Allegedly Megan was jealous of her sister because Pamela was purchasing her a home to live in, while Megan still lived with her mother. The whole ordeal left the family shaken. “I was absolutely horrified that Megan would do this,” said North. Still, there was a trial to come.

It was a full year before police built a strong enough case against Megan to make their arrest. For that entire time, Helen was blamed for the death of her mother. With the truth out, the narrative changed. “Helen didn’t deserve that,” said North.

Fairfax County Police

Helen was taken unfairly and far too soon; she was full of potential, until it was all ripped away by her own sister. It’s hard to imagine a more twisted crime. Sadly, the tragedy left Helen’s beloved dogs without a home.

Luckily, Tamara Belotti was in charge of boarding them when the dogs were dropped off, and she continued to care for them at her own cost. “She would do anything for these dogs,” Belotti said of Helen.

Dancing Creek Farms / Facebook

As Megan awaited trial, the remaining family looked waited in horror. How could Megan have done this? They knew, at least, that justice was likely to be served. Not all victims’ families made out so well in the courts.

WUSA9

Martha Moxley, for instance, was born in 1960, in Piedmont, California, and spent the first 14 years of her life there, Like Megan and Helen, she had a relatively happy childhood. Before she turned 15, though, one fateful decision would change the course of her life.

In 1974, the Moxley family chose to overhaul their life and move across the country to Greenwich, Connecticut. At first, everything seemed like it was going to work out. The area they moved to was downright idyllic.

“It was one of these neighborhoods, the kids could just go meet people…very safe,” Martha’s mother Dorthy Moxley recalls thinking. It was one of those suburban safe havens where it seems like nothing bad ever happens…that is, until it does.

Hartford Courant

A quick adapter and warm, outgoing teen, Martha thrived after the move. She was a straight-A student and a member of the school’s basketball team, and she made plenty of friends, whom she hung out with often.

Some of these friends were two boys, 15-year-old Michael and 17-year-old Tom. The Skakel brothers lived right down the street from the Moxleys, and the children spent a lot of time together. The Skakels, however, had a special identity.

E Online

Tom and Michael were members of the famed Kennedy family. Their uncle was none other than Robert F. Kennedy himself, brother to president John F. Kennedy. This was a very impressive connection indeed.

Since they lived so close to each other, the young neighbors often spent time at each other’s houses. They got along well and made fast friends; however, the Skakel family was hiding some dark secrets beneath the pleasant facade…

Despite their connections to fame and privilege, the Skakel family was deeply dysfunctional. With seven children to watch over, the parents were often stressed out and overworked. Things only got worse when the boys’ mother died of cancer.

According to Michael Skakel, the family experienced a host of deep-seated issues including “chronic illness, alcoholism, and a repressive Catholic moral and sexual outlook” that contributed to much of their dysfunction.

The Nun

For the most part, Moxley could overlook the family’s obvious issues, and the teens led a normal and peaceful existence in Greenwich. Then Halloween of 1975 came, and in one night everything changed.

In Greenwich, the night before Halloween was known by the youth as “Mischief Night.” Typically, it was filled with harmless pranks and shenanigans, but this year something was different.

That night, 15-year-old Martha Moxley was cruising the neighborhood with her friends. It seemed to be an average night, until Dorthy Moxley woke at 4 am and realized, to her shock and surprise, that Martha had never returned.

Oxygen

Dorthy’s maternal instincts kicked in, and she immediately began to phone all of Martha’s friends, asking if anyone had seen her, desperately trying to get a hold of her missing daughter.

One friend had an interesting piece of information for Dorthy. She reported that Martha had last been seen with her neighbor, none other than Tom Skakel. Hopeful that perhaps Martha had gotten tired and simply fallen asleep at the Skakel’s house, she went over there.

It was Tom’s younger brother Michael that answered the door. Unfortunately for Dorthy, the 15-year-old claimed that he hadn’t seen Martha. With nowhere else to turn, the worried mother waited for morning to come.

All night, Dorthy Moxley could barely sleep. It wasn’t like Martha to just disappear like that. Something must have happened to her. The next day, for better or worse, she would find the answers she was looking for.

Martha’s friend Sheila was the one to stumble upon the awful truth. At the edge of the Moxley’s property, lying face down in the grass, she found her friend’s body. It was a gruesome sight, to say the least.

Martha’s face was obscured, but the sight was unmistakable. A broken golf club was pointing out of the murdered girl’s neck. Beside the body lay the rest of the club, split into fragments. Someone had used it to beat her.

All Thats Interesting

Needless to say, Martha’s friends and family were absolutely devastated. A young life had been cut tragically short, and in such a brutal and violent manner. They had to find out who had done this.

Zimbio

Soon, investigators found some extremely eerie clues. The most damning evidence of all was found in none other than the Skakel’s house. Things were not looking good for these Kennedy relatives.

A golf club that matched the one found next to Martha’s body was discovered in their living room. Even worse, the same fragments were missing from that one as were missing from the murder weapon.

Another crucial piece of evidence was retrieved from Martha’s own diary. In the weeks and months before her death, the girl had journaled about the boys, describing what seemed like aggressive romantic advances and their resulting anger when she rejected them.

Given that eye witnesses had reported that Tom Skakel was the last one to be seen with Martha on that fateful night, suspicions were immediately placed on him. Investigators brought both boys in for questioning.

The New York Times

Both of the brothers had alibis. Tom had been watching The French Connection with his tutor, and Michael had visited with his cousins in a nearby county. Unable to prove otherwise, the suspects were released.

The French Connection

After this the case went cold for almost twenty years. The Moxley family still suspected the Skakel boys, but they had no recourse or legal way of proving so. They waited in desperation, hoping a break would come.

Ironically, the Skakels’ father, Rushton, would be the one to reopen the case. In 1991, he hired a private investigator, hoping to clear his family’s name. Unfortunately for him, this decision backfired.

Jessica Jones

The boys, now adults, were placed in the hot seat again when police found that they had changed their stories. Apparently, both Michael and Tom had lied to the police all those years ago.

Bustle

Tom had a startling admission. He revealed that before he said goodbye to Martha that night, the two had engaged in “mutual masturbation” outside his home. He began to weep as he said this.

Michael, for his part, had an even more disturbing story to share. He confessed that after he left Martha that night, he had climbed into the tree outside her house and also began to masturbate…

Finally, in 1998, more than two decades after the killing, a judge found that there was enough evidence to charge Michael Skakel. Suddenly, he found himself at the center of a heated trial.

The evidence against him began to proliferate. Some old classmates of Skakel even revealed that he had confessed committing the murder to them. Recordings from the creation of Skakel’s own autobiography also didn’t do him any favors.

One recording in particular looked bad for Michael’s case. In it, he could be heard describing his state of mind the night of Martha’s death: he had been drunk, high, and sexually aroused.

For the defense’s part, they argued that there had been no clear physical evidence linking Michael to the crime. When the trial came to a close, the jury sat for deliberations. Both families, the Skakels and the Moxleys, waited in nervous anticipation.

Finally, in 2002, so many years after the crime took place, Michael Skakel was found guilty of murder and sentenced to twenty years in prison. This wouldn’t be the last the world would hear from him, though…

Throughout the entire time that Michael was imprisoned, his family continued to file appeal after appeal, hoping to clear his name and get him released. None of these were answered, until 2013, when something finally stuck…

The New York Post

After years of messy legal battles, Skakel was released and his conviction officially overturned in 2018. His team had argued that his defense back in the ’90s had been “constitutionally deficient.”

Harvard Law Today

Inevitably for such a high-profile case, there was a ton of controversy surrounding Skakel’s early release from prison. People on both sides wasted no time in making their opinions known.

Inevitably, some believe that Skakel is innocent — especially those in his family. Robert Kennedy himself wrote a 2016 book in which he argued that Skakel was innocent and had been wrongly imprisoned.

Others, however, are steadfastly certain that the initial decision to convict Michael had been the just one and are outraged at his release. One of these people is none other than Dorthy Moxley.

The New York Times

To her, the success of the final appeal was about nothing less than privilege: “If Michael Skakel came from a poor family, this would have been over. But because he comes from a family of means, they’ve stretched this out all these years.”

©



You may also like