Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear Dan Simon's full report on Detective Lazarus on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/11/art.crime.lazarus.jpg caption="Stephanie Lazarus in a 2007 interview. Lazarus was arrested last week on suspicion of killing a former lover's wife in 1986"]
David de Sola
Two years ago, I was working on a package about art theft that I had pitched for a graduate broadcast reporting class at the University of Southern California. I knew the Los Angeles Police Department had the only law enforcement unit in the United States dedicated specifically to art theft crimes. Detective Stephanie Lazarus was one of the two members of this unit. She had done many interviews on the subject and so I requested one with her for this project.
We agreed to do the interview at Parker Center – LAPD headquarters – where she worked. I arrived late due to traffic delays. Detective Lazarus seemed a bit annoyed about my tardiness at first, and as I recall she teased me about my choice of school, noting that if I had gone to UCLA – USC's crosstown rival and her alma mater – I might have made it on time. Obviously, I had no idea about the murder allegations at the time. Despite my logistical troubles, she was a good interview – very patient, well-informed, comfortable in front of the camera, good-humored and extremely thorough in answering my questions.
We finished the interview, I went on my way and filed the project about a week later. As far as I was concerned, this interview would never see the light of day beyond the bite I used for the finished project when I presented it in class, and forgot all about it until this morning when I heard about Detective Lazarus's arrest for murder for the first time. I was shocked. She was very nice, I never got any impressions from her hinting that she might be capable of anger to the point of possibly committing an act of violence. I dug up the tape, watched and transcribed it, and passed it on to CNN correspondent Dan Simon and his colleagues who were filing a package on this story for tonight's show.
As for the assignment, I got an A -. I also discussed Detective Lazarus's arrest with David Dow, my former professor for whom I submitted this project. His response: "Wow. You never know when you're standing next to history - albeit crime history."
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