This week on Vanity Fair Confidential, two writers examine whether Lawrencia ‘Bambi’ Bembenek really shot her husbands ex-wife or if she was framed.
Laurie Bembenek was born in 1958 and worked as a police officer before being fired and then briefly working as a Playboy bunny waitress.
He firing from the police force was related to changing a reports on a fellow officer and friend, who’d been caught smoking marijuana at a concert. Bembenek later found photos of other police officers being even more indiscrete and complained that the two cases were being treated totally differently.
Just after leaving the force Bembenek met Fred Schultz, who was also a cop and had just divorced his wife. The pair moved into together and Bembenek started working for aprivate security company.
In May 1981 Schultz’s ex-wife Christine Schultz was killed in her own home. She was tied up, blindfolded and gagged, before being shot with a single bulletinto her back and gone through her heart.
She was found by her two sons and one of them even spotted the attacker, whom he described as a man with a ponytail. Schultz at first claimed he was on duty but later admitted to detectives he was at a bar having a drink. It was soon discovered that the gun used in the killing was his off-duty weapon and police decided to arrest Bembenek.
Bembenek’s trial attracted a lot of media coverage and although Schultz’s eldest son stated it was not her in the house, the prosecution produced a witness who said that she’d tried to hire them to kill Christine Schultz.
More damning was the remains of a wig found in the drains of Bembenek building that matched that of fibres found a the crime scene, with a local boutique employee also giving evidence that Bembenek bought it just before the shooting.
In March 1982 Bembenek was found guilty of first-degree murder and given a life sentence. She hit the headlines again in 1990 when she escaped through a laundry room window and went on the run. She was caught three months later in Canada and deported back to Wisconsin after the Canadians were satisfied her case would get a proper review. During her time on the run she became quite a popular figure with t-shirts doing the rounds with ‘Run, Bambi, Run!’ printed on them.
Critics of her conviction have pointed out various flaws in evidence and testimony given, from the apartment drains being shared with another building to her housemate admitting to having a similar wig.
When she returned Bembenek won the right to a new trial but decided to plead no contest to second-degree murder and was given 20 years, commuted to the time she’d already served. As a free woman she continued to protest her innocence and wrote a book called Woman on Trial.
Her life after release was troubled and she struggled with alcohol addiction and suffered from several illnesses and unfortunate accidents. She died at a hospice in Portland from failure of her liver and kidneys, aged just 52.
Vanity Fair Confidential airs at 9:00 PM on Investigation Discovery.
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