This month I am showcasing Wisconsin crimes, on Wednesday. So today we will be discussing the unique case of Bambi Bembenek.
Born Lawrencia Ann Bembenek (Laurie) was the youngest of three girls born in Milwaukee, WI, on August 15, 1958. Her father was a police officer but then became a carpenter. She graduated in 1976, and then attended college earning a degree in fashion merchandising management.
In March of 1980, Laurie began training at the Milwaukee Police Academy. During this time, an anonymous tip came through that she was seen smoking marajuana at a party. She denied this, and it was investigated but not substantiated. Laurie believed it was the wife of a co-worker who confronted her at a party about her clothing and leading on her husband. She graduated in 1980 and was assigned to the South Side Second District.
Laurie claimed that the Milwaukee PD was composed of “brutal, lazy, apathetic, and corrupt” police officers. Women and minority trainees were severely punished during training and probationary period and many were fired over minor offenses, while white male officers were unpunished for serious offenses.
After losing her position with the police department, Laurie worked other jobs; waitress at the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, personal trainer at a health club, and then as a campus security officer at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
At this time, she also met her future husband, Elfred O. “Fred” Schultz. He divorced his first wife, Christine, and within 2 months married Laurie. Fred had two sons with his first wife.
May 28, 1981, Christine Schultz and her sons were at their Milwaukee home, and approximately 2:15am, Christine was shot point blank into her back through her heart with a single shot from a .38 caliber pistol. She had been gagged and blindfolded, her hands were tied in front of her with rope.
Her sons, aged 7 and 11, were not harmed, but the oldest had seen a man wearing a mask, in a green army jacket and black shoes. He had a long reddish colored ponytail.
Fred stated he had been on duty, he was also a police officer, and had been investigating a burglary with his partner, Michael Durfee. But years later, he admitted they were actually drinking at a local bar during the time of the murder.
During the murder investigation, the ballistics revealed that the gun was Fred’s off duty revolver and suspicion shifted to Laurie. She had been alone in the apartment that she and Fred had shared and had access to both the gun, and a key to Christine’s house that she had secretly copied from the oldest son. Because of these circumstances, Laurie was arrested on June 24, 1981 for the murder of Christine Schultz.
After her arrest, the newspapers began referring to Laurie as Bambi (which she disliked). The prosecution was not kind, they portrayed her as a loose woman, who was addicted to expensive living and wanted Christine dead so her husband no longer had to pay alimony. Because Laurie had financial problems, it was stated she had motive, means, and opportunity to murder Christine.
As there was no sign of a break in, and no valuables were taken, it was presented that Laurie had access to the key to the house. The strongest evidence was two human hairs found at the crime scene that matched ones from Laurie’s hairbrush. However, Sean Schultz, the oldest son, stated that Laurie was not the person who had shot his mother.
Other witnesses claim that Laurie had spoke often of killing Christine. A witness was produced that claimed Laurie had offered him money to kill Christine. There was also the fact that Laurie owned a green jogging suit, she owned clothes line and a bandana that matched what was used to bind and gag the victim. A wig was found in the plumbing system in her apartment, and a boutique employee said Laurie had purchased a wig shortly before the murder.
Because of this evidence and the testimony against her, Laurie Bembenek was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison on March 9, 1982. Laurie was incarcerated in the Fond du Lac prison for women, Taycheedah Correctional Institution.
June 28, 1983, Laurie filed for divorce from Fred. She claimed that Fred had sent her a letter from Florida and that he was living with a 19 year old woman. A year later, their divorce was final. Fred at first had believed Laurie was innocent, but then later said she was guilty as sin. Laurie stated she believed Fred had hired someone and allowed Laurie to take the fall.
Laurie Bembenek claimed that Fred had hired a man named, Freddy Horenberger. Freddy had worked on a remodeling project with her husband, and was also a former boyfriend of Judy Zess. Judy had been a witness for the prosecution, but had later recanted her testimony stating it was under duress.
Laurie suspected that she was also targeted by the MPD as she was a key witness into a federal investigation of the police corruption. Laurie filed numerous appeals, and while in prison she earned a bachelors degree, and helped found a prison newspaper. She also met the brother of her cellmate, Dominic Guglietti, and became engaged.
July 15, 1990, Laurie escaped from prison, she went out a laundry room window and was picked up by Dominic. The couple eventually made their way to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. October 17, 1990, the couple was arrested in Canada, and Laurie sought refugee status in Canada. Dominic was returned and served 1 year for the escape.
The Canadian government showed some sympathy for her case and obtained a commitment for a judicial review of her case. Eventually she was awarded a new trial. Laurie returned voluntarily to the United States on April 22, 1991. Instead of risking a second conviction, Laurie plead no contest to second degree murder. She was sentenced to 20 years, which was commuted to time served. She was then released from custody 3 hours later as she had served a little over 10 years.
In 1996 Laurie moved to Washington State to be near her parents, and married a US Forest Service employee named, Marty Carson. She continued to work to clear her name, but died from liver and kidney failure in November of 2010.
So we don’t know if Laurie was the actual perpetrator of the murder against Christine, and it’s possible that the real killer is still out there or possibly also deceased. Many books, TV series, and movies have been made around this case.
Stay Safe my Friends!