Laurie “Bambi” Bembenek, 52-year-old, died Saturday of liver failure at a hospice care center in Portland, Ore. Laurie Bembenek, the Playboy bunny-turned-police officer was convicted of murdering Christine Schultz, her husband’s ex-wife in 1981. Bembenek made news again when she escaped from Taycheedah prison in 1990.
Bembenek fought extradition for a time but willingly returned to Wisconsin in 1992. A judge said that “significant mistakes” had been made in the probe of Christine Schultz’s death, and Bembenek soon struck a deal with prosecutors in which her conviction was set aside. She pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and received 10 years of probation. Bembenek moved to Washington state in the late 1990s to live with her parents.
Bembenek has always denied murdering Schultz. Recent DNA testing of evidence in the case found no Bembenek DNA, but did reveal unidentified male DNA in Schultz’s body.
Her story was made into a book and a 1993 TV movie starring Tatum O’Neal, “Woman on Trial: The Lawrencia Bembenek Story.”
In 2002, after completing her parole, Bembenek filed a motion seeking testing for genetic material in the case in the hope of clearing her name. Later that year, she seriously injured her foot while apparently trying to escape out a hotel window before an appearance on the television talk show “Dr. Phil,” which had agreed to pay for some of the DNA testing. Her attorney said restrictions placed on Bembenek were excessive and triggered memories of her imprisonment. The injuries forced Bembenek to have her right foot amputated a few weeks later.