MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The prison escape of former Playboy Club bunny and Milwaukee police officer Laurie “Bambi” Bembenek popularized the phrase “Run Bambi Run” and seemed tailor-made for the TV movie it inspired.
But despite the fame garnered by her flight, Bembenek died having spent more than two decades insisting on her innocence but never fully clearing her name.
The 52-year-old died Saturday of liver failure at a hospice care center in Portland, said her attorney, Mary Woehrer.
Bembenek worked briefly as a Playboy Club waitress in Lake Geneva before becoming a police officer in Milwaukee, where she married detective Fred Schultz. Bembenek was convicted in 1982 of fatally shooting his ex-wife, Christine Schultz, after allegedly complaining about the alimony he had to pay.
Bembenek was sentenced to life in prison but maintained her innocence. In 1990, she escaped Taycheedah Correctional Institution in Fond du Lac and fled to Canada with then-fiancé Dominic Gugliatto, the brother of another inmate. The two were captured in Ontario a few months later.
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. Her story was made into a book and a 1993 TV movie starring Tatum O’Neal, “Woman on Trial: The Lawrencia Bembenek Story.”