The Twisted Tale Of Bambi Bembenek, Convicted Killer And One-Time Folk Hero

In 1981, Wisconsin woman Lawrencia Ann “Bambi” Bembenek, also known as Laurie, allegedly killed her then-husband’s ex-wife. Despite circumstantial evidence, Milwaukee law enforcement arrested and charged Bembenek with the murder of Christine Schultz, a mother of two. Prosecutors cited jealousy as Bembenek’s motive for murder, and the courts found her guilty. Bembenek’s husband, Detective Elfred Schultz, was a Milwaukee officer, and he left the force - and town - after his wife’s conviction. 

Bembenek served 10 years of a life sentence before escaping from prison and heading to Canada with her fiancé. Authorities eventually caught Bembenek, and she struck a deal to dismiss her conviction. Bembenek continued to maintain her innocence until her death in 2010 at the age of 52. Bembenek's high-profile prison escape made her a media sensation in the early '90s, and “Bambi” became a Milwaukee folk hero.

  • Christine Schultz Was Murdered While Her Children Slept Mere Feet Away

    At 2 am on May 28, 1981, someone broke into the home of Christine Schultz. The intruder gagged, blindfolded, and bound Schultz before exiting the room. The perpetrator’s gloved hand awoken one of Christine's sons, Sean, covering his face while using the other hand to pull a tight cord around the boy’s neck. Reportedly, Sean screamed and startled his younger brother, Shannon, to which the intruder ran out of the room. At the time of the murder, the boys were ages 11 and 7.

    Shortly after, the both of Schultz’s sons heard the shot that killed their mother. They found her face down on her bed, dead. Sean testified they saw a large man with a red ponytail wearing a green jacket running from the home. Under oath, the boys maintained the suspect was not Laurie Bembenek.

  • Laurie Bembenek Was Charged With The Murder

    On June 24, 1981, Milwaukee police charged Laurie Bembenek with the murder of Christine Schultz. At the trial, the circumstantial evidence against her mounted. Schultz was the ex-wife of Bembenek's then-husband, Elfred "Fred" Schultz, and Bembenek had key access to Schultz's home. Authorities discovered Bembenek also had access to the alleged weapon used to kill Schultz - Fred's revolver. Fred was a police officer and was off duty the night of the murder, allegedly drinking at a bar with his partner. Bembenek also had a wig that matched fibers found at the scene of the crime. An employee at a boutique testified in court Bembenek bought a wig shortly before the murder.

    After four days of deliberation, a jury sentenced Bembenek to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 10 years. The trial received a lot of publicity, and the press started using Bembenek’s old police academy nickname, "Bambi," which she reportedly despised.

  • Bembenek Allegedly Threatened To Kill Christine Previously

    Multiple witnesses testified Bembenek spoke often about murdering Schultz, which Bembenek denied. Bembenek's former friend and roommate Judy Zess testified in court, claiming at a Valentine's Day dinner, Bembenek once said she would "pay to have Christine Schultz ‘blown away.’"

    Later, Zess added to her testimony and claimed Bembenek had asked her about hiring someone to kill Schultz. 

  • Bembenek 'Somewhat Fit' The Description Of The Killer

    Schultz's eldest son, Sean, saw the murderer flee and described a 6-foot-tall man wearing a green army jacket and black shoes. Bembenek was 5"10', and the prosecution noted she owned a green jumpsuit comparable to the one Sean described, as well as a clothing line and bandana similar to those used to bound and gag the victim.

    Sean testified in court that it couldn't have been Bembenek who he saw, because she wasn't “wide” enough. He said to appear as large as the man he saw, she would have had to wear shoulder pads, but that "wouldn’t even be right because the farther down it went, the skinnier [she] would be."

  • Fred Left Town As Soon As Bambi Was Convicted

    Detective Fred Schultz quit his job at the Milwaukee Police Department after his fellow officers allegedly shunned him during Bembenek’s case. Prosecutors initially believed Fred’s off-duty police gun was Bembenek’s murder weapon, although authorities never suspected the officer for Schultz’s murderer. Fred and Bembenek had been married less than a year when authorities arrested Bembenek.

    Shortly after Bembenek’s conviction, Fred divorced Bembenek, believing her to be guilty. He left her the brief note: “Dear Lawrencia, Goodbye. Good luck—Fred” before moving to Florida. His children reportedly moved in with Christine's sister. As of 1990, Fred remarried and was running a construction business. 

  • Bembenek Felt Like Her Husband Was Paying Too Much Child Support

    One of the major pieces of circumstantial evidence against Bembenek was her vehement claims Fred was giving too much money to his ex-wife. While Fred and Christine were still married, he built a house for their family. After the divorce, he continued to pay the $363.50 monthly mortgage, along with $330 in child support.

    Reportedly, newlyweds Bembenek and Fred were in the process of moving out of their apartment to a cheaper one because Fred was low on money. Prosecutors alleged Bembenek thought Fred needed to stop spending half of his paycheck on Schultz, or Schultz needed to move so Fred could sell the house. The prosecution argued perhaps Bembenek intended to only intimidate Schultz into moving out of the home via a burglary but shot Schultz when she recognized Bembenek.