Even on her deathbed, Laurie “Bambi” Bembenek maintained she did not kill her husband’s ex-wife.
In 2010, decades after her 1982 murder conviction, Wisconsin’s most famous runaway fugitive—who spawned the phrase “Run, Bambi, Run”—sent a pardon request to then-Gov. Jim Doyle. A few months later, the 52-year-old former Playboy Club bunny died of liver failure, and Doyle never acted on her petition.
Now, Bembenek attorney’s are giving it yet another shot. Her longtime lawyer, Mary Woehrer, revealed Tuesday that she has asked Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) for a posthumous pardon to clear her client’s name.
“Laurie Bembenek was not a murderer,” Woehrer said Tuesday, noting she unsuccessfully sought a pardon for decades. “She was wrongly convicted.”
Woehrer sent Evers the pardon request earlier this year after learning that the Democratic governor expressed an open mind to granting pardons after his predecessor, Republican Scott Walker, did not offer a single one during his two terms in office.
“I am hoping he will do something about this,” she said, insisting new DNA and ballistics evidence proves her client’s innocence. “Granting Laurie Bembenek a pardon would be the right thing to do. It would be justice.”
Ever’s office did not respond to multiple request for comment.
Bembenek, a Milwaukee police officer who briefly worked as a Playboy Club waitress, was convicted in 1982 of fatally shooting Christine Schultz—the ex-wife of her new husband, Detective Fred Schultz. Schultz, a 30-year-old stay-at-home mom, was found dead in her bedroom, gagged, bound, and shot in the back with the detective’s off-duty revolver, authorities said at the time.
Prosecutors argued Bembenek was upset about the roughly $700-a-month alimony her husband had to pay his ex-wife and took matters into her own hands.
After a two-week trial, she was sentenced to life in prison at Taycheedah Correctional Institution, about an hour outside of Milwaukee. Eight years and one divorce later, Bembenek squeezed through a laundry room window, climbed a seven-foot barbed-wire fence, and escaped the prison, fleeing to Canada with her new fiancé—the brother of a fellow inmate.
On Oct. 17, 1990, three months after her infamous escape, which ignited a nationwide “Run, Bambi, Run” campaign, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested Bembenek and her fiancé in Ontario.
The pair, who had been using fake names, were recognized by a fellow restaurant patron who had just seen her on an America’s Most Wanted episode.
Two years after her recapture, Bembenek was released on parole after her original conviction was overturned. She ultimately agreed to plead no contest to second-degree murder.
The former police officer moved to Washington state to live with her parents as her story lived on in the public’s imagination, prompting multiple television and book renditions, including a three-hour television movie, Woman on Trial: The Lawrencia Bembenek Story, starring Tatum O’Neal and a 1992 book by Kris Radish titled Run, Bambi, Run.
“She did not murder anybody,” Woehrer told The Daily Beast. “It’s her dying wish that she be pardoned.”