From police officer to Playboy bunny to murderer: ‘Run, Bambi, Run’ chronicles the strange, sad story of Laurie Bembenek

True Crime April 20, 2022
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Listen to ‘Run, Bambi, Run’

“Run, Bambi, Run” starts at the very moment that everyone in America tuned into Lawrencia “Bambi” Bembenek’s story: her 1990 prison escape. It was a straightforward plan: a woman in prison for nine years finds an accidentally open laundry room window (or purposefully propped open, no one truly knows) and a handsome young man waits just outside the gates in a getaway car.

From the Wisconsin prison, they drove to the Canadian border where they crossed without issue, posing as a newly engaged couple. But when a convicted murderer with supermodel good looks waltzes out of a state penitentiary, people are going to notice. How could a Milwaukee-police-officer-turned-Playboy-Bunny convicted of murdering her husband’s ex-wife not turn heads?

Journalist and Campside Media co-founder Vanessa Grigoriadis hosts this new Apple TV+/Campside Media production, “Run, Bambi, Run.” And as she tells us at the top of the first episode, Bambi’s story is the Bonnie and Clyde adventure you’ve probably never heard of. “Run, Bambi, Run” will be an eight-part series taking a fresh look at the life and supposed crimes of Laurie “Bambi” Bembenek. The first episodes can be listened to now and are just 30 minutes a piece.

While most people tuned into Bambi’s life after her prison break, she was the talk of the town in Milwaukee, WI long before that. And it wasn’t just because she was found guilty of murdering her husband’s ex-wife. It was because she went from a 21-year-old police recruit to a 23-year-old convicted murderer.

As the story goes, on May 28, 1981, Bambi broke into the home of Christine Schultz, tied her up, and shot her in the back, leaving her to die face down on her bed all while Christine and her ex-husband Fred’s two sons cowered in a separate room in the house. Many theories about why 22-year-old Bambi would have done this were thrown around: jealousy, to stop her new husband’s alimony payments, perhaps even a robbery gone wrong.

There is perhaps no one who knew Bambi better than Kris Radish, journalist and author of the book Run, Bambi, Run, published in 1992. She was assigned to cover Bambi’s story in the 1980s while Bambi served her life sentence for the murder.

She has mountains of letters from her and even bigger mountains of evidence. You see, while Bambi maintained her innocence and the court maintained her guilt, as more people hear about her case, the deeper the divide became. Some people believed her to be a murderer and some believed her to be innocent, a set up that stemmed from her time with the Milwaukee Police Department.

Vanessa tells us that Kris will be the one to lead us through Bambi’s story in “Run, Bambi, Run.” The two tell us about Bambi’s childhood, going from a rebellious Wisconsin teenager to a small-time model. They tell us about her personality: bold, brash, and unwilling to back down from a bully.

And for some reason, in 1980, she made a 180-degree career pivot when she walked into the Milwaukee Police Department and signed up to join the force. Vanessa tells us that this moment, her out-of-character decision to become a police officer, is the moment we can point out as the beginning of the end.

By joining the force, she would unwittingly uncover the MPD’s deepest secret, thus starting a sequence of events explained throughout the rest of “Run, Bambi, Run.”

She was a cop, a whistleblower, a feminist card-holder, and a Playboy Bunny. She was called everything from a femme fatale to a folk hero. Her story has been described as the Lizzie Borden case of the 20th century. Even today, this case remains unsolved in most people’s minds.

Vanessa, also the co-creator of “Chameleon” and “Fallen Angel,” typically writes about glamor, celebrity, and scandal for magazines. And like any good true crime podcast, this whole story is more than a murder case.

It’s not just about Christine Schultz’s homicide, but the options American women had in the 1970s and 80s, the power they did and didn’t have, what justice looks like, and the severe problems within the Milwaukee police force. And in the very middle of it was a very real woman, Bambi, who passed away in 2010 at just 52 years old.

“Run, Bambi, Run” is a deeper look into her life and the chaos that erupted around her.

Listen to ‘Run, Bambi, Run’

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