THUNDER BAY, ON ---- November 21, 2010 ---Lawrencia Bembenek, former waitress at the Columbia Grill on May Street across from the Royal Edward Hotel died in Portland, Oregon Saturday. She had been admitted to a hospital in recent days and then was transferred to a hospice. Her health problems included hepatitis C and liver and kidney failure. Right to the end she continued to state her innocence
The Columbia Grill at the time was a place for Senior Police office to go for their coffee break as it was a short walk from the Donal Street Police Station which is now the Thunder Bay Museum.
The extradition hearings took place in the DaVinci Centre in one of the basement rooms. Everyone who dealt with her had nice things to say about her. People watching her walk in and out of the hearing rooms would comment that she does not look like a Play Boy Bunny.
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.
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
In Milwaukee, more than 200 supporters - many wearing "Run Bambi Run" T-shirts - rallied to show support for her flight from the law. Bembenek was captured in Thunder Bay, Ontario, about three months later after the case was publicized on "America's Most Wanted."
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.
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. Her attorney said Sunday that effort will continue.
The 52-year-old died Saturday of liver failure at a hospice care center in Portland, Ore., said her longtime 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.
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.
A Wisconsin appeals court in 2006 refused to let Bembenek appeal her murder conviction.