‘Bambi’ Suffers Another Setback
A former Playboy bunny and ex-Milwaukee cop still seeking to clear her name in a 20-year-old murder had her right foot amputated after a fall from a Los Angeles hotel window, her lawyer said Saturday.
It’s the latest chapter in the strange life of Laurie “Bambi” Bembenek,whose story inspired a TV movie starring Tatum O’Neal. Bembenek was in Los Angeles for an appearance on the “Dr. Phil” television show, which had offered to pay for a series of DNA tests that Bembenek hoped would exonerate her.
Bembenek was convicted of killing her ex-husband’s first wife, Christine Schultz, in 1981. She was sentenced to life in prison but escaped in 1990, seeking asylum in Canada. A deal reached with prosecutors in 1992 allowed her to return to the U.S., where she was allowed to plead no contest to second-degree murder and to serve the remaining 10 years of that sentence on parole.
After completing that parole in April, Bembenek asked the court for DNA testing on a number of items, including a bullet retrieved from Schultz’s body and the clothing Schultz was wearing when she was killed.
A judge granted Bembenek’s request, and “Dr. Phil” agreed to pay for the expedited tests in exchange for Bembenek’s appearance on the show.
Bembenek’s lawyer, Mary Woehler, said Saturday that Bembenek was in Los Angeles Nov. 10 for the show’s taping when she cracked two bones and cut an artery in her right foot after apparently falling from the hotel window. Woehler would not say where the operation took place.
Woehler said that the “Dr. Phil” staff had taken Bembenek to a different hotel than they’d promised and subjected the former police officer to “constant videotaping and a 24-hour-a-day guard.”
“My client has post-traumatic stress disorder, from years of incarceration and months of solitary confinement in Wisconsin prisons,” Woehler said, and reacted negatively to the surveillance. In addition, Woehler said, “She’s slightly claustrophobic. She told them to stop. Then she panicked, and tried to get out a window. She fell and severely injured her foot, which has now been amputated.”
The executive producer of “Dr. Phil” issued a written statement saying: “It is unfortunate she hurt her leg during an apparent prank when she left her room through a first-floor window ... rather than using the front door.”
A hearing for Bembenek, who has charged that she was framed for murder by her police colleagues because she was assisting a federal investigation into corruption and sex discrimination in the Milwaukee Police Department, will be held Dec. 16 in Milwaukee.