'It has all those questions that people love about a mystery': Podcast 'Run, Bambi, Run' reignites interest in Bembenek saga
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- One of Milwaukee's most scandalous mysteries is the subject of a new podcast climbing the charts. "Run, Bambi, Run," tells the story of Lawrencia Bembenek.
"Bambi's story grabbed the attention of the whole continent and still somehow never really got resolved," a trailer for the podcast says.
Lawrencia Bembenek grew up on Milwaukee's south side and after high school, joined the Milwaukee Police Department in 1980. But after a few months, Bembenek -- who got the nickname 'Bambi' during her time there -- was fired.
She then fought to hold MPD accountable for what she said was gender discrimination. Bembenek was also known for being extraordinarily attractive, which helped her land a brief job as a Playboy Bunny at a club in Lake Geneva.
"She got painted as a femme fatale," podcast host Vanessa Grigoriadis told CBS 58. "Now, whether she was in some ways a femme fatale or if she was a dyed in wool feminist who wanted to be a cop and equal to men is one of the questions of the podcast."
In 1981, Bembenek was charged and convicted in the killing of Christine Schultz, the ex-wife of Bembenek's then-husband Fred Schultz. Bembenek's access to the murder weapon, Fred Schultz's gun, made her a prime suspect, despite other pieces of evidence and testimony that pointed in other directions. Bembenek said she was innocent and eventually went to prison, broke out and escaped to Canada, was returned to the U.S. and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
"There's still a question of whether she was the villain in this drama or if she was the victim," Grigoriadis said. "And I think people are fascinated by unsolved cases."
The podcast features several people who revolved around the case, including Georgia Pabst, a former reporter with what was then the Milwaukee Journal.
"I got an email saying, 'We want to talk to you about Lawrencia Bembenek,' and I thought, 'Really? After all these years?'" Pabst recalled.
Pabst first came into contact with Bembenek when the former MPD officer filed a complaint against the department for gender discrimination. Pabst then followed the story for years. She shared a story about the day after Bembenek's arrest for Schultz' murder.
"[I] went to her house, knocked on the door, she answered the door, she came to the door," Pabst said. "[Bembenek] said 'Oh, come in, I just got back from, I spent the night in jail.' And it's like boom, you know. And so we sat down and she said 'I didn't do it.'"
Bembenek died in 2010, always maintaining her innocence. Pabst said it is not surprising to see the story remerge decades later, reigniting interest among those who remember the events when they happened and capturing a new generation.
"Run, Bambi, Run" is an Apple Original podcast from Campside Media. Episodes are published weekly on Mondays.