Bembenek DNA Wouldn't Have Mattered, Judge Says


Milwaukee (AP) -- New DNA evidence would not have affected the murder conviction of a former police officer and Playboy Club waitress in the death of her former husband's ex-wife, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Jeffrey Conen ruled that DNA presented in Laurie "Bambi" Bembenek's case was not enough to convince him that Bembenek would have been acquitted of the murder had it been available at her trial.

The decision was another setback in Bembenek's long campaign to prove her innocence in the 23-year-old murder case. But her attorney, Mary Woehrer, said Bembenek would appeal.

"We're going to have to go the appellate route," Woehrer said. "We have no alternative."

For years, Bembenek, a former Milwaukee police officer, has been seeking to have her conviction overturned. She was sentenced to life in prison in 1982 for killing Christine Schultz, the ex-wife of Bembenek's then-husband, a police detective.

Investigators say Bembenek killed the woman in 1981 after complaining about the alimony Bembenek's husband had to pay to her.

Bembenek escaped from prison in 1990 and hid in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The breakout led to a Milwaukee rally that drew several hundred supporters wearing "Run Bambi Run" T-shirts. She was caught three months later.

A judge eventually set aside the conviction and Bembenek reached a deal with prosecutors in which she pleaded no contest to second-degree murder. That led to her release in December 1992 because of time served.

Bembenek, who now lives in Washington state, has claimed she was framed because of her efforts to expose sex discrimination and other misconduct on the Milwaukee police force.

Woehrer said the DNA evidence, taken from Schultz's body, proved that Schultz was sexually assaulted by a male before she was murdered.

But Conen ruled that he was not convinced that the DNA evidence had not been tainted in the more than 20 years since it was taken.

District Attorney E. Michael McCann said a number of courts have reviewed the case and concluded the conviction should be upheld.

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