Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bambi Bembenek

Suspects

Lawrencia Bembenek, 21, second wife of Fred Schultz, Jr., who married him within three months of his divorce. A former roommate, Judy Zess, who had shared an apartment with her and Fred, told police that Bembenek once had made a statement about hiring someone to kill Christine because she resented how much money her husband was giving to her in alimony and child support payments. Zess also claimed that Bembenek had approached her boyfriend, Tom Gaertner, about taking out a contract on Christine Schultz. Several people came forward to say she owned a green jogging suit, although none was ever found, and one witness, Kathryn Morgan, said she saw Bembenek's mother, Virginia, rummaging through a dumpster on June 18 near Bembenek's apartment. Bembenek was tall and strong, and thus could have seemed to the boys like a man. She would also know what to do at a crime scene to cover her tracks, having once been a police officer. A babysitter at the victim's home said Bembenek had been shown the layout of the house, and Durfee claimed that Bembenek and Schultz had a private talk before he and Schultz checked the off duty revolver on the night of the murder.

Bembenek, who became known in the press as "Bambi," had entered the police academy in March, 1980, graduating sixth in her class, and was stunned by the amount of graft going on in the department: officers selling pornography from their cars, accepting oral sex from hookers, frequenting drug hangouts, harassing minorities. When she was fired for supposedly knowing the Judy Zess had marijuana at a rock concert, she filed a lawsuit, charging discrimination. In October, she came into possession of nude photos of male police officers dancing in a public park. She gave them to internal affairs.

Then a U. S. Federal attorney, James Morrison, began investigating allegations that the Milwaukee force was misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars of affirmative action funds and firing minorities on flimsy grounds. Bembenek came forward to say that women were being hired and quickly fired to satisfy federal quotas and take advantage of employment equity grants. She was the heart of the investigation, so it was clear that if she became a serious suspect, the case against the department would fall apart.

Bembenek had once posed in a slinky dress for a beer calendar and had worked for a few weeks as a waitress at a Playboy Club. Because of this, the crime became a media sensation.

Elfred Schultz, Jr., 33, the former husband of the victim, and father of her two children. He divorced Christine in November, 1980 and met Bembenek in December. Although he was ten years older than her, he pursued her aggressively. When he quickly proposed, Bembenek accepted. They married on January 30, 1981. Fred was quite upset about a recent court decision regarding the amount of alimony he would have to pay, including the mortgage to the house that he himself had built.

Eugene Kershek, the victim's divorce attorney, said that Schultz had threatened the victim just weeks before the murder, telling her that he was going to "blow her fucking head off." They had had an acrimonious divorce over Fred's alleged brutality and infidelity.

He was on duty the night of the shooting, but he had two keys to the house, which he had made from one that his son carried. He had one on him and one back at his apartment. Schultz passed two lie detector tests, but was proven nevertheless to have lied about his whereabouts on the night of the murder, because he had been drinking at several bars, which he had initially denied. There was also a report from a convict that surfaced later to the effect that Schultz had hired someone to kill his ex-wife, and it was proven that he knew the man who allegedly had confessed in private that he'd been hired to do the job. He failed to have his off-duty revolver—later determined to be the murder weapon—properly registered with the crime lab. It was in his possession for two weeks before being turned in for examination. He also had married Bembenek illegally, instead of waiting one more month as Wisconsin law dictated, but never told her. His partner, Michael Durfee, could not locate his log book from that night, and although they said they had investigated a burglary, in fact, two uniformed police officers had done that investigation. There was some suggestion that he had set Bembenek up for turning in to his superiors nude photos of him dancing at a public function: He could use the woman who was out to get him (before she knew him) as the fall guy for getting rid of his ex-wife—two birds with one stone.

Stewart Honek, who was with the victim that evening and who seemed to have had some interest in her plants, which might have been a hiding place for drugs. He had mentioned to Bembenek's parents that $300,000 worth of drugs had disappeared from the victims apartment the night she was murdered. He thought Schultz had taken them. Honeck admitted having a key to the victim's home. He also admitted to a drinking problem and to the fact that he had abused his two former wives. He claimed that he and Christine had discussed getting married that night, but those who knew her well believed she was hesitant about marrying another cop.

Judy Zess, a former roommate whom Bembenek suspected of having a crush on her, and who used the bathroom in the apartment across from the one in which Bembenek and Schultz lived — which shortly thereafter proved to be clogged with a wig of reddish-brown hair, a damning piece of evidence. She also recanted her testimony that Bembenek owned clothesline, a green jogging suit, and had made a remark about hiring someone to kill the victim. She admitted that she owned a brownish, shoulder-length wig. She had been asked to leave the apartment she shared with Bembenek and Schultz, and a week later, her boyfriend, Tom Gaertner (who hated Schultz for shooting his best friend) was arrested for possession of cocaine. Zess had not turned in her key to the apartment until June 24, which meant she had access to the alleged murder weapon. She admitted having entered the apartment at least two times when Bembenek and Schultz were not home.

Frederick Horenburger, whose MO was to wear a wig, as he had done when he had robbed Judy Zess. Horenburger also gagged his victim, and held a .38 caliber gun against her body. He allegedly confessed to six (or eight) different people, who came forward after his death, that he had been hired to kill Christine Schultz. He had been arrested with Danny L. Gilbert for robbing Judy Zess, and a Danny L. Gilbert was stopped on the highway just above the murder scene on the night of the murder. Also, George Marks, owner of George's Pub and Grill where Schultz was drinking the night of the murder, had introduced Schultz to Horenberger. They were together, drinking, the night of the murder.

Eight people offered sworn statements that Horenberger told them he was the killer. He told inmates during various times in jail that he had "killed the bitch." One said he had admitted to taking $10,000 for it, paid by Elfred Schultz.

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