Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bambi Bembenek

Run, Bambi, Run

Fed up with the system and fearing she might spend most of the rest of her life behind bars, Bembenek escaped from prison on July 15, 1990. She had served almost ten years already, and then had met and become engaged to Nick Gugliatto, the brother of another prisoner. With his help, she ran north to Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Laurie and Nick in 1991, just before her escape
Laurie and Nick in 1991, just before her escape

Many people in Milwaukee sided with her and supported her escape. Most said that, should they see her, they would not turn her in. They thought she'd gotten a bad rap. People protested openly in the streets on her behalf and even came up with a song, "Run. Bambi, Run." They made masks of her face and put bumper stickers on their cars. They wanted her to get away.

Bembenek and Gugliatto took new names from tombstones to obtain birth certificates and social security numbers. They remained free for three months, working at menial jobs, before a tourist who had seen Bembenek's picture on "American's Most Wanted" turned her in. The Canadian police picked her up just minutes before she was set to flee again.

She pleaded for refugee status, claiming that she was being persecuted by a conspiracy between the police department and the judicial system in Wisconsin. The Canadian government looked into her case and pointed out the many legal errors in her trial.

Finally, Bembenek was sent back to the states.

A judicial inquiry was undertaken that excluded the district attorney (due to charges of cover-up and conspiracy). These officials decided that no crimes had been committed leading up to the murder charge, but they detailed seven major police blunders during the investigation.

Bembenek's lawyer (a new one, since her first lawyer had turned on her) cut a deal that she would agree to "no contest" to a second degree murder charge in return for a reduced sentence, limited to time already served plus parole.

Although her innocence had not been established, she was finally free.

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