Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bambi Bembenek


James Benning made a film in 1989 of the Bembenek case, "Used Innocence," distributed by First Run features.

Ira Robbins, a private detective, worked tirelessly on the case for over seven years. He assisted the Canadian officials to evaluate whether Bembenek had gotten a fair trial when she filed for refugee status.

Ira Robbins (Greg Gent)
Ira Robbins (Greg Gent)

Bembenek was paroled Dec. 9, 1992 and credited with time already served. Then she graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, the first female "lifer" admitted to an extension program. She took a degree in the Humanities.

A movie about her life, "Woman on the Run," was developed into a two-part miniseries starring Tatum O'Neal, from Bembenek's book, Woman on Trial. She rode around in a limo, bought a Jaguar, went on a book tour, gave speeches, showed her paintings, and appeared on Oprah.

Eventually she tired of all the attention and legally changed her name to Laurie. Then she got involved with a drug-dealer who gave her some marijuana and cocaine, which violated the terms of her parole. She spent two weeks in jail and then had to live with an electronic monitor.

When she contracted Hepatitis C, she moved to Washington State, nearly penniless and wishing that the public, who had called her "Bambi" would forget about her. November 20, 2010, Laurie Bembenek died in hospice in Portland, Ore. 

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