MILWAUKEE (AP) _ More than 200 supporters, many wearing ″Run Bambi Run″ T-shirts, rallied Friday to wish a convicted killer luck in evading capture.
Lawrencia Bembenek, 31, a former model and policewoman convicted of murdering her then-husband’s ex-wife in 1981, is believed to have fled with her fiance after scaling a fence July 15 at a women’s prison in east-central Wisconsin.
Ms. Bembenek, who was nicknamed ″Bambi,″ was serving a life term, but would have been eligible for parole in 1993. Her efforts to win a new trial have been rejected by state appeals courts three times and the Wisconsin Supreme Court once.
Supporters at the rally, held at a municipal park next to the Milwaukee Police Department and courthouse where Ms. Bembenek worked, wore paper masks of her likeness and told passers-by, ″Confuse the enemy.″
Many maintained that Ms. Bembenek received an unfair trial and was the victim of a police setup.
Some carried posters that read ″It’s not too late to investigate″ and ″Justice for Bembenek.″
Donations were accepted for a Bembenek legal defense fund.
Although no members of Ms. Bembenek’s family attended, the parents and sisters of Dominic Gugliatto, her 34-year-old fiance, sat by an information table.
Gugliatto, a Milwaukee factory worker and father of three, divorced his wife in January. He met Ms. Bembenek at Taycheedah Correctional Institution while visiting a sister and has not been seen since the day of Ms. Bembenek’s escape.
Florence Gugliatto, Dominic Gugliatto’s mother, said the family believed the two were together, although they haven’t heard from the couple.
″Each day’s harder when we don’t hear from them. Everything’s assumption,″ she said. ″... I feel very strongly she received an unfair trial.″
Ms. Bembenek, a one-time Playboy waitress, became a police officer in Milwaukee. She was fired from the department in 1980 for lying and the next year was arrested in the shooting death of Christine Schultz.
Mrs. Schultz was the ex-wife of Ms. Bembenek’s then-husband, police detective Elfred Schultz. She was found by her two young sons in her bed. She had been bound, gagged and shot in the back.
A jury convicted Ms. Bembenek of first-degree murder despite testimony from one of the victim’s sons that the person seen in the house the night of the killing was not Ms. Bembenek. Prosecutors have conceded their case was based on circumstantial evidence.
A television movie later recreated the killing and trial.
Ms. Bembenek’s escape has touched off a circuslike atmosphere in Milwaukee.
Radio and television newscasts have sponsored special shows detailing her life, and entrepreneurs have capitalized on renewed interest in the case by selling ″Bambi″ T-shirts, bumper stickers and cardboard cutouts.
Many at the rally wished Ms. Bembenek well as a fugitive. Others criticized prosecutors for refusing to reopen the case.
Ira Robins, a private investigator who has spent years investigating the case, blasted the police investigation during an impassioned speech at the rally.
‴They turned around and buried the evidence,″ he said.
Schultz, who left the police force and now lives in Naples, Fla., vigorously defended Ms. Bembenek at her trial. He later divorced her, and recently said he believed Ms. Bembenek was the killer.