Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Lady-Killer Cop number 4

Hello out there in the world of email, face-book, twitter, and so on.

The next on the list of Killer Cops is a lady named Laurie Bembenek she was born August 15, 1958 and died November 20, 2010 from liver and kidney failure.

She was an American convicted of murdering her husband's ex-wife. Now I don't know about you, but sometimes I'd like to kill my husband, but to murder an ex-wife? Come on!

Her story garnered national attention after she escaped from Taycheedah Correctional Institution and was recaptured in Canada, they let anybody into Canada! An episode which inspired books, movies, and the slogan "Run, Bambi, Run". Upon winning a new trial she pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and was sentenced to time served and ten years probation. For years after she sought to have the sentence overturned.

Bembenek was a former Milwaukee police officer who had been fired and had gone on to sue the department claiming that it engaged in sexual discrimination and other illegal activities. She worked briefly as a waitress at the Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Playboy Club. At the time of her arrest, she was working for Marquette University's Public Safety Department in Downtown Milwaukee.

On November 20, 2010 she died at a hospice facility in Portland Oregon.

On May 28, 1981 around 2:15am, Christine Schultz only 30 years old was murdered by a single .38 caliber pistol shot fired point-blank into her back and through her heart. She had been gagged and blindfolded and her hands were tied in front of her with rope. She had two sons, ages 7 and 11 years old. They found her face down on her bed and bleeding. Sean the 11 year old had seen the assailant and described him as a masked male figure in a green army jacket and black shoes. He also said the man had a long reddish colored ponytail.

Christine Schultz was the ex-wife of Laurie Bembenek's then husband. Fred, was a Milwaukee Police Department detective. They had been divorced six months at the time of the murder. Fred initially stated he was on duty investigating a burglary with his partner at the time of the murder, but years later he admitted they were actually drinking at a local bar. When ballistics testing revealed it was his off-duty revolver that had been the murder weapon, suspicion shifted to Laurie as she had been alone in the apartment she shared with Fred and had access to both the gun and a key to Christine's house that Fred had secretly copied from his oldest son's house key.

The trial generated tremendous publicity, and newspapers began referring to her as "Bambi" (a nickname she didn't like). The prosecution portrayed her as a loos woman addicted to expensive living who wanted Christine dead so that her new husband would no longer have to pay her alimony. The prosecution pointed out that Bembenek also had financial problems. The evidence was two human hairs found at the crime scene. The matched the ones taken from a hairbrush of Laurie. The prosecution claimed that Laurie was the only person besides Fred who had access to this weapon. Blood was found on the gun. Bembenek supposedly also had access to the key to Christine's home. There were no signs of a break-in and no valuables were taken. Schultz's eldest son however stated that Bembenek was not the person who had held up their house and shot his mother.

Witnesses testified that Bembench had spoken often of hilling Christine Shultz. The prosecution produced a witness who said Bembenek offered to pay him to carry out the murder. According to witnesses from the prosecution, Bembenek owned a green jogging suit similar to the one described by the son. It was pointed out the Bembenek owned a clothes line and a blue bandanna similar to what was used to bind and gag the victim. A wig found in the plumbing system of Bembenek's apartment matched fibers found at the murder scene. A boutique employee testified that Bembenek purchased such a wig shortly before the murders.

She was found guilty of first degree murder in March 1982 and sentenced to life in prison in the Taycheedah Correctional Institution.

Shortly after her conviction Fred filed for a divorce and began saying publicly that he now believed Laurie was guilty. Laurie filed three unsuccessful appeals on her conviction. She claimed police had made errors in handling of key evidence and the fact that one of the prosecution's witnesses, a Judy Zess, had recanted her testimony, stating it was made under duress. Laurie and her supporters also alleged that Milwaukee police may have singled her out for prosecution because of her role as a key witness in a federal investigation in to police corruption. They even suggested that Fred may have arranged to have someone else murder his ex-wife. One possible candidate was Frederick Horenberger, a career criminal who briefly worked with Schultz as a remodeling project and was a former boyfriend of Judy Zess. A disguised Horenberger had robbed and beaten Judy Zess several weeks prior to Christine's Murder and would later serve a ten-year sentence for that crime.

According to a number of affidavits which emerged following Bembenek's conviction, Horenberger boasted of killing Schultz to other inmates while he was doing his time. Yet publicly, Horenberger vehemently denied any involvement in the Schultz murder up until his suicide in November 1991, following a robbery and hostage taking stand off in which he had been involved.

There were questions raised as to the accuracy of the information and the evidence used in the trial. Dr. Samuels, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy, had originally conclude that hairs recovered from the body were consistent with that of the victim; after Dr. Samuels had come to that conclusion the hair evidence was examined by Duane Hanson a hair analyst from a crime lab in Madison Wisconsin. Hanson stated that two of the hairs were consistent with samples taken from Laurie's hairbrush. Dr. Samuels refuted that claim stating in a 1983 letter quoted in the Toronto Star in 1991 that "I recovered no blonde or red hairs of any length or texture. All of the hairs I recovered from the body were brown and were grossly identical to the hair of the victim. I do not like to suggest that evidence was altered in any way, but I can find no logical explanation  for what amounted to the mysterious appearance of blonde hair in an envelope that contained no such hair at the time it was sealed by me.

The apartment where Laurie and Fred lived shared drainage with another apartment. In the shared drainpipe was found a brownish-red wig which matched some of the hairs found on the victim's body. The woman who occupied the other apartment testified that Judy Zess had knocked on her door and asked to use her bathroom after Zess used the woman's bathroom, the plumbing was mysteriously clogged, also Zess had admitted to owning a brownish-red wig.

Laurie was hardly a model inmate, she was constantly bragging about how she was a celebrity inmate who deserved special treatment while thinking about escape. It wasn't long after she met Dominic Gugliatto who was visiting another inmate that with his help Laurie escaped. The couple spent three months as fugitives before being apprehended. Gugliatto was sentenced to one year in prison for his role in her escape.

Laurie was released from prison in November 1992 after serving a little over ten years. Laurie was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder complicated by a growing addiction to alcohol. In 2002 she either fell or jumped from a second story window which she broke her leg so badly it had to be amputated below the knee. She claimed that she had been confined in an apartment by handlers for the Dr. Phil television show and was injured while attempting to escape.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Killer Cops Part 3

It's amazing that even in the 1800 there were Cops who were killers! So you see there are bad cops and good cops, but who would have thought back in the 1800 a cop could be a killer.
Being a police officer was ranked a high honor and something to be very proud of.  But I guess even back then some of those officers figured they could cheat the system.

Charles Becker who was a Lieutenant in New York City police department in 1890 to 1910 was best known for being tried, convicted and executed for the murder of a Manhattan gambler.

Mr. Becker was born July 26, 1870 and died in Sing, Sing Prison in July 1915.
His Career as a NYPD was from 1893 to 1912 and he had become a Lieutenant with the police.

Becker was born to a German-American family from Bavaria in the village of Calicoon Center, Sullivan County New York. He arrived in New York City in 1890 and went to work as a bouncer in a German beer hall just off the bowery before he joined the police department in November 1893. Becker received national attention in the fall of 1896 when he arrested a known prostitute name Ruby Young (her alias was Dora Clark) on Broadway.

The Notoriety of the case was due to one of Young's companions, the writer Stephen Crane, the author of The Red Badge of Courage. The word of the then highly popular Stephen Crane weighed heavily on the sentencing of Young, resulting in the Magistrate Cornell who dismissed the case. Afterwards Stephen Crane told reporters "If the girl will have the officer prosecuted for perjury, I will gladly support her."

Three weeks following the trial Ruby pressed formal charges against Becker. Becker knew he was in a precarious situation and prepared in three ways. Becker gathered evidence, hired the experienced lawyer and rallied the support of his colleagues. This allowed Becker to make a powerful entrance to his trial on October 15 1896. When he entered surrounded by a phalanx of policemen.

Commissioner Frederick Grant, son of Ulysses S. Grant headed the proceeding and after almost five hours of examination Becker was acquitted. The trial taught Becker the poser of the badge and how he could call on his colleagues for help.

In 1902 and 1903 Becker was one of the leaders of a patrolman's reform movement agitating for the introduction of the Three Platoon System which would significantly reduced the number of hours the beat police officer was expected to work. He was a very respected Police Officer.

Becker allegedly used his position to extort substantial sums, later shown to total in excess of $100,000, from Manhattan brothels and illegal gambling casino's in exchange for immunity from the police and to keep them from interfering with their operations. Percentages of the take were regularly delivered to politicians and other policemen. In July Herman Rosenthal who was a small time bookmaker had complained to the press that his illegal casinos had been badly damaged by the greed of Becker and his associates. Two days after the story appeared Rosenthal walked out of the Hotel Metropole at 147 W 43rd Street just off Times Square. Rosenthal was gunned down by a crew of Jewish gangsters from the Lower East Side, Manhattan. In the aftermath, Manhattan District Attorney Charles Whitman, who had made an appointment with Rosenthal before his death made no secret of his belief that the gangsters had committed the murder at Becker's behest. Amid a major public outcry, Becker was transferred to the Bronx and assigned to desk duty.

July 29, 1912 Becker was approached at the precinct's closing hour by special detectives from the District Attorney's office and placed him under arrest. He was tried and convicted of first degree murder that fall. The verdict was overturned on appeal on the grounds that the presiding judge, John Goff, had been biased against the defendant. However a retrial in 1914 affirmed his conviction.

Although contemporary newspapers were unanimous in asserting his guilt, Becker went to the electric chair in Sing, Sing prison on July 30, 1915, still professing his innocence. Becker was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx on August 2, 1915.

Becker only had one son, Howard P Becker, who became a Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin. He also had a daughter Charlotte who was conceived shortly before his arrest and she died in 1913 less than a day after her birth. She s buried alongside her father.

Friday, October 17, 2014

KILLER COPS PART 2

Next on the list of "Killer Cops" is John Connolly who was a former FBI agent and former private security.

He was born August 1, 1940 in Boston Massachusetts. He was convicted of Racketeering and Second degree murder. In a Federal facility for 10 years and State prison for 40 years.
He was convicted for the Federal crime in 2002 and the State crime November 6, 2008.

The State police and other Federal officers had been trying to imprison Whitey Bulger for years, but Bulger evaded capture until 2011. As the FBI handler for Bulger and Flemmi, Connolly (who had grown up in the Old Harbor Housing Project with Bulger) had been protecting them from prosecution by feeding Bulger information about possible attempts to catch them.

Connolly was indicted on December 22, 1999 on alerting Bulger and Flemmi to investigation, also falsifying FBI reports to cover their crimes and accepting bribes. In 2000 Connolly was charged with additional racketeering and related offenses. He was convicted on those racketeering charges and give 10 years in a federal prison.

He first met FBI informants Stephen Flemmi and James J. Bulger at a coffee shop in Newton Massachusetts. He occasionally lectured FBI agents at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia on informant development tactics and techniques. He was a member of the Boston FBI's Organized Crime Squad. Retired FBI Special Agent Joseph D Piston wrote a book, The Ceremony, "The reign of the Patriarc crime family is ended. A substantial amount of the credit for the demise of that mob family must be given to one man, Special Agent John Connolly." Louis Litif, one of the top bookmakers and Winter Hill Gang mob associate was one of Connolly's handball partners at the Boston Athletic Club. Connolly retired from the FBI honorably in 1990 and accepted the position of Director of Security/Public affairs for Boston Edison, from former Boston FBI Special Agent John Kehoe.

In 2005, Connolly was indicted on murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges in the 1982 slaying of Arthur Andersen certified public accountant to John B. Callahan and the 1981 murder of Roger Wheeler, owner of the World Jai Alai sporting corporation. Connolly stood trial in 2008 in Miami, Florida. Callahan was murdered by John Martorano who shot Callahan and left his body in the trunk of his Cadillac in the parking lot at Miami International Airport. Prosecutors alleged that Callahan was killed on the orders of Whitey Bulger and Stephen Flemmi after Connolly told them that the FBI was investigating his ties to the Winter Hill Gang in their ongoing investigation into Wheeler's death. Wheeler had been killed by Martorano in Tulsa, Oklahoma in May of 1981. During the trial, Bulger associates Stephen Flemmi, Kevin Weeks and John Martorano testified for the prosecution detailing Connolly's ties to Bulger and Flemmi. Long time Bulger girlfriend Teresa testified for the defense about her travels with Bulger,. Flemmi testified that Connolly warned them that the FBI wanted to question Callahan in the death of Wheeler, telling them that Callahan "wouldn't hold up" and would probably implicate them.

Also testifying against Connolly was his former FBI boss John Morris, who admitted that he accepted $7,000 in bribes from Bulger and Flemmi. He stated he began leaking information to them after Connolly delivered a case of wine and an envelope stuffed with $1000 cash from the pair.

On November 6, 2008  a jury convicted Connolly of second-degree murder. Connolly faced a possible sentence of 30 years to life in prison. Connolly was due to be sentenced on December 4, 2008 but sentencing was postponed until January while the judge in the case considered a motion by the defense to dismiss the case. The defense argued that in Florida the statutes of limitations had expired for second degree murder when Connolly was convicted.

January 15, 2009 the judge sentenced Connolly to 40 years in prison, saying that Connolly "Crossed over to the dark side." The judge agreed with the defense's argument involving the statue of limitations, but noted that their motion was past the deadline for such motion. He accepted prosecutors' argument that Connolly abused his badge and deserved more that the 30 year minimum. The 40 year state sentence will run consecutively with the 10 year federal sentence, all but assuring that Connolly will die in prison.

The kicker to this story is on May 28, 2014, Connolly's murder conviction was overturned by the Florida Third District Court of Appeal by a vote of 2 to 1.

Next week we have a New York Policeman on the New York City police department convicted of first degree murder. Be sure to look for the next blog.....