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Run, Bambi, Run
Convicted of murdering her husband’s ex-wife, but later proven innocent, Lawrencia Bembenek never saw her name cleared. I’ll call her Laurie from now on, which is the name she chose later in life.
A Drop of Rebelliousness
Laurie had a happy childhood, but early on, she showed a rebellious streak, speaking up about things that other people tend to sweep under the carpet. With a New Moon in Leo in the 3rd house connected to a principled Jupiter in Libra through a sextile aspect, I imagine Laurie to have found her pride and purpose in doing the right thing.
At one point, she challenged a priest at her Catholic school who took an inappropriate interest in her and her 12-year-old classmates. Represented by Mercury, here at home and exalted in Virgo, Laurie was said to be “fiercely intelligent and articulate”. One day, the priest lost his temper, swearing and calling her a “slut” – his words. While she hoped her parents would challenge the school authorities, she resisted their desire to pull her out of the school. “It would be admitting I’d done something wrong, and I hadn’t,” Laurie later wrote. “It was my first really powerful lesson in independence.”
Laurie’s natal Saturn is located near the point of the descendant in the 7th house where the planets disappear below the horizon. In a nighttime chart, where Saturn is said to be the malefic contrary to the sect in favor, this placement sometimes describes fierce adversaries. Opposite the 1st house of the Self, the 7th house is the place where we meet the Other anywhere on the spectrum from “stranger in the street” to “spouse”. In clerical Jupiter’s sign, Sagittarius, Laurie’s first adversary shows up in the disguise of a priest, but it won’t be her last encounter with Saturn.
Before finishing high school, Laurie started working as a model. She earned an associate degree in fashion merchandising management. Yet there was also a nascent political consciousness. Laurie supported feminist groups and joined a protest demanding the Milwaukee police establish a sexual assault unit. Partially inspired by the crime-fighting women in the TV show Charlie’s Angels, she decided to pursue a career in law enforcement.
She thought about [joining] long and hard. I think she really found it to be something honorable. Modeling had been fun as she always was a person that demanded attention. But it was superficial. She knew that deep down. She had that A-type personality, and she was always forthright. - JoAnne Evica (a close friend of Laurie’s)
In true Mercurial spirit, Laurie could run like the wind. She ran and exercised to get in shape in preparation for the police academy and took it very seriously. At the time, eclipses were happening in her 10th house of career, indicating a change of direction. Her dad Joseph had previously worked for the Milwaukee Police Department but quit after witnessing corruption within the department. He later worked as a carpenter, aptly described by handy Mercury, the 4th house ruler of parents, in Virgo, Mercury’s practical Earth sign.
The ways in which Laurie tried to make money are described by the 2nd house of finances and livelihood. The goddess of beauty Venus is there, which accounts for her work as a model. However, we can also take her guests into account. Presiding over Taurus and Libra, Venus draws both 5th and 12th house topics into her assets. Jupiter, guest in Libra, and Mars, guest in Taurus, both play a role here. In fact, through a Hellenistic technique called like-engirding, Mars and Jupiter are working in collaboration, even though they cannot see one another through a traditional aspect. Both planets are connected to one another because they have the same domicile ruler, Venus. Together with Jupiter in the sign of the Scales of Justice, Mars speaks to Laurie’s ambition to become a police officer, but from the Place of Bad Spirit, Mars, exiled in Taurus, will also bring her some 12th house trouble such as secret enemies, sorrow, and self-undoing.
A Sea of Sorrow
The first example illustrating that dynamic happened while Laurie was still training at the Milwaukee Police Academy in the spring of 1980. An anonymous tipster reported that Laurie was seen smoking marijuana at a party. In May of that same year, she stuck up for a friend and was fired.
In the Solar Return chart for that year, Mars is speaking loudly in the 1st house. From his fall in Cancer, he rules the 10th house of social status and reputation. Mars’s natal signification of secret enemies was clearly activated from her birthday in August 1979 until her next birthday in August 1980, impacting her reputation as indicated by the Solar Return chart.
Afterward, Laurie discovered scandalous photos of drunk MDP officers dancing naked on picnic tables in a local park. She stated later in her autobiography Woman on the Run that female and minority trainees often were punished or fired for minor infractions while white male officers went unpunished for more serious offenses. “Sexist, vulgar remarks” were standard. Again, for someone who has Jupiter hanging out in Libra, this information would have been intolerable.
Why would Jupiter be important for Laurie’s values and character? Her 1st house ruler Mercury is retrograde and applying to make a contra-antiscion, or mirror-point, to Jupiter, thereby connecting both planets through a hidden aspect. Contra-antiscia are very similar to oppositions, so there’s something secretive about Jupiter that is working against Laurie’s best interests.
She took the photos to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which recommended filing a discrimination report with the MPD's internal affairs division.
In the months following, she was unable to find work in other police departments or even as a security guard. She took a job as a waitress at the Playboy Club. She worked there for three weeks but never as a Playboy bunny. This is important because later when she became a murder suspect, newspapers opted for sensational headlines calling her a “former Playboy bunny”. Laurie’s appearance and charismatic personality sometimes opened doors for her, as the whole sign sextile between Venus and Mercury suggests, but tabloids liked to portray her as a cold and calculating femme fatale.
So much garbage has been written about me and how I look, as if that’s all there is. – Laurie Bembenek
After her time at the Club, and only having a babysitting job, she spiraled into a depression.
A Fatal Encounter
When transiting Pluto came within three degrees of her natal 7th house ruler Jupiter, Laurie got involved with Fred Schultz. In a traditional sense, we could look at the Great Conjunction happening between Jupiter in Saturn in the 5th house of pleasure and romance. That would have activated her natal Jupiter as well.
At that time, she was unaware of the fact that Fred was one of the naked police officers in the photos she took to the MPD’s Internal Affairs department. This is another expression of that masked aspect between her Helm ruler Mercury, and the ruler of the 7th house of partners, Jupiter, in turn, connected with Mars through like-engirding.
Given that Saturn, the malefic contrary to the sect in favor demands attention through his position right on the descendant in the 7th house, it wouldn’t be surprising that Laurie connected with an untrustworthy partner, but even the 7th house ruler Jupiter gives additional testimony to that. Strongly connected to the lunar North Node, all is not what it seems… Another - at first glance innocent-looking - red flag is Venus, in the bounds of Saturn at the anaretic 29th degree of Cancer, in the challenging South Bending of the lunar nodes.
Barely two months after they began dating, Fred and Laurie married on January 30, 1981, just over the state line, because Fred had only just divorced his wife, Christine, in November 1980, and it was not legal for him to remarry so soon in the same state.
In her Solar Return chart for that year, her natal 7th house ruler Jupiter lands in his detriment in Virgo. Along with Saturn, prominently placed near the degree of the Solar Return ascendant, the indication is clear that something important happens in the area of relationships. Laurie’s 1st house ruler Mercury is located in the threatening 12th house of the Solar Return chart, accompanied by the Sun, which has just been eclipsed, attesting to difficult changes on the life path. The Moon, always a trusty indicator of the general winds of fortune, and the traditional signifier of marriage, is making a tight contra-antiscia to Saturn; a forewarning of hidden danger. Note that Laurie had her birthday only a couple of days after a solar eclipse, promising a serious shift of circumstances.
Instead of the love of her life, did she marry her nemesis, Saturn on the descendant of her natal chart?
I was drawn in by his overwhelming personality. He was manipulative and consuming, but he was also the life of any party he went to. … He allowed me to forget my depression, for a while. – Laurie Bembenek
But the honeymoon sweetness quickly soured. Money got tight as Fred paid the monthly mortgage for his ex-wife along with child support. Things took a turn for the worse for Laurie when, in that same year, she was arrested on suspicion of murdering Fred’s ex-wife, Christine Schultz. Christine was murdered in her home by what her 11-year son described as a masked male figure. Despite that testimony and other considerations that I won’t cover here, Laurie was found guilty of first-degree murder on March 9, 1982.
In her 1989 Solar Return year, with reversed lunar nodes compared to the 1980 chart, Laurie escaped prison with the help of Dominic Gugliatto, her cellmate’s brother, which evoked a lot of support from the public, inspiring the “Run, Bambi, Run” movement.
Whereas the year of her arrest is marked by a recent solar eclipse, the year of her escape carries the signature of a pending lunar eclipse. Unfortunately, a few months after her 1990 birthday, she was caught but won the right to a new trial as the Canadian government detailed several blunders by the police that happened during the murder case.
On December 9, 1992, she was released from prison, but she was diagnosed with PTSD, hepatitis C, and she was struggling with alcoholism. Jupiter in the 5th house is often associated with exuberance, and here, with the North Node, Jupiter might dole out some good fortune, but the North Node often gives only to take it away again later. Jupiter, as the 7th house ruler speaks to Dominic helping her escape prison, only to get her arrested again later. Jupiter as the 2nd house exaltation ruler from the 5th house of pleasure, on the other hand, speaks to her excessive intake of alcohol. Temporarily numbing her dreadful memories and pain, Jupiter also signifies the liver disease that would eventually get her killed at age 52.
The Ruins of Rahu
Jupiter with the North Node signals big turning events. For example, Laurie found her passion for painting and her artwork was put on display at a local art gallery, but a freak fire destroyed all her paintings and burned the building to the ground. The like-engirding at play between Jupiter and Firestarter Mars in the 12th house of loss is evident.
In 2002, “Dr. Phil” McGraw was willing to do a DNA test to help her prove her innocence. His handlers wouldn’t let her leave the rental, however, and this triggered a severe panic attack. In an attempt to escape, Laurie jumped from a second-story window, breaking her foot (Jupiter) so badly that the entire part of her leg below the knee had to be amputated. The lunar nodes are often associated with amputation, and when analyzing Laurie’s chart, I was reminded of Terry Fox’s chart, who was born just a couple of weeks before Laurie, and also lost his leg.
I lost my leg. Just another thing I lost in my search for freedom. – Laurie Bembenek
DNA testing in 2003 and a ballistics test in 2008 disproved her involvement, yet Laurie’s appeal to clear her name was denied.
On November 20, 2010, she died at a hospice facility in Portland, Oregon from liver and kidney failure. In the meantime, there is still no justice for Christine Schultz.