The Mysterious Disappearance of Hollywood Starlet JEAN SPANGLER - 1949

jean_elizabeth_spangler_8.jpg
Spangler was an actress and a dancer mainly noted for small film roles in the 1940s. She left her home in the Wiltshire district of Los Angeles, California on October 7, 1949 at approximately 5:00 p.m., en route to a farmer's market. She lived with her young daughter, Christine, her mother, her brother and her sister-in-law at the time.

Spangler told her sister-in-law that she was meeting her former husband, Dexter Benner, to discuss a possible increase in child support payments on his part for Christine. His child support was a week overdue. A photo of Dexter is posted with this case summary. Spangler said that she was scheduled to report to a nighttime film shoot after the support meeting.

Spangler's sister-in-law filed a missing person's report with the Los Angeles Police Department after Spangler did not return home by the following day. A Griffith Park employee found Spangler's purse, with its contents intact but its handles ripped off, on October 9, 1949, two days after she disappeared.

A photo of the purse is posted with this case summary. The purse was located near the Fern Dell entrance to the park in Los Angeles. A note stating the following message was found inside: "Kirk -- Can't wait any longer. Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work out best this way while Mother is away,"

The note was not signed and it ended in a comma, leading authorities to believe Spangler did not have time to finish writing it. Spangler's mother was visiting relatives in Kentucky on the day Spangler disappeared, a fact mentioned in the note. The letter's discovery led to an extensive search of the Griffith Park area, but additional evidence was not uncovered.

Investigators questioned Dexter about the night Spangler vanished. Dexter claimed that he did not meet with his former wife that evening as she told her sister-in-law; his statement was substantiated by his current wife at the time. Dexter maintained the last time he had seen Spangler had been weeks prior to her disappearance.

The motion picture studios in Los Angeles reported that night shoots were not scheduled for any film production the night Spangler disappeared, contradicting another statement Spangler made to her sister-in-law.

A clerk at a local market told police that Spangler was in the store on October 7 and that she was apparently waiting for somebody. Robert Cummings, an actor who starred in Spangler's last film Pretty Girl, reported that she told him she was dating a man two weeks before she vanished. Cummings did not know the supposed suitor's name and he said Spangler told him the relationship was't serious.

Given that Spangler referred to a man named Kirk in the note found in her purse, rumors began spreading as to the person's identity. Actor Kirk Douglas came forward and told authorities that Spangler had been cast as an extra in one of his recent films at the time, but said he barely remembered her. Spangler's mother stated that her daughter had mentioned someone named Kirk, but she had no idea who the man was.

A friend of Spangler's told investigators that Spangler informed her that she was pregnant before she disappeared. This announcement led to speculation that the Dr. Scott mentioned in the note was a physician who performed abortions, which were illegal in the United States in 1949.

Authorities investigated the majority of doctors in the Los Angeles area, but the identity of Dr. Scott, if he indeed existed, remained elusive. Police did have one lead into a possible suspect; a former medical student who frequented the Sunset Strip section of Los Angeles performing abortions for fees. The unidentified individual's nickname was Scotty. He was never located or questioned about Spangler's disappearance.

Probing deeper into Spangler's background, investigators learned that she had an affair with a Air Corps Lieutenant named Scotty when Dexter was stationed with the United States Army in the South Pacific. According to Spangler's former attorney, Scotty was violent towards Spangler and threatened to murder her if she broke off their relationship. The lawyer said that Spangler told him she ended the affair in 1945 and had not had contact with Scotty since that time.

Spangler apparently had numerous affairs or relationships with men in the Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California area in the ensuing years. One of the men was David Ogul (nicknamed Little Davy), an associate of organized crime figure Mickey Cohen. Palm Springs had been known as one of Cohen's favorite partying spots in 1949.

Witnesses told investigators that Spangler and Ogul were seen in the Palm Springs area the week before Spangler vanished. Curiously, Ogul himself had disappeared only two days prior to Spangler; he had been indicted on conspiracy charges shortly beforehand.

Twists in Spangler's case continued into February 1950. United States Customs agents in El Paso, Texas informed Los Angeles detectives that they may have spotted Spangler with Ogul and another Cohen associate, Frank Niccoli, in a hotel. Niccoli was indicted on similar charges as Ogul and had disappeared from California in September 1949, leaving authorities to find only his car keys on a street.

A hotel employee identified Spangler from a photo as the woman who accompanied the fugitives in Texas. Customs officials believed that the three were headed to Las Vegas, Nevada, but nothing developed from the lead.

Spangler was born in Seattle, Washington and graduated from Franklin High School. She married Dexter at age 19 and filed for divorce six months later, accusing him of cruelty. She and Dexter continued to see each other off and on for the next five years, however.

Their divorce, which wasn't finalized until 1946, was messy and involved a bitter custody battle over Christine; Dexter got custody of the child, and Spangler alleged that afterwards he prevented her from seeing Christine on 23 different occasions. A judge granted custody to Spangler after two years.

Sightings of Spangler continued over the next few years in California, Arizona and Mexico, but nothing concrete was found.

Dexter was granted custody of Christine after Spangler failed to reappear, but his new wife was not allowed to legally adopt the child due to Spangler's undetermined fate. Spangler's mother got a court order granting her visitation rights to her granddaughter, but Dexter repeatedly defied it. When ordered to serve 15 days in jail as a result, he took Christine, left the state and never returned.

Spangler's case remains unsolved; there's been no trace of her since 1949.


 
Last edited:

GrandmaBear

Deputized Emu Slayer/Horse Thief Hunter
View attachment 4170
Spangler was an actress and a dancer mainly noted for small film roles in the 1940s. She left her home in the Wiltshire district of Los Angeles, California on October 7, 1949 at approximately 5:00 p.m., en route to a farmer's market. She lived with her young daughter, Christine, her mother, her brother and her sister-in-law at the time.

Spangler told her sister-in-law that she was meeting her former husband, Dexter Benner, to discuss a possible increase in child support payments on his part for Christine. His child support was a week overdue. A photo of Dexter is posted with this case summary. Spangler said that she was scheduled to report to a nighttime film shoot after the support meeting.

Spangler's sister-in-law filed a missing person's report with the Los Angeles Police Department after Spangler did not return home by the following day. A Griffith Park employee found Spangler's purse, with its contents intact but its handles ripped off, on October 9, 1949, two days after she disappeared.

A photo of the purse is posted with this case summary. The purse was located near the Fern Dell entrance to the park in Los Angeles. A note stating the following message was found inside: "Kirk -- Can't wait any longer. Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work out best this way while Mother is away,"

The note was not signed and it ended in a comma, leading authorities to believe Spangler did not have time to finish writing it. Spangler's mother was visiting relatives in Kentucky on the day Spangler disappeared, a fact mentioned in the note. The letter's discovery led to an extensive search of the Griffith Park area, but additional evidence was not uncovered.

Investigators questioned Dexter about the night Spangler vanished. Dexter claimed that he did not meet with his former wife that evening as she told her sister-in-law; his statement was substantiated by his current wife at the time. Dexter maintained the last time he had seen Spangler had been weeks prior to her disappearance.

The motion picture studios in Los Angeles reported that night shoots were not scheduled for any film production the night Spangler disappeared, contradicting another statement Spangler made to her sister-in-law.

A clerk at a local market told police that Spangler was in the store on October 7 and that she was apparently waiting for somebody. Robert Cummings, an actor who starred in Spangler's last film Pretty Girl, reported that she told him she was dating a man two weeks before she vanished. Cummings did not know the supposed suitor's name and he said Spangler told him the relationship was't serious.

Given that Spangler referred to a man named Kirk in the note found in her purse, rumors began spreading as to the person's identity. Actor Kirk Douglas came forward and told authorities that Spangler had been cast as an extra in one of his recent films at the time, but said he barely remembered her. Spangler's mother stated that her daughter had mentioned someone named Kirk, but she had no idea who the man was.

A friend of Spangler's told investigators that Spangler informed her that she was pregnant before she disappeared. This announcement led to speculation that the Dr. Scott mentioned in the note was a physician who performed abortions, which were illegal in the United States in 1949.

Authorities investigated the majority of doctors in the Los Angeles area, but the identity of Dr. Scott, if he indeed existed, remained elusive. Police did have one lead into a possible suspect; a former medical student who frequented the Sunset Strip section of Los Angeles performing abortions for fees. The unidentified individual's nickname was Scotty. He was never located or questioned about Spangler's disappearance.

Probing deeper into Spangler's background, investigators learned that she had an affair with a Air Corps Lieutenant named Scotty when Dexter was stationed with the United States Army in the South Pacific. According to Spangler's former attorney, Scotty was violent towards Spangler and threatened to murder her if she broke off their relationship. The lawyer said that Spangler told him she ended the affair in 1945 and had not had contact with Scotty since that time.

Spangler apparently had numerous affairs or relationships with men in the Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California area in the ensuing years. One of the men was David Ogul (nicknamed Little Davy), an associate of organized crime figure Mickey Cohen. Palm Springs had been known as one of Cohen's favorite partying spots in 1949.

Witnesses told investigators that Spangler and Ogul were seen in the Palm Springs area the week before Spangler vanished. Curiously, Ogul himself had disappeared only two days prior to Spangler; he had been indicted on conspiracy charges shortly beforehand.

Twists in Spangler's case continued into February 1950. United States Customs agents in El Paso, Texas informed Los Angeles detectives that they may have spotted Spangler with Ogul and another Cohen associate, Frank Niccoli, in a hotel. Niccoli was indicted on similar charges as Ogul and had disappeared from California in September 1949, leaving authorities to find only his car keys on a street.

A hotel employee identified Spangler from a photo as the woman who accompanied the fugitives in Texas. Customs officials believed that the three were headed to Las Vegas, Nevada, but nothing developed from the lead.

Spangler was born in Seattle, Washington and graduated from Franklin High School. She married Dexter at age 19 and filed for divorce six months later, accusing him of cruelty. She and Dexter continued to see each other off and on for the next five years, however.

Their divorce, which wasn't finalized until 1946, was messy and involved a bitter custody battle over Christine; Dexter got custody of the child, and Spangler alleged that afterwards he prevented her from seeing Christine on 23 different occasions. A judge granted custody to Spangler after two years.

Sightings of Spangler continued over the next few years in California, Arizona and Mexico, but nothing concrete was found.

Dexter was granted custody of Christine after Spangler failed to reappear, but his new wife was not allowed to legally adopt the child due to Spangler's undetermined fate. Spangler's mother got a court order granting her visitation rights to her granddaughter, but Dexter repeatedly defied it. When ordered to serve 15 days in jail as a result, he took Christine, left the state and never returned.

Spangler's case remains unsolved; there's been no trace of her since 1949.


Wow, in reading that, I have many suspects. Divorce was so rare in those days and even 20 years later was very rare. When the grandmother got visitation rights and he was ordered to spend time in jail (the ex), they never looked for him nor put a warrant out?? The Kirk thing is interesting, as the other guy, the buddy of a mobster. The note is interesting but could have been started and saved at any point in time. The not being able to wait any longer could mean two things, it could mean that night to meet, or it could mean if it is about a pregnancy or abortion, that she means, she only has so much time before people notice, she shows and that she can do it while her mother is gone... I realize it was a different era, but I am still surprised there is not more evidence. It just goes to show you even then, tell someone the truth about where you are going and what you are doing... Interesting read...
 

Kimster

Let's Find Michael Bryson!
Staff member
Wow, in reading that, I have many suspects. Divorce was so rare in those days and even 20 years later was very rare. When the grandmother got visitation rights and he was ordered to spend time in jail (the ex), they never looked for him nor put a warrant out?? The Kirk thing is interesting, as the other guy, the buddy of a mobster. The note is interesting but could have been started and saved at any point in time. The not being able to wait any longer could mean two things, it could mean that night to meet, or it could mean if it is about a pregnancy or abortion, that she means, she only has so much time before people notice, she shows and that she can do it while her mother is gone... I realize it was a different era, but I am still surprised there is not more evidence. It just goes to show you even then, tell someone the truth about where you are going and what you are doing... Interesting read...
I like to look at the suspects' behavior years after. The way her ex kept her family from their child is very suspect, IMO, unless Jean's family was disfunctional, which we don't know. "Dr. Scott", if he indeed performed abortions, could possibly be a nickname to keep him from being arrested. Maybe she was planning an abortion that night, but the ex did something first?

Curiouser and Curiouser.....
 

GrandmaBear

Deputized Emu Slayer/Horse Thief Hunter
I like to look at the suspects' behavior years after. The way her ex kept her family from their child is very suspect, IMO, unless Jean's family was disfunctional, which we don't know. "Dr. Scott", if he indeed performed abortions, could possibly be a nickname to keep him from being arrested. Maybe she was planning an abortion that night, but the ex did something first?

Curiouser and Curiouser.....
It is an intriguing one and all I know is what I read above. Hollywood and power of course comes to mind. DIvorce after six months but kept seeing her ex at least for awhile on and off. Telling someone she was going to talk to her ex about increasing child support and about him being a week late with support? That strikes me odd for some reason. In need of money or something? He was likely upset when she got custody after he had it first as well...? The note definitely sounds abortion related but wouldn't a man who had an affair with her or did not want it known endorse that? Unless it was someone who wanted her and that connection/child to hold her...? Just thoughts...
 

Kimster

Let's Find Michael Bryson!
Staff member
The other theory is that maybe she met up with a bad guy - a stranger. When her purse was found in Griffith Park, it was damaged, as though she may have been mugged or something.
 

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Mel70

Special specialist
The other theory is that maybe she met up with a bad guy - a stranger. When her purse was found in Griffith Park, it was damaged, as though she may have been mugged or something.
I think it was someone she knew. This was very well planned. No sign of her or her body since 1949. She would be deceased now of old age. Whoever did it made sure she wouldn't be found. I first suspect the husband. But the Kirk note is certainly not to be ignored. Kirk Douglas is not as angelic as people think.
 

Kimster

Let's Find Michael Bryson!
Staff member
I don't remember if I mentioned this up thread or not, but Los Angeles County used to remove unidentified remains by dumping them all in one grouping. I can't remember if they cremated them beforehand or not. Needless to say, her remains could have been destroyed by the county a long time ago.
 

kdg411

Administrator
Staff member
884a3334c3e7a4e12da3ce597e4ec0e6


 

Mel70

Special specialist
This case is very interesting. Unfortunately I don't think it will ever be solved. I don't think it was random. It was deliberate and for a good reason in that person's mind. They also had it very well planned out obviously and anyone who knew anything kept their mouth shut. I think it was someone with power of some kind. I do think she was killed and right away. It appears to me with the letter that she was alluding to an abortion. But I don't think it was botched. I think someone didn't even want that information getting out. So why weren't the purse and letter destroyed?.
 

Kimster

Let's Find Michael Bryson!
Staff member
This case is very interesting. Unfortunately I don't think it will ever be solved. I don't think it was random. It was deliberate and for a good reason in that person's mind. They also had it very well planned out obviously and anyone who knew anything kept their mouth shut. I think it was someone with power of some kind. I do think she was killed and right away. It appears to me with the letter that she was alluding to an abortion. But I don't think it was botched. I think someone didn't even want that information getting out. So why weren't the purse and letter destroyed?.
It could be as simple is that they forgot it. While they were in a panic state trying to get rid of the evidence, I mean her body, they forgot the note in the purse.
 

Mel70

Special specialist
It could be as simple is that they forgot it. While they were in a panic state trying to get rid of the evidence, I mean her body, they forgot the note in the purse.
The only problem with that is that is why she was killed in the first place and that would be too important. IMO. IDK. Seems really careless.
 

GrandmaBear

Deputized Emu Slayer/Horse Thief Hunter
This case is very interesting. Unfortunately I don't think it will ever be solved. I don't think it was random. It was deliberate and for a good reason in that person's mind. They also had it very well planned out obviously and anyone who knew anything kept their mouth shut. I think it was someone with power of some kind. I do think she was killed and right away. It appears to me with the letter that she was alluding to an abortion. But I don't think it was botched. I think someone didn't even want that information getting out. So why weren't the purse and letter destroyed?.
It is a strange one. While in an obvious way, it would lean towards a person who got her pregnant or someone that person hired to do away with her, one can see a motive with the father of her existing child and that it is who she herself said she was going to meet, and then there are alleged mob connections and someone she had an affair with in organized crime and she was very recently seen with that bunch.

In no way meant to be victim blaming, but just putting out what appear to be "facts" from back then, the life she led does not make this case easier by a long shot looking from the outside in now. There is, however, that possibility someone or someones with power are involved and it was never solved for a reason or because of influence.

If her ex was so bad, I am surprised her family was okay with her meeting him that evening. On the other hand, the pregnancy, note, the Kirk, the fact she was in a recent filming with Kirk Douglas, etc. sure has a lot of weight. Yet she was recently seen with the "mob" and things were going down there just a short time after. And then there is her daughter's father.

Now I think though in many ways someone powerful would be fine with her getting an abortion and maybe push it even, so why kill her? I think they would be more afraid of her having the baby and bribing/extorting them in exchange for her silence. It stands out to me though the note is not "Dear" Kirk but "Kirk:"

I guess IF it is true she was not meeting her ex and IF it is true there was no late night filming as she stated to her family, she likely left with the intent of being gone all night or late into the night. This would fit with a backstreet abortion as I doubt you are going to get one and be just fine to head/drive right home and visit with your family who lives there. It also fits with and I think more so going to meet or hope to see a "lover" or bf.

The thing is it appears the note was never given to whoever it was intended for. Right? If the perp was the "Kirk" they certainly would not want that letter left in her purse if they knew it existed as it would point his way... It may also point to the backstreet doctor to but it also names the "Kirk"...

Looking at the letter, I see no reason to think the last mark is a comma as is said? There is a mark earlier that looks like a comma but is clearly a period as the next word begins with a capital letter. So really no indication it was unfinished necessarily. Thoughts on that? Also, perhaps the perp did not know it was in her purse... If you look at the pic of it, it appears to have many fold lines and apparently have even maybe been somewhat crumpled.

Even though her mother was out of town, the letter could have been from a different day or even time. It appears to be a note and something someone would leave on someone's car, residence door, etc.

One can see why this case sticks and even way back then was probably sensational. Again, her lifestyle did not exactly sound as if it was low risk.

I speculate and conclude (for myself) she intended to meet someone or "find" someone and covered herself to her family for being out very late or even all night. I agree with Mel in that I don't think this was random. I agree with Kimster in that the daughter's father is certainly someone to not be ignored, and his actions. It sounds as if they had trouble letting "go" of each other. Continued to see him on and off over the next five years after filing for divorce. Bitter custody issues and it continued with her mom and his denying her rights to see her after Jean disappeared.

Nowadays with surveillance footage and GPS and cell phones, we would have far more info, as would LE. Instead all we have are "eyewitnesses" who may or may not be reliable. Was she seen by the clerk in the store waiting to meet someone? Was she seen with the mob group the weekend before? Did she truly tell her sister-in-law what the sister-in law says she told her?

And then there is the fact that she nor her remains have ever been found... Are there any UIDs she might match?

The instinct in me though does go towards the Kirk and whoever had her pregnant. It is almost always the case with a pregnant woman... The ex thing is a very close second, almost a tie but not quite with me.

I had better quit rambling now as my thoughts pop in :D
 

Mel70

Special specialist
Great points. The ex husband. It does sound like he would be a threat and she was going to meet him that night. Did he see the note and became enraged?. The husband defiately could have done it and had time to plan. The mob. IDK. I find that the least likely unless someone that had power had a tie to them and dispensed of her for them. As far as a UID I don't think there is any chance at all of finding out. Over 70 yrs ago any remains would have been lost or destroyed. But I definitely think it's possible she was one. But it seems like the person responsible didn't want her found.
 

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