The Mystery Begins
Jean Elizabeth Spangler, a young aspiring actress, dancer and model lived with her mother, a five year old daughter, her brother and sister-in-law on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Jean hadn’t made it in Hollywood yet, but it didn’t stop her from trying. She still pursued “the dream” American girls have pursued for decades; to be a famous actress in Hollywood. She had beauty, talent, drive, and ambition. The only thing she hadn’t counted on was her eventual disappearing act.
Married and Divorced
An earlier marriage to Dexter Benner had ended in divorce and a custody battle over their daughter. On October 7, 1949 she left home for a meeting with her ex-husband, Dexter Benner, to discuss a late child support payment. She told her family that when the meeting was over, she would be headed to work on a night shoot for a film. They never saw her again. Because her mother was visiting relatives in Kentucky, her sister-in-law filed a missing persons report with the Los Angeles police department the next day. The disappearance of Jean Spangler caused investigations that would involve a well-known Hollywood movie star, and have repercussions throughout the industry. To this day, no one really knows what happened to Jean Spangler, but there are stories and speculation.
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The last person to report seeing her was a clerk in a nearby store who told authorities later that she wandered about for awhile, always looking out through the window from time to time. He felt that her demeanor indicated she was killing time waiting to be picked up by someone. He never saw her leave as he got busy with the store.
Investigation Turns Up No “Night Filming”
During the investigation it was discovered that although Jean had worked as an extra and in a few bit parts, there was no night shoot going on at any of the studios that night. Why would she blatantly lie about such a thing? Was it to buy time to be away from home?
The Ex-Husband’s Statement
When police questioned the ex-husband he said he had not seen his former wife for several weeks before she disappeared. His new wife of one month, Lynn Laskey Benner stated that he was home with her the night of the disappearance. Was she perhaps covering her new husband’s absence the night of the disappearance?
Searchers Abound, Little Evidence Found
Jean Spangler’s purse was found two days later near the Fern Dell entrance to Griffith Park. Both the straps on one side of the purse had been torn loose, as if it had been ripped from her arm. The find prompted a search of the area that brought out 60 police officers and over 100 volunteers, but nothing else was found. The police ruled out robbery as a motive, even though there was no money in the purse, because her sister-in-law said she had no money with her when she left the house.
Who Was Dr. Scott?
In the purse, an unfinished note was found addressed to “Kirk.” The note read, “Can’t wait any longer. Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work best this way while mother is away,..” and there the note ended as though there was some reason she couldn’t finish it. Who is Dr. Scott and why would she be seeing him. Our imagination gives us any number of reasons, especially when she says “It will work best this way while mother is away…”
And Who Is “Kirk?”
Kirk is not a name like Bill, John, or George. It’s an unusual name, especially back then. At the time, police were unable to locate either a “Kirk,” or a “Dr. Scott,” but when Jean’s mother returned she said that someone named Kirk had picked Jean up at the house twice, but did not come in, so she did not see his face. Police questioned every doctor in Los Angeles with the last name of Scott, but were unable to find one who had a patient named Spangler or Benner and came up with nothing.
Further Investigation Reveals
After further investigation, the police discovered Jean had recently had a bit part in the movie “Young Man With A Horn,” starring Kirk Douglas. This was immediately pounced on because of the name “Kirk.” However, it seems Douglas was on vacation in Palm Springs when he heard about the disappearance. He called the police and told them he was not the “Kirk” in the note. His name carried a lot of weight in Hollywood at the time, so the lead was not actively pursued. Later when an interview was granted to the Head of the Investigative Team, Douglas admitted he knew the name and knew that she had been an extra in his film, but claimed he did not know her personally.
Was She Pregnant?
The missing woman’s friends told police she was 3 months pregnant when she disappeared and that she talked of abortion, an illegal procedure at that time. People who frequented the same clubs that Jean did told police they had heard of a former medical student nicknamed “Doc” who would perform the procedure for a certain amount of money. Was this the unknown Doctor Scott? Investigators were never able to locate this man or even prove he existed, they didn’t even know if it was a first or last name or a name he was just known by for certain needs, but not in real life.
Was “The Mob” Involved?
Something that added another wrinkle to the mystery was that Jean had been seen with a man named Davey Ogul, a part of the group who hung around with mobster Mickey Cohen. Ogul disappeared two days after Jean Spangler. This caused police to suspect that they had left town together, in order for Ogul to escape an indictment for conspiracy. A customs agent reported in 1950 that she saw Ogul and a woman who resembled Jean Spangler in an El Paso, Texas hotel. She identified Jean from a photo, but neither her nor Ogul’s name appeared on the registry. Jean Spangler is now missing for over 65 years, but the LAPD has not closed the case. Did she pull a deliberate disappearing act? Or was she murdered because of something she knew that someone was afraid she would spill? Davey Ogul has never been located either. Were Spangler and Ogul victims of a mob hit?
Questions, Questions, Questions!!
What do you think happened to Jean Spangler?
- Did her ex-husband and his new wife do away with her to keep from paying child support and then lie to cover it up?
- Did her brother and sister-in-law eliminate her so they wouldn’t have another mouth to feed in the house and then make up a story?
- Did they even know she was pregnant? For that matter, was she??
- What about the clerk at the store…could he have had something to do with her vanishing?
- When the clerk mentioned she seemed to be waiting for someone, do you think it had to do with the mysterious “Kirk?”
- Does it seem strange that there was an unfinished note addressed to “Kirk,” alluding to something rather urgent that couldn’t wait, that she had to see the doctor?
- Do you think it was for an illegal abortion? Who do you think she was pregnant by?
- Do you believe she abandoned her child and left town with a gangster because he was going to be indicted?
- Do you believe she is still alive today, living somewhere with Ogul?
- Do you believe both Spangler and Ogul were victims of a mob hit?
Tell me in the comments your thoughts on what you think happened to Jean Spangler.