What Happened To Jean Spangler? How Did The Hollywood Starlet Disappear?

What Happened To Jean Spangler? How Did The Hollywood Starlet Disappear?

Jean Spangler was a small-time Hollywood actress in the late 1940s. People became interested in her after she mysteriously disappeared in October 1949. Jean Spangler disappeared suddenly, and some people think she might have been taken by Mickey Cohen’s gang or the same person who killed “Black Dahlia” Elizabeth Short.

Jean Spangler, a young and beautiful actress, vanished suddenly, leaving only a purse with a mysterious note mentioning someone named “Dr. Scott” and “Kirk.” When people talked about Kirk Douglas, the newspapers in Los Angeles and the sensational gossip magazines got interested in a story about a young actress who disappeared. They spread numerous rumors about Jean Spangler, the missing actress. They suspected she was involved with a criminal, and some believed she was killed by the infamous Black Dahlia murderer.

This is the puzzling story of Jean Spangler, who wanted to be an actress but disappeared in 1949 without anyone knowing what happened to her.

Who was Jean Spangler?

Jean Elizabeth Spangler was born in Seattle, Washington, on September 2, 1923. After finishing high school in Los Angeles, she became a dancer and aimed to make it big in Hollywood. When she was 19, she got married to Dexter Benner, a manufacturer. However, their marriage didn’t last long, and she filed for divorce after six months, claiming he was cruel to her. Despite the divorce, they had an on-and-off relationship for four more years and had a baby daughter together, as reported by The Los Angeles Times.

After her divorce in 1946, Spangler got into a tough fight over custody of her daughter, which lasted until 1948 when she was granted full custody. Meanwhile, she started getting small roles in Hollywood movies. She and her daughter moved in with her mother in L.A.’s Wilshire district, living with her brother and sister-in-law. Spangler had a small role in a musical drama called “Young Man With a Horn,” set to come out in 1950, starring the famous actor Kirk Douglas.

How Did Jean Spangler Disappear?

On October 7, 1949, Jean Spangler’s name became widely known, but not for her acting career. She left her house at 5 p.m., telling her sister-in-law that she was meeting her ex-husband Benner to discuss overdue child support before heading to work. When she didn’t return the next day, her concerned sister-in-law reported her missing to the LAPD’s Wilshire Division. Despite the report, police were doubtful, thinking Spangler might have just gone out and would return soon, as reported in Palm Springs Life.

The next day, Spangler’s bag was discovered near Griffith Park’s Fern Dell entrance. One end of the purse’s straps was torn off, suggesting there might have been a fight. Inside the purse, everything was still there, untouched. But there was a strange note that caught the detectives’ attention.

The letter said “Kirk – Can’t wait any longer. Going to see Dr. Scott. It’s better this way while Mom’s not around.”

Jean Spangler’s purse and mysterious note
Pictured: Jean Spangler’s purse and mysterious note

The note was unsigned and ended shortly with a comma, implying that Spangler did not finish writing it. When Spangler vanished, her mother was out of town, just like the note hinted – she was visiting family in Kentucky. Finding the note sparked a large search in Griffith Park, with 60 people involved, but nothing else was discovered. So, investigators began recreating Spangler’s final hours.

Did investigations yield any leads regarding her disappearance?

Spangler’s ex-husband Dexter Benner and his new wife confirmed they were together all evening on October 7 and didn’t see Spangler. Film studios verified that no movies were being made that night. Spangler was last spotted at Farmers Market, near her home, by a clerk who thought she looked like she was waiting for someone.

The investigators had no promising suspects and only had the name “Kirk” as a clue. Later, Kirk Douglas phoned from Palm Springs, where he was vacationing. He had learned about the case and suggested that Spangler could have been an extra in his recent film. Although Douglas admitted he might have spoken to Spangler before, he couldn’t recall her well and denied ever going out with her. Spangler’s mother remembered her mentioning a “Kirk” she knew from sets, but didn’t remember more than that or the studio involved.

A friend of Spangler revealed that she informed her about her pregnancy shortly before disappearing. . This revelation led investigators to think that the previously mentioned “Dr. Scott” may have arranged for an illegal abortion. They investigated every doctor with the last name Scott in the Los Angeles vicinity, but no significant leads emerged.

Jean Spangler photo
Pictured: Jean Spangler

While investigating the Sunset Strip, they came across “Scotty,” a former medical student who was rumored to perform paid abortions in bars and clubs. However, they were unable to find him. Investigators thought Spangler might have died from complications of an illegal abortion, but they were confused by her damaged purse found in Griffith Park.

It was also revealed that Spangler had an affair with a man named Scotty, who was an Air Force Lieutenant during her marriage. He was accused of being violent towards her, but his lawyer claimed that their affair ended in 1945 and they had not spoken since. Investigators then apparently stopped looking into it.

Who was David “Little Davy” Ogul?

The press kept returning to the 1947 unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, known as the Black Dahlia case, as all leads turned out to be dead-ends. People quickly speculated that the person who killed Short might also be responsible for Jean Spangler’s disappearance, given Spangler’s resemblance to Short and her dreams of becoming a starlet.

Recently, the son of a key suspect in the Dahlia case spoke out, claiming that his father may have committed both murders. According to Entertainment Weekly, Steve Hodel believes his father, a famous doctor named George Hodel who has a history of sexual promiscuity, may be the Black Dahlia killer. This theory is supported by the discovery of Spangler’s ripped purse near Dr. Hodel’s fancy house.

With Hodel gone for a long time and no charges ever filed against him, his involvement, if any, in either murder is likely to remain unknown. After just three weeks, the investigation into Jean Spangler’s disappearance appeared to be winding down. A tired detective told the press, “The only lead we’ve got is that this girl was quite social.”

Spangler had romantic relationships with people from a variety of backgrounds, including a nightclub owner, a wealthy bachelor, a teacher, actors, and socialites. In Hollywood after World War II, it was common for mobsters, movie executives, and celebrities to mingle, often meeting at bars and hidden gambling spots. Spangler was dating David “Little Davy” Ogul, who was connected to the well-known Jewish mobster Mickey Cohen as an associate and bodyguard. Some people recall seeing Spangler and Ogul together in Palm Springs shortly before she disappeared.

Ogul, who was charged with a crime plot, went missing a few days before Spangler. Eventually, an FBI informant named Salvatore Piscopo claimed that Ogul, who had a connection with Mickey Cohen’s criminal organization, was assassinated by the Los Angeles Mafia family because they believed he was cooperating with authorities.

In 1950, there were reports claiming to have seen Spangler and Ogul in various places like El Paso, Phoenix, Mexico City, and San Francisco. However, investigators couldn’t find any proof to support these claims. Furthermore, it appeared unlikely that Spangler would willingly abandon her 5-year-old daughter, particularly after fighting so hard for custody.

Spangler’s case remains a mystery even now. The aspiring actress has not been seen since October 7, 1949, when she winked at her sister-in-law and said, “Wish me luck,” before vanishing into the night, there has been no sign of the aspiring actress.