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Unsolved disappearance of Hollywood actress Jean Spangler

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Unsolved disappearance of Hollywood actress Jean Spangler

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Most people might consider the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short to be the biggest mystery of the decade. But in 1949, another Los Angeles woman’s disappearance would make headlines.

Jean Elizabeth Spangler was born on September 2, 1923 in Seattle. By the time she was in high school, Jean had moved to Los Angeles. At some point, she set her sights on working in the film industry.

In 1942, Jean married a man named Dexter Benner, a manufacturer. Within two years, they had a daughter together. The marriage was short-lived, as they divorced in 1946. A custody battle followed.

In 1948, Spangler was apparently awarded custody of her child. The two moved in with Jean’s mother, Florence, her brother, and her sister-in-law in Park LaBrea.

Beginning in 1948, Jean was making some bit appearances in Hollywood films. She had an uncredited role in the 1948 film When My Baby Smiles at Me. The film starred Betty Grable and Dan Bailey as vaudeville performers.


In 1949, Jean had another bit part in a comedy called Chicken Every Sunday. She was also working on a musical drama to come out in 1950 called Young Man with a Horn.

Jean’s Disappearance

On October 7, 1949, Jean Spangler left her Los Angeles home. She told her sister-in-law she was going to meet up with her ex-husband to discuss late child support payments before she went to work as an extra on set.

News reports claim somebody saw Jean at the grocery store at 6 p.m. just a few blocks from her home. She was never seen again, but apparently she did call later in the evening to say she would be working all night. Some sources say that Jean was not meant to be working that night.

The next morning, Jean’s sister-in-law filed a missing persons report. When police interview Jean’s ex-husband, he allegedly claimed he had not seen Jean. In fact, he claimed they had not even spoken in weeks. His new wife corroborated that story.

The Purse

Two days after Jean disappeared, a tattered purse she owned was found in Griffith Park, near Fern Dell. It was less than six miles away from her home.

Inside Jean’s purse was a letter addressed to a man named Kirk, which mentioned seeing a doctor. Jean had written, “Can’t wait any longer, Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work best this way wile mother is away.” Some believe the note was not finished because she hadn’t signed it.

Initially, many people suspected the mysterious ‘Kirk’ was the actor Kirk Douglas, who was also in the film Young Man with a Horn. Investigators came to believe that Kirk Douglas was in Palm Springs at the time of Jean’s disappearance, so they seemingly ruled him out as a suspect.

Investigators interviewed some of Jean’s friends, and allegedly some disclosed that Jean may have been pregnant. As a result, the note she had written may have referred to undergoing an abortion, which would have been illegal at the time.

Further investigation also revealed that Jean had an affair with a man named Scotty who had been an Air Corps Lieutenant during her marriage. This man had allegedly acted violently toward her, and he apparently threatened to murder her. Scotty’s lawyer claimed the affair ended in 1945 and they had not spoken since. Seemingly, investigators dropped this lead.

Authorities discovered that Jean actually had several relationship with men throughout Palm Springs and Los Angeles. One such man was linked to organized crime, and he and Spangler had spent time together in Palm Springs a week before she went missing. This man actually disappeared two days before Jean did, and he had recently been indicated on charges linked to conspiracy.

Very little evidence exists in Jean’s disappearance. Authorities do not know who Dr. Scott or Kirk actually are. While Jean’s mother said a man named Kirk had once picked her up from the house, the family had never met him.

Jean was 26 years old when she disappeared. She is white with brown hair and blue eyes.

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