The Disappearance of Jean Elizabeth Spangler

jean spanglerJean Elizabeth Spangler was born in Seattle, Washington on September 2, 1923 and was an American dancer, model, and bit-part actress in Hollywood films and early television.  She mysteriously disappeared on October 7, 1949 at the age of 26.

Spangler was a divorcee and had a daughter, Christine Louise Benner, with her ex-husband Dexter Benner.  Christine was born April 22, 1944 and was five years old at the time of her mother’s disappearance.  When the divorce was finalized, Dexter was given custody of Christine partly because of Jean’s infidelity during the marriage and also because he claimed she put her partying lifestyle ahead of the needs of her daughter.  Dexter denied Jean the right to see her daughter many times.  It’s also been said that Dexter threatened Jean, saying he could make it to where she would never see her daughter again.  Jean took him to court and  after a long custody battle, Jean won custody of Christine in 1948.  The judge had ruled that Jean’s questionable behavior was in the past and that the little girl’s place was with her mother.

On October 7, 1949, Spangler left her home in Los Angeles where she lived with her mother and daughter at about 5 pm.  Spangler’s mother was out of town at the time visiting family.  Spangler left her daughter in the care of her sister-in-law, Sophie, and told her that she was going to meet with Dexter to talk about a late child support payment and then she was going to do work on a movie set.

A clerk at a store near Jean’s home is the last person believed to have seen her.  The clerk said that it appeared Jean was waiting for someone.  There has been no confirmed sightings of her since.

The next day Sophie filed a missing person report with the police.  Authorities checked at the studios where Jean worked and found that none of them had any work in progress with Jean, and that in fact, none were even open the evening of October 7th when she disappeared.

The police then questioned Jean’s ex-husband who said that he had not seen her in several weeks and his new wife, Lynn, said that he was with her at the time of Jean’s disappearance.

Dexter Benner, Jean Spangler's ex-husband

Dexter Benner, Jean Spangler’s ex-husband

On October 9th, two days after the disappearance, Jean’s purse was found near the Fern Dell entrance to Griffith Park in Los Angeles.  One of the straps had been torn from the purse which lead police to believe that there could have been a burglary that took place.  This was soon ruled out when Jean’s sister-in-law told them that there had been no money in Jean’s purse when she left her home that evening.

Sixty police officers and over one hundred volunteers searched the 4,107 acre park where the purse was found, but no other clues turned up.

Inside the purse there was an unfinished note found that was addressed to “Kirk” and read:  “Can’t wait any longer, Going to see Dr. Scott.  It will work best this way while mother is away,”

When Jean’s mother returned from her trip she told police that someone by the name of Kirk had picked up Jean a couple of times, but that he didn’t ever come in the house and instead stayed in the car.  The authorities searched for Kirk and questioned every doctor in Los Angeles with the last name of Scott, but none of them had a patient by the last name of Spangler or Benner, her former married name.

If was found out that Jean had been involved in an affair during her marriage to Dexter while he away serving in the military.  She called this person “Scotty”, but broke off the relationship when he beat her and threatened to kill her if she ever left.  Jean’s lawyer told police that she had not seen him since 1945.

The note found in Jean's purse.

The note found in Jean’s purse.

Many found it strange that actor Kirk Douglas called the investigators while on vacation in Palm Springs to tell them that Jean had a small part in the then unfinished movie “Young Man with a Horn” that he starred in.  He did this before the police even made the connection to him and told them that he was not the “Kirk” mentioned in the letter found in Jean’s purse.  Douglas was interviewed by the head investigator and said that Jean had just been an extra in the film and that he did not know her personally.

In another weird twist to the story, a friend of Jean’s told police that Jean had confided in her that she was three months pregnant and had talked about having an abortion, which was illegal at the time.

After talking to several people who went to the same bars and nightclubs as Jean, police learned that there was a former medical student who was known as “Doc” and who did abortions for money.  The police came up with the theory that Jean had went to him for an abortion and there were complications that she died from.  They could never find this “Doc” or anyone who would say that they had actually met him.

There were reports of Jean being spotted in Palm Springs, California with Davy Ogul who was known to be involved with gangster Mickey Cohen.  Ogul disappeared two days after Jean.  The authorities had another theory that Jean and Ogul, who was under an indictment for conspiracy, had fled to avoid prosecution.  In 1950, a customs agent in El Paso, Texas reported seeing Ogul and a woman who looked like Jean in a hotel.  A clerk at this hotel identified Jean from a photo as having stayed in the hotel around that same time.  Neither Davy Ogul or Jean Spangler’s names were on the hotel’s registration records and Jean could not be located anywhere in El Paso.

Jean's purse as it was found with the strap broken.

Jean’s purse as it was found with the strap broken.

The Los Angeles police department continued the search for several years, circulating Jean’s picture nationwide in a failed attempt to find her or any reliable information relating to her case.  No other clues have turned up since.  There were reports of people seeing her in different parts of California, Phoenix, Arizona, and Mexico City over the next couple years, but none of these sightings could be validated.  To this day she is still listed as a missing person and her case has not been closed.

Jean with her daughter, Christine.

Jean with her daughter, Christine.

Dexter Benner was once again granted custody of their daughter after Jean failed to reappear.  Benner attempted to have his new wife adopt Christine on the grounds of abandonment, but the judge would not allow it because there was no proof as to whether Jean was alive or dead.  Jean’s mother got a court order granting her visitation rights to her granddaughter, but Dexter repeatedly disregarded it.  Dexter was then ordered to serve 15 days in jail for not following the court order.  He took Christine and left the state, never returning.

There are reports that Dexter’s new wife, Lynn, was formerly Lynn Lasky, having been married to Ely Lasky who was a close colleague of Mickey Cohen.  Many believe that the sighting of her with Davy Ogul, may be in some way connected since he too was an associate of Cohen, the gangster.

Dexter Benner died on May 7, 2007 at the age of 87.  He was survived by Lynn, his wife of 63 years, and three daughters including Christine who is now going by the last name Williams.

This case leaves me with so many questions…

Did the police thoroughly investigate Dexter’s new wife, Lynn?  Could she really have been connected to a mobster?  Was there anyone else besides Lynn that could confirm where Dexter was that evening?  Could she have been covering for her husband?

Maybe Lynn was not connected at all.  Maybe there was a Dr. Scott that was involved in a fatal abortion attempt.  The police searched for a doctor by that last name, but what if Scott was actually the first name instead?  Did they look into that?

I also wonder what Christine’s life has become?  Is she still alive?  How much does she know about her mother and the disappearance that surrounds her?


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20 Responses to The Disappearance of Jean Elizabeth Spangler

  1. Tessa Jefferson says:

    Lynn is my great grandmother by marriage, this is crazy. Lynn had a son and a daughter from her former relationship with ely lasky. That were never accounted for. My grandfather, Irving Lynn lasky. Is still alive and doing very well.

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  3. randy gravitt says:

    the insolved case of Jean Spangler i was reading and knowing who is the killers are dexter benner and his friend doc from the bar.they took her some where no one would fine er or hear her at all. the baby she was carrying was dexter benner and he did not want to pay fo that child at all. back then california was open land so she could be buried some where in the hills

  4. Gaylen says:

    —I’m kind of torn on this one; usually, of course, the killer in such crimes is one who knew the victim well, and had the most to gain from her death (obviously, given the ugly custody fights—and the RECENT change of Christine’s custody, from her father to her mother–which had to enrage Benner–he appears to have had the most reason: “appears” being the key word here)…

    —-There is also the theory that Spangler was murdered by the same man who killed Elizabeth Short (the “Black Dahlia”). The time range –3 years apart– is about right for a serial killer–especially if Short’s killer was also responsible for other missing girls in the interim; Spangler bore a striking resemblance to Short; they were both “Party Girls”; both, possibly “in trouble,” and rumored to be meeting a mysterious “Doctor”….Steven Hodel, a former LAPD homicide detective, has put together a fairly convincing argument that his father–short listed as a Black Dahlia suspect–may have also killed Spangler…..Perhaps we will never know. I hope not, however, for I belong to the (perhaps romantic) school of thought that a soul whose life was violently ended can never truly rest until justice—or at least the identification of her killer–is accomplished…

  5. John S says:

    Since most of Hollywood in those days, and more so now, was connected to organized crime, I say YES, Lynn could have been involved. I have ZERO doubt Dexter knew what happened to Jean. My suspicion, with some logical connections, is Jean got knocked up by someone she shouldn’t have ‘Kirk’ and went for an abortion. Since there would have still been some sort of trail (even corrupt doctors keep notes to protect themselves) it was easier to just kill her before she got to the doctor.

  6. Robb Brush says:

    It was Kirk Douglas’ baby. Douglas and the Studio – had her wacked. This is no different than
    Natalie Wood’ death – her husband drowned her. Ole Capt Kirk – William Shatner, wacked his wife in their pool

  7. Marie says:

    I am “sensitive” and have been my entire life. I have recently looked at pics of the note Jean Spangler left in her purse above and her torn purse. I don’t know how other sensitives may or may not get “impressions” on people or objects, but for me seeing personal photos ( like the one here with her 5 yr old daughter Christine) the impressions are much stronger. I look at the pics of note and purse and Jean and Christine, so beautiful so happy, and I can just “see” like clips from a movie. I BELIVE what I see to be what really happened to this beautiful young lady. She was desperate to make it in Hollywood and become a star , like so many other young beautiful girls, who become entranced with the stardom, allure and pull like a moth to a flame, of Hollywood. She was desperate to make it and give her daughter a better life. She had fought so hard to get custody back of her little girl, and finally it happened! Jean was so hopeful for their future life together, and making it as a star would be the reward for all the turmoil and battling for custody she had been thru the last 4 previous years, with her ex-husband. I truly believe that this poor young woman’s life was stolen from her , in a violent and horrific way. The impressions I’m seeing are that a very handsome young man with sandy brownish blonde hair , with very chiseled features, and jawline and chin, was working with Jean on a movie set. My impressions are that this man is very important up and coming in the film industry. He seems to have many people catering to his needs on set getting him water coffee combing his hair between takes he wants to make sure he always looks “perfect”. This man is very vain and at the same time very insecure over himself, and his sexuality. He has a deep need to control people and situations in his life. He also had some kind of sexual abuse perpetrated upon him as a young boy or preteen age. This has caused a deep seed rage inside him and need to always be control. When he feels he is losing control of a situation or person he flies into a violent rage and hurts people, or destroys objects rooms ect. This also caused him to have a type of sexual predator nature about him. Preying on venerable women whom he comes in contact with, acting even violent durning sex, choking and biting and hitting. In his twisted mind sex, violence are his power and way to gain control, that he lost as a child victim. He presents as a very charming and friendly man, on the surface facade, everyone loves him. But underneath he is a true sick minded violent monster. I see Jean working on a movie set with this man, his first name is the name addressed on the note. The nite was written to him. I see that she was smitten with the attention he gave her , for a brief time , and wanted more of his time and attention. He is a womanizer, and she sees this is his way, “spending time and dating” many women he works with and even women who work on the crew. She wanted desperately for him to see her as the “one” for him. And felt with his help she would become a real movie star. They had been “together” several times. He took her out on ” dates” but to out of the way seedy places & bars. I see he has picked her up for “dates” but never wanting to be seen by family or meet anybody. She thinks she’s special to him but he is only using her for his sick violent fantasies. She had been pregnate as she confided in her friend. This man was the father and was enraged she had become that way. She wanted to keep this child with him and still thought he actually loved her. He saw her as an obstacle and no way good enough to be his “woman in the public eye”. This scandal he felt would ruin his reputation and hurt his acting career. They were going to meet to discuss this he wanted her to have an abortion and she didn’t want one but felt pressured to “get rid of it” as he told her. She was horrified how cruel he really was, and saw his dark violent side, and the true monster he is inside. She left that night to meet him at the store he didn’t want to be seen picking her up at her house because he already knew what was going to happen that night. She had written the note in her purse to give him the day before and was going to leave it for him at his dressing room. But then he wanted to “talk” to her that night or night after. He picked her up from a store that night, in a car that he borrowed from a friend. He told her they were going to the Dr. Scott person to have the abortion done. I feel in some way this man the “doctor” was or is connected to the Hollywood scene then and had a reputation for making problem pregnancies go away. I feel that he was or is some kind of dr …. And had something to do with Elizabeth Shorts murder. He is also a very very sick monstrous man himself. Abusive sexually and physically to women. I believe that Jean agreed to the abortion but had that night told him she had changed her mind. She was scared and couldn’t go thru with it. I see her crying and very scared in the car trying to find an opportunity to get away. I see this Kirk man and another man forcibly taking her into a large house. She is screaming and trying to get away, telling them she cannot go thru with it. The abortion never took place , I see the Kirk man getting enraged and striking her repeatedly with a heavy long object from inside the house. Some type of decoration or decor in the house within reach of him at that moment, when he became enraged. He felt she wasn’t going to let her “ruin him” and called her terrible names. It was a very loud fight screaming, fighting. Everything got out of control , after striking her repeatedly she was bleeding from the head. Her skull crushed. I see a large bed sheet tied around her body. The Kirk man calls another man who comes to the house and helps them clean up after which she is carried to another car into the trunk…. They took her to the canyons the hills there are trees and bushes, there are paths in this forest like area…. Hollywood hills canyon area…. The other man who came after the fact when Kirk called him dug a deep but short hole, under a large tree… And she’s buried. Only marker to where the grave is , is that very old looking and very large tree in this canyon area with trees and bushes. It’s the biggest tree around that area. That’s it, she was murdered because she wanted to give her baby life. The speculation of Kirk Douglas being involved somehow in her death and it being covered up by the studio and the LAPD, is all very true. The Kirk in Jeans note she had written a day or two before, is Kirk Douglas, as sure as the sun will rise , it is him, as many have suspected all these years. The investigation tried to focus on her ex-husband and his new wife and her ex’s unsavory friends. That was an intentional story and theory told by some of the Investigators of case who are friends with, and paid off by studio “fixers”. To keep Mr Douglas reputation and career as well as to keep studios name clear and out of a murder scandal . I believe many people knew then the truth and said nothing, were paid to keep quiet and given promotions in their careers. Many of them are still alive to this day and know the full REAL TRUTH, but stay silent. I personally don’t know how they can live with themselves and sleep at night or look their own daughters in the eye and kiss them goodnight. Meanwhile they know where Jeans body rests and the pain and heartache her daughter and mother, her whole family endures to this day. I truly hope that Mr.Kirk Douglas will one day confess the truth and cleanse his very soul before his life ends, and give Jeans daughter , mother and family the closure they and she deserves so they can find her resting place and finally give her a proper burial. It’s my opinion many people in Hollywood have know the truth but only stayed silent. That is just as bad if not worse. It take true courage to speak up on evil and identify it for what and who it truly is…….God Bless you Jean Elizabeth Spangler…. Rest in Peace.

    • marcel says:

      Marie, I respect this story as it seems very likely that Hollywood would try to cover their own tracts to keeping a clean reputation. Just wondering as a person that believes in these sensitivities, do you have the ability to see positive aspects of the person’s life or only when a tragedy or injustice occurs?

  8. Maria says:

    Also Kirk and his “fixers from the studio” had placed Jeans purse close by the entrance of Griffith Park and ripped the of handle of her purse to make it “appear to be a robbery” and
    Lead the police to look for her in that park area. All staged to throw off police.

    • boboli says:

      So then why didn’t the remove the note with the name “Kirk” on it? Makes no sense. This is a lot closer to home, as most murders are. A creep like Dexter, who would do whatever he could to keep a child away from her mother and grandmother would be the kind of person who could bump off his ex-wife. And of course, his new wife would lie to give him an alibi.

    • Wayne Stewart says:

      Maybe the Kirk note is a warning to any other woman to keep it to herself if she gets pregnant by a celebrity. Elizabeth Short also had her purse dumped.

  9. Cam says:

    So much theory and conjecture and so few facts.

  10. PATTERSON1 says:


  11. Pingback: Jean Spangler - Info Center - The armchair detective

  12. Pingback: The Black Dahlia Murder! A Peek At Hollywood’s Dark Underbelly - UFO Insight

  13. Jack Tripper says:

    It seems to me that this woman may have been a victim of the same person who killed Elizabeth Short. Same initials, they looked alike, same location, same era, wannabe actresses. IMHO.

  14. Kirk Douglass has been said to be a violent predator to women. He supposedly raped Natalie Wood and left her bused black and blue. I would not be surprised if he was the one who killed her either. Repasts have no conscience only self will so I don’t expect he will ever fess up. He’s 101 now, maybe his punishment is a long life to think about it. Its strange that at least two women we know was involved with him weather by choice or rape, both died.

  15. JP says:

    If he did it and was seen as the person driving the car that was reported by several people, would not they have recognized him? He was in several major movies by then and well know to the general public.

    Does anyone know what film Jean was an extra in with him so that they met? I think, by some looking about, it was a movie called, “Young Man with a Horn.” From comparing release dates of movies back then I estimate it took 6 months from beginning until a release in the theaters. Young Man with a Horn is the only film she appeared in (un-credited) with Kirk Douglas.

    That movie had a release date of Feb 9, 1950; yes a few months after her disappearance. Lets back track. Six months back puts it at August 1949. If she was 3 months pregnant in October 1949, then three months back from that is August 1949 the time when that movie was being filmed.

    Another, thing I found on the internet was a timeline as to events. It turns out she was seen on a date with Ronald Reagan (yup the very same) and I wonder if he had any thoughts about that…

    Here is the link:
    This lady did some great research.

    Maria, thank you for your psychic insights. And thank you to this site!!

  16. Mackenzie says:

    I don’t think Kirk killed her but he likely got her pregnant. Him & his son are notorious womanizers. The clues are in what she said to her friends…big money coming soon, being pregnant. She was playing games with somebody to get cash, real father or not. Apparently she lost. They took advantage of her loose morals, shady relations & huge ego. Maybe harsh but all true. Still famous for something. Her disappearance was her destiny. She practically wrote her own story by her own actions. If she really cared for her child, she would have put her child’s needs above her own selfish wants. Another sad footnote in history sponsored by tinsel town.

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