Jean Spangler dreamed of being a famous movie star.
The tall, striking brunette was making her mark in Hollywood. She got small roles in big movies and earned a dollar dancing at a club popular with A-List stars.
One afternoon in 1949 she left her five-year-old daughter with her sister-in-law, who recalled: “She came down the stairs and asked how she looked. She smiled at me, and then her little girl, Christine, asked where she was going. ‘Going to work,’ Jean answered again, but she winked at me when she said it.”
She later called to say she would be working the whole night. She never saw or heard from her again.
Hollywood still has the mystery surrounding the 26 year-old girl’s disappearance. There are many theories. Some suggest that she was murdered by the mob, had an abortion that was not performed properly or was the victim to the Black Dahlia serial killer.
When she never returned home, the police were called. The bag, which had a broken strap, was found in a park.
It contained a note she had written: “Kirk, Can’t wait any longer. Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work best this way while mother is away.”
The hunt for her killer started.
Jean, who had just appeared in a movie with Kirk Douglas, attracted attention.
He was on holiday but told police: “I didn’t remember the girl or the name until a friend recalled it was she who worked as an extra in a scene with me. I recalled that she was a tall girl in a green dress and that I talked and kidded with her a bit on the set. But I never saw her before or after that and have never been out with her.”
Who was the mysterious Dr Scott? Jean told friends that she was pregnant at three months and was looking into having an abortion.
Police said they knew of a Dr Scott “known to Miss Spangler and her coterie of nightclubbing friends” but officers could never track him down.
Her only Scott was her former lover, with whom she had an affair while her husband was in the Air Force during World War Two. He claimed that he hadn’t been to her in years.
Was the mob involved in this? Jean had recently been seen partying with mobsters “Little Davy” Ogul and Frank Niccoli, who vanished around the same time.
An informant from the mob later said that Niccoli had been strangled by a mob hit, and was buried in an envelope in a vineyard while Ogul died in the same manner.
Was it a more commonplace tragic crime? Jean had been in a bitter custody battle, but police were unable to find any evidence linking her husband to the crime.
Or was Jean another victim of one Hollywood’s most notorious killers?
Elizabeth Short, another aspirant Hollywood actress, was also involved in the Black Dahlia crime.
Her body, which had been cut at the waist, was found in a park. The corpse had been sickeningly “posed”, with her hands over her head, her elbows bent at right angles, and her legs spread apart.
One man supported this theory, claiming he knew the identity of the mysterious Black Dahlia killer – his father.
In his book Black Dahlia Avenger, former LAPD homicide detective Steve Hodel claimed his father, Dr George Hodel, was the Black Dahlia killer.
He claimed his father ran an illegal abortion ring for the rich and famous and the “Kirk” in the letter was one of his accomplices who was subsequently arrested for performing the illegal operations.
His dad had told friends he was dating an actress named Jean, her purse was found near his home, and a gas station attendant said he had seen a scared looking Jean in a car with a man looking like the doctor. She had shouted to him “have the police follow this car!” but by the time officers arrive they had vanished.
It is likely that 72 years later, we will never find out the fate of Jean Spangler. Jean Spangler was another tragic starlet who achieved more fame as a dead person than she did alive.