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Old 12-01-2005, 03:18 PM   #1
justins5256
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Default For Crystaldawn: Crystal Spencer articles

Paper: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Title: DOUBTS ABOUT 1988 DEATH HAUNT MAN - DISCREPANCIES IN CORONER'S REPORT ON GIRLFRIEND FUEL FIGHT FOR - POLICE FILES
Author: Dawn Webber Daily News Staff Writer
Date: August 23, 1992
Section: NEWS
Page: N4

Crystal Spencer's death has haunted Anton Kline for four years. She was his girlfriend.

But the Burbank Police Department won't tell him the details of its investigation into her death.Kline doesn't know whether the former topless dancer was murdered. He doesn't know whether the police found clues, no matter how subtle, that he or a private investigator could follow. He doesn't know whether the department ever will actively pursue the case again.

But he does know some official somewhere made a pretty big mistake.

The coroner's report listed Spencer's body as 6 inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than she actually was.

Was it really her body?

Yes, say the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the county District Attorney's Office. They dismissed the striking discrepancies in height and weight as a clerical error.

In August 1990, Kline asked the Burbank Police Department to open its investigation files in the death of Spencer, who was 29 when her body was found May 13, 1988, in her Burbank apartment.

But Kline's request under the California Public Records Act was denied by officials who cited a provision in the law that precludes disclosure when it would endanger successful completion of an investigation.

Undaunted, Kline took his case first to Burbank Superior Court, and then to the appellate courts, centering his argument around letters from Burbank police and city officials stating the investigation into Spencer's death had been "closed."

On Aug. 7, the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled Kline was not entitled to see the police reports.

In issuing its 17-page ruling, the court cited testimony by the police investigator that "the statement 'closed' in regard to this (Spencer) case meant at that time there was no active investigation going on," but there was a "suspended investigation."

Kline's attorney, M. Terry Kling, said Burbank officials are playing a game of semantics designed to thwart the public's right to know.

"It's a loophole and it worries me," Kling said. "They don't have to give any proof - nothing. Just have a police officer testify that it's a 'suspended' investigation.

"It disturbs me because cover-ups can occur," Kling said. "(And) I believe the upper level court system is leaning toward restricting access to police investigative files." No cause determined

The badly decomposed body of Spencer, a topless dancer, was found nude

from the waist down in her apartment at 316 N. Maple St. after neighbors complained about a foul smell.

Family and friends told police that Spencer, who had a history of alcohol and drug abuse, had been depressed about her situation as a struggling actress.

But while traces of alcohol and marijuana were found in Spencer's body, the coroner was unable to determine the cause of death due to the decomposed nature of the body.

Police investigators said they found no evidence to indicate Spencer was slain.

But Kline, 40, who says he met Spencer about a year before her death, is unconvinced Burbank police conducted a sufficiently thorough investigation. He not only wants the records to see if they missed anything, but to allow a private investigator to conduct a probe without having to retrace the work of police.

Spencer's body, since cremated, ultimately was identified via a fingerprint after an autopsy report conflicted with medical reports on her height and weight made two weeks before her death.

In the coroner's report, Spencer's body was listed as 6 inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than she actually was, prompting questions about whether the right body was examined.

But investigations by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the county District Attorney's Office ruled the body that had an autopsy conducted on it was that of Spencer and attributed the discrepancies in height and weight to a clerical error.

Kline - who is designated in court papers as representative of Spencer's mother and sister - said the family of the dead woman believes too many questions have been left unanswered.

"We believe there was a murder," Kline said. "We just want to know what occurred in that apartment and what was done by the Burbank Police Department.

"The police have turned their back on this case," he said. "We simply want the documents."

Papers used to aid case

In making his case for disclosure, Kline cited written communications

from Burbank city officials and police stating that Spencer's death is not believed to have been a homicide and the investigation is closed.

In a Sept. 1, 1988, letter to Kline from Steve Helvey, acting city manager of Burbank, Helvey stated: "The (Spencer) case is now closed and as with any other case, will not be reopened absent the discovery of new and credible evidence which warrants further investigation."

In an Aug. 31, 1989, letter to Spencer's mother, Vernadine Spencer Deen, then chief of police, Glen Bell, wrote: "Once detectives felt all credible avenues of investigation had been pursued, the case was closed and remains

closed pending any new competent evidence would (or) could materially affect the facts in this case."

And in a September 1989 press release, Burbank police Sgt. Don Goldberg stated that "a thorough and in-depth investigation . . . failed to produce any credible evidence that this incident is a homicide."

In a recent interview, Burbank police Detective Kevin Krafft, lead investigator on the Spencer case, said: "The status of the case is that it's an unsolved, suspended death investigation."

Until the case is solved, Krafft said, police cannot release any information contained in their files out of concern it may jeopardize the investigation.

"We would be in an extremely awkward position," he said, "if forced to release evidence and information that we don't want to make known to a possible suspect."

Krafft, who defended his investigation, did not say Kline was considered a suspect in Spencer's death. But he accused him of misleading investigators on occasion.

"(And) there's no doubt in my mind that he has an obsession with this," the detective said.

No solution, no release

It was after testimony from Krafft that Burbank Superior Court Judge Thomas Murphy ruled it would be improper to release the contents of the Spencer files to Kline since police had come to no conclusion in their probe of the death.

And the appellate court quoted extensively from Krafft's testimony in issuing its ruling.

David S. Grunwald, a pro bono attorney who filed a brief in the case on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, questioned the fairness of a decision whether information should be released based on testimony by a party opposed to the disclosure.

"Under the requirements (of the law), the only person who can testify about the issues - such as whether the names of confidential informants or the safety of witnesses would be jeopardized - is the actual (police) officer who is investigating the case," Grunwald said.

"It seems to me there's a built-in bias," he said. "The officer testifying is also an officer of the entity trying to prevent disclosure."

In a brief filed with the appellate court, Grunwald argued that police cannot claim an investigation might be hindered based on speculation that further evidence could be uncovered.

"To avoid disclosure," Grunwald wrote, "a law enforcement agency must be able to demonstrate that there exists a 'concrete and definite' opportunity for a continuing investigation related to case files sought.

"Burbank's main justification for secrecy," he stated, "is that disclosure could harm an investigation that they alternately describe as 'closed' and/or indefinitely 'suspended.' "

Ramifications feared

Juli Scott, chief assistant city attorney for Burbank, said the Public Records Act was never designed to open files of pending police investigations.

"The ramifications to the position they've tried to assert here would be absolutely horrible for all law enforcement," Scott said. "It's their job to investigate. Not Anton Kline's job."

Scott pointed to the possibility that Kline may have been the last person to see Spencer alive, saying: "If it was Charles Manson, would you give it to him?"

And even if police are stymied in a case, Scott said, "It doesn't mean that they aren't going to go on and pursue it."

Scott criticized Kling for bringing her "ridiculous" case to the appellate court, adding: "There's been countless hours that have been spent by city staff - I guess you'd call it taxpayer money."

But Kline does not plan to give up. He hopes to file a petition with the state Supreme Court after finding an attorney to step in for Kling, who agreed to handle the case free to the appellate level only.

Grunwald and Kling said the high court may agree to hear the issue.

"The congressional intent (of the Public Records Act) specifically says that access to public records is a fundamental right . . . so that citizens can watchdog what our governments are doing," Grunwald said.

"It's just great anguish and suffering," Kline said of his experience. ''Victims are re-victimized by an indifferent system.

"We simply want lawful disclosure," he said.

Author: Dawn Webber Daily News Staff Writer
Section: NEWS
Page: N4

Copyright (c) 1992 Daily News of Los Angeles

****************************************************

Paper: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Title: DEPUTY DA JOINS PANEL OVERSEEING BURBANK POLICE
Author: Tori Richards Daily News Staff Writer
Date: March 30, 1992
Section: News
Page: N3

Robert Cohen has spent most of his career working with law enforcement, but now he has joined a watchdog organization that oversees the Burbank Police Department.

This month, Cohen became the first deputy district attorney to be appointed to the Burbank Police Commission, a volunteer group that monitors police activity. Unlike the Los Angeles Police Commission, the group does not make policies, but rather provides advice to the City Council."I'm not sure what they do or what's needed, but I hope to be of some help," said Cohen, 52. "I've been around for a while, and I hope my experience will add to what the commission needs and wants."

Cohen, who is the legal adviser for the grand jury, said he heard about a vacancy on the five-member panel and applied.

He brings 20 years of experience to the job - a career that has been sprinkled with high-profile cases and several television appearances.

Cohen tried one of his biggest cases in 1990. He won the conviction of Daniel Montecalvo on charges that he murdered his wife to collect her $700,000 life insurance policy.

Carol Montecalvo was shot to death in 1988 in what her husband claims was a surprise attack by a burglar. Daniel Montecalvo was shot in the back with a different caliber handgun, but Cohen claims that the wound was self-inflicted.

It took police nearly two years to gather enough evidence for trial - namely a hollowed-out book the size of a gun found in a storage locker belonging to Montecalvo, court records showed.

No gun was ever found and the case was circumstantial.

Cohen also looked at the 1988 death of Crystal Spencer, a dancer who was found dead in her Burbank apartment. The coroner was unable to find a cause of death, and Cohen agreed with police that there wasn't any evidence to show that a crime had been committed.

However, Spencer's boyfriend claimed that she might have been murdered.

These two cases, which occurred while Cohen was assistant head deputy of the Pasadena office, led to his appearances on Unsolved Mysteries, Hard Copy and Inside Edition.

He also has served as head of offices in Glendale and Sylmar Juvenile Hall.

"I try not to get personally involved in the sense that I let the evidence speak for itself," he said. "We don't make the evidence, we just

put it on. If it convinces someone that our way is correct, we win. Obviously, I like to win."

Burbank police Chief David Newsham said Cohen will be a welcome addition to the commission, which was formed in the '40s to investigate suspected corruption in the Burbank Police Department. Since then, however, there hasn't been any scandal plaguing the department, he said.

"The first time I met Bob Cohen, he was in charge of the Glendale DA's office," Newsham said. "I found him to be a strong supporter of law enforcement and have a keen legal mind."

The commission meets four times a year and discusses crime trends and police activity. Minutes are taken and given to the City Council. Other members of the commission include a real estate dealer, a retired business executive and a police captain.

"We have an excellent Police Department that is doing an excellent job," said commission chairman Shirley Nelson. "We haven't really gotten any complaints about the department. It's mainly calls about gang activity and what's being done with it."

Author: Tori Richards Daily News Staff Writer
Section: News
Page: N3

Copyright (c) 1992 Daily News of Los Angeles

****************************************************

Paper: Tulsa World
Title: Death of Topless Dancer Bizarre Mystery
Author: David Ferrell
Date: March 19, 1992
Section: ZONED
Page: Z2

BURBANK, Calif. - The death of Crystal Spencer has evolved into a bizarre mystery - a tangled web of rumors and botched evidence, lawsuits and personal obsession.

Nearly four years ago, the 29-year-old topless dancer was found dead in her disheveled apartment here. She was half-nude, her body decomposed beyond recognition. Her telephone was off the hook.Whether she was murdered, or merely died of a sudden illness, is a lingering question. Authorities labeled the cause of death "undetermined," leaving angry, tormented loved ones to cling to theories .

The case has taken on a "Twilight Zone" quality, as if fate intended some sleight of hand. On the night of her

death, the couple downstairs heard what they later described as muffled shrieks and screams . But they never called police.

Glaring discrepancies marred the autopsy. Spencer, listed in one medical document as 5-foot-1, 107 pounds, was charted by the Los Angeles County coroner's office at 5-foot-7,

140. Her identity was established only by fingerprinting, after the fingertips had been surgically cut from the body. No X-rays or dental records were compared before cremation.

Two lawsuits are pending, one brought by Spencer's mother against the coroner's office charging that "the body of

Crystal Spencer was disposed of with other John and Jane

Does prior to autopsy," the other by boyfriend Anton Kline against Burbank police, seeking access to the department's files. Kline, 41, bitterly assails authorities who have

attributed the exaggerated autopsy measurements to clerical error. He insists that pathologists examined the wrong body.

"Believe me, I'd love nothing more than to have somebody make a ruling as to the cause of death on this," said Burbank Detective Kevin T. Krafft, who says he has spent more hours on the Spencer case than on any other in 19 years of law

enforcement.

Of the roughly 18,000 deaths investigated each year in Los Angeles, about 40 or 50 fall into that same dark void, said coroner's spokesman Bob Dambacher.

"We do a lot of things, and sometimes we just cannot tell why somebody died," he said.

In and out at all hours, Spencer seemed to lead a "double life" devoted to dreams of acting and nights spent dancing topless, Kline said. Her acting credits were modest - two television commercials. Yet, like so many other young women, she longed for a chance at stardom and was enrolled in drama classes and a comedy workshop, Kline said.

To support herself, Spencer danced at the Wild Goose, a topless club near Los Angeles International Airport, performing two, three, even four nights a week.

Just before her death, Spencer was preparing for three months' work as a nightclub "hostess girl" in Japan, a trip she

feared, according to a former waitress friend. Yet she was determined to go.

"I feel stuck. I'm going to get unstuck!" Spencer wrote in a journal entry. "God guide me. ... Get me out of the

Wild Goose ... by the end of May."

Kline last saw her, he said, on Wednesday, May 4.

Spencer had what Kline later described as a cold. He brought her milk, eggs and orange juice. They snapped photographs of each other. And Spencer talked about the Japan trip.

Just a few nights earlier, she and her mother, Vernadine, who was in town for a visit, had driven to Hollywood for

a planning meeting.

"When I left that apartment, around midnight ... she was active, running around the apartment, making coffee," Kline said.

A night later, Spencer called her sister, Julie, and had a discussion that would become central to the investigation. Spencer talked of having the flu and asked for the phone

number for their mother. Vernadine, who was renting temporary quarters from a family in Los Angeles, had left the number with Julie for use in an emergency - but only in an emergency.

Julie, in an interview, said she pretended not to have the number, mindful of her mother's wishes; her mother was afraid of disturbing her hosts. "Crystal would get on that phone and just ring it off the hook," Julie said.

Spencer refused to believe her sister's claim and talked of being "really sick - (saying) she could hardly make

it to the bathroom," Julie recalled. "I think Crystal

.. (was) hoping I would feel sorry for her and give her

Mom's number."

The phone call was the last conversation between Spencer and anyone in her family. Very late that night, or in the wee hours of the next night, noises were heard from the

apartment. One neighbor told police that the sounds had

started during the day, becoming worse as the night went

on - sounds "like (someone) really violently ill," according to Krafft. But the detective, citing confidentiality laws, declined to identify the neighbor or to release the related police reports.

A floor down, Jet Taylor was awakened by his soon-to-be wife - Susan Akin, a former Miss America - who heard the

noises at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. Together, they listened to "moaning ... but high-pitched ... a muffled shrieking," Taylor said in an interview. "At first, I thought it was a sexual thing going on, an `S&M' (sadomasochism) thing."

That impression quickly changed. Akin, then 23, a newcomer to Los Angeles pursuing her own screen ambitions, said they listened nearly an hour. The cries were "very rhythmic

. at intervals - boom, boom, boom," Akin remembered. "All I could think about was somebody taking a cigarette butt

to somebody and burning them. My gut reaction was that someone was being tortured."

Still, they decided against calling police. In the morning, Taylor mentioned the sounds to the apartment manager, who also refused to get involved.

Kline, meanwhile, said he tried to call Spencer over the weekend.

On Monday, he tried again. Then, "I called the Goose, where she worked, and I said to the doorman: `Where's Crystal

Spencer? I'm a friend of hers.' And he said to me: `Crystal has left for Japan.' "

Kline, a film company researcher and writer who had dated Spencer for about a year, recalled being "disturbed and

angry about that ... confused" that she would leave without a goodbye. He accepted it as fact, however.

The body was discovered about a week later - on Friday, the 13th - after neighbors complained of odors.

Coroner's investigator Debrah Kitchings said the body

was entangled in Spencer's telephone cord, perhaps a sign of physical struggle. Or maybe Spencer had failed in an

attempt to summon help, to call for an ambulance. With the body so decayed, not even Spencer's race was certain.

Kitchings, who has since retired, still suspects a "50-50" possibility of foul play, based on a "sixth sense" about

the case.

No emergency calls were ever recorded; if Spencer tried to phone for help, she apparently failed.

The body was transported to the coroner's office. In its unidentifiable state, it was logged in as "Jane Doe No.

28," whereupon it was weighed, measured, affixed with "toe tags" for identification and rolled on a gurney into a

refrigerated storage area that typically houses 200-300

bodies at a time, said coroner's spokesman Dambacher.

The autopsy was performed three days later. Fingertips too deteriorated for normal printing were cut off and sent to a laboratory, Dambacher said. A pathologist then charted

the few remaining observable characteristics of a black-haired Caucasian woman whose eye color was no longer discernible.

The examination turned up no signs of trauma, no traces of drugs, aspirin or aspirin compounds, no bullet or knife wounds, no fractures, no evidence of rape or sexual attack. The cause of death: "Undetermined."

According to Kline, family members had not received the report - and were led by police to believe that Spencer

died of illness - when the body was cremated. In tribute

to Spencer's dreams of stardom, the ashes were scattered

in a ceremony beneath the Hollywood sign.

In September, Kline obtained the autopsy report. It made no mention of Spencer's previously broken ankle. There was no comparison of dental records. Neither did the autopsy

show traces of the aspirin she had been taking. And on top of it all, the height and weight were wrong.

Kline reached a quick conclusion: The body was not Spencer's. "She hadn't been ID'd yet," he reasoned. "She was just

a toe tag. You switch a toe tag and a body disappears."

To explore the chances of a mix-up with bodies, investigators said they reviewed the logs of "Jane Does" in a search

for other unidentified females who were being processed

with Spencer. Only two such bodies remained unaccounted

for. In neither case, they said, were the fingertips removed for printing.

All in all, the investigators concluded, the problem appeared to boil down to sloppiness - a small moment of bungling

that had cast a giant shadow of fear and suspicion. Today, Spencer's family holds to the wrong-body theory.

Kline's crusade has especially rankled authorities because of his high-profile approach. He has trumpeted the wrong-body question on TV programs such as "A Current Affair," "Hard Copy" and "Unsolved Mysteries." Not only that, but he

has floated a long list of unproven theories - some of which, on instruction from his attorney, he no longer discusses.

One such hypothesis concerned a flamboyant, 300-pound man named Horace Joseph "Mac" McKenna, a onetime California

Highway Patrol officer who was believed to maintain secret ownership of topless bars.

According to rumor, McKenna used some of the many women he knew to entertain friends in law enforcement. In addition to patronizing the Wild Goose, McKenna operated a clandestine gambling casino out of a warehouse in nearby Inglewood,

where Spencer spent time, according to a former waitress

friend of Spencer's who, for fear of reprisals, asked not to be identified.

McKenna died violently less than 10 months after Spencer's death. He was ambushed in a hail of gunfire outside his

Los Angeles home less than 24 hours after a search warrant was made public disclosing a police investigation of his

empire.

After McKenna's death, Kline learned that the FBI had been keeping a file on Spencer. The agency made him wait seven months after he requested access to the file and then told him that 21 pages of documents were being withheld. Kline suspected that those records would disclose that Spencer

had been providing information on McKenna. And in retaliation, Kline speculated, McKenna may have had her killed.

Although the club's records show that she did not sign in that night, a former waitress friend said she recalls Spencer being there. Looking back through the prism of nearly four years, the club's security officer, J.D. Leffler, said he also remembers Spencer at work.

Leffler, who said he walked Spencer to her car, postulated that she is alive in Japan, a white slave. The body in the apartment, he thinks, was planted, or was the body of a

friend who may have tried to keep her from going.

"There's a lot of girls who go to Japan," Leffler said, "and don't come back."

Author: David Ferrell
Section: ZONED
Page: Z2

Copyright 1992 Tulsa World. World Publishing Co.

****************************************************

Paper: Los Angeles Times
Title: Mysterious Death
Date: March 5, 1992
Section: Metro
Page: B-6

I am writing concerning the Feb. 24 article, "Murder or Natural Causes?" about the mysterious death of Crystal Spencer.

In the article, Burbank Police Department Detective Kevin Krafft (in charge of the investigation) states that I have accused him of " . . . belonging to Japanese organized crime, that I'm somehow associated with Japanese organized crime."

This statement is totally false. I have never, never accused him or alleged this. Thus I find Krafft's statement totally inexplicable.ANTON KLINE

Playa del Rey

Section: Metro
Page: B-6

Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times 1992

****************************************************

Paper: Los Angeles Times
Title: COLUMN ONE - Murder or Natural Causes? - Four years after Crystal Spencer's death, her case remains a mystery. Following the trail leads to rumors, theories and mishandled evidence.
Author: DAVID FERRELL
Date: February 24, 1992
Section: Main News
Page: A-1

The death of Crystal Spencer has evolved into a bizarre mystery--a tangled web of rumors and botched evidence, lawsuits and personal obsession.

Nearly four years ago, the 29-year-old topless dancer was found dead in her disheveled Burbank apartment. She was half-nude, her body decomposed beyond recognition. Her telephone was off the hook.

Whether she was murdered, or merely died of a sudden illness, is a lingering question. Authorities labeled the cause of death "undetermined," leaving angry, tormented loved ones to cling to theories: Spencer was killed by the Japanese mafia. Spencer was an FBI informant murdered by strip-club hoodlums. Spencer was strangled by a ruthless suitor.The case has taken on a "Twilight Zone" quality, as if fate intended some sleight of hand. On the night of her death, the couple downstairs heard what they later described as muffled shrieks and screams, the apparent cries of someone "being tortured." But they never called police.

Glaring discrepancies marred the autopsy. Spencer--listed in one medical document as 5-foot-1, 107 pounds--was charted by the Los Angeles County coroner's office at 5-foot-7, 140. Her identity was established only by fingerprinting, after the fingertips had been surgically cut from the body. No X-rays or dental records were compared before cremation.

Two lawsuits are pending--one brought by Spencer's mother against the coroner's office, the other by boyfriend Anton Kline against Burbank police, seeking access to the department's files. Kline, 41, bitterly assails authorities who have attributed the exaggerated autopsy measurements to clerical error. He insists that pathologists examined the wrong body.

Almost single-handedly, Kline has kept the case alive--appearing on television, speaking before Los Angeles County supervisors, yelling, questioning, hatching theories, writing hundreds of outraged letters, all in a zealous crusade for answers. Yet those answers may never come. For the bottom line in a saga of shadowy clues and missing pieces is one apparent truth: In an upscale suburban neighborhood, at a time of ever-advancing techniques in forensic science, Spencer became that rare case of someone who slipped through the cracks, who died leaving only a trail of question marks.

"Believe me, I'd love nothing more than to have somebody make a ruling as to the cause of death on this," said Burbank Detective Kevin T. Krafft, who says he has spent more hours on the Spencer case than on any other in 19 years of law enforcement. "In this instance, the coroner's office was not able . . . to say that it was, or was not, a homicide. We don't know why she died."

Of the roughly 18,000 deaths investigated each year in Los Angeles, about 40 or 50 fall into that same dark void, said coroner's spokesman Bob Dambacher. A number are people discovered in the desert, or on remote roadsides, dead for weeks. "We do autopsies and work-ups of blood and urine," Dambacher said. "We do a lot of things, and sometimes we just cannot tell why somebody died."

Spencer's case is especially unsettling--a grim commentary on a hard-edged society in which screams go unheeded; a pointed example of how government bureaucracies sometimes fail, leaving a legacy of anguish and heartbreak.

The trail of clues is complicated by the uneven circumstances of Spencer's life in May, 1988, the time of her death. A stubborn, outgoing woman, she was given to moments of great hyperbole and was deft at orchestrating job opportunities and relationships, Kline said. She talked incessantly on the phone, left it off the hook regularly and lived in moderate disorder, he said. Frequently, she borrowed money from friends, yet she kept caches of five-, 10- and 20-dollar bills stuffed in her couc h and in tissue boxes.

In and out at all hours, Spencer seemed to lead a "double life" devoted to dreams of acting and nights spent dancing topless, Kline said. Her acting credits were modest--two television commercials. Yet, like so many other young women, she longed for a chance at stardom and was enrolled in drama classes and a comedy workshop, Kline said.

To support herself, Spencer danced at the Wild Goose, a topless club near Los Angeles International Airport, performing two, three, even four nights a week. Her wages--about $40 a night--were nominal compared to the $150-a-night, or more, that she made in tips.

Just before her death, Spencer was preparing for three months' work as a nightclub "hostess girl" in Japan, a trip she feared, according to a former waitress friend. Yet she was determined to go.

"I feel stuck. I'm going to get unstuck!" Spencer wrote in a journal entry. "God guide me. . . . Get me out of the Wild Goose . . . by the end

of May."

Kline last saw her, he said, on Wednesday, May 4.

Spencer had what Kline later described as a cold. He brought her milk, eggs and orange juice. They snapped photographs of each other. And Spencer talked about the Japan trip. Just a few nights earlier, she and her mother, Vernadine, who was in town for a visit, had driven to Hollywood for a planning meeting.

"When I left that apartment, around midnight . . . she was active, running around the apartment, making coffee," Kline said.

A night later, Spencer called her sister, Julie, and had a discussion that would become central to the investigation. Spencer talked of having the flu and asked for the phone number for their mother. Vernadine, who was renting temporary quarters from a family in Los Angeles, had left the number with Julie for use in an emergency--but only in an emergency.

Julie, in an interview, said she pretended not to have the number, mindful of her mother's wishes; her mother was afraid of disturbing her hosts. "Crystal would get on that phone and just ring it off the hook," Julie said.

Spencer refused to believe her sister's claim and talked of being "really sick--(saying) she could hardly make it to the bathroom," Julie recalled. "I think Crystal . . . (was) hoping I would feel sorry for her and give her Mom's number."

Julie, who denied any bad blood between the siblings, said she still does not believe Spencer was seriously ill: Crystal was being Crystal, exaggerating.

The phone call was the last conversation between Spencer and anyone in her family. Very late that night, or in the wee hours of the next night, noises were heard from the apartment. One neighbor told police that the sounds had started during the day, becoming worse as the night went on--sounds "like (someone) really violently ill," according to Krafft. But the detective, citing confidentiality laws, declined to identify the neighbor or to release the related police reports.

A floor down, Jet Taylor was awakened by his soon-to-be wife--Susan Akin, a former Miss America--who heard the noises at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. Together, they listened to "moaning . . . but high-pitched . . . a muffled shrieking," Taylor said in an interview. "At first, I thought it was a sexual thing going on, an 'S & M' (sadomasochism) thing."

That impression quickly changed. Akin, then 23, a newcomer to Los Angeles pursuing her own screen ambitions, said they listened nearly an hour. The cries were "very rhythmic . . . at intervals--boom, boom, boom," Akin remembered. "All I could think about was somebody taking a cigarette butt to somebody and burning them. My gut reaction was that someone was being tortured."

They debated whether to pick up the phone. "We were always told: 'In California, you just don't get involved in domestic disputes,' " said Akin, a native of a small Mississippi town, who imagined that a boyfriend was involved. The decision not to summon police or an ambulance has always haunted her, she added. "I get so mad at myself--and so upset."

In the morning, Taylor mentioned the sounds to the apartment manager, who also refused to get involved.

Kline, meanwhile, said he tried to call Spencer over the weekend. "I called and called and the line was busy," he said. Finally, the operator told him the phone was off the hook. On Monday, he tried again. Then, "I called the Goose, where she worked, and I said to the doorman: 'Where's Crystal Spencer? I'm a friend of hers.' And he said to me: 'Crystal has left for Japan.' "

Kline, a film company researcher and writer who had dated Spencer for about a year, recalled being "disturbed and angry about that . . . confused" that she would leave without a goodby. He accepted it as fact, however.

The body was discovered about a week later--on Friday, the 13th--after neighbors complained of odors. The deteriorated figure was lying prone on the floor near the couch, dressed only in a red shirt. A police officer at the scene reported suspicion of homicide and "probable sexual assault." Coroner's investigator Debrah Kitchings noticed unusual disarray. Belongings scattered throughout the apartment suggested ransacking--or, possibly, a very disorganized lifestyle.

The body, Kitchings said, was entangled in Spencer's telephone cord, perhaps a sign of physical struggle. Or maybe Spencer had failed in an attempt to summon help, to call for an ambulance. With the body so decayed, not even Spencer's race was certain.

Kitchings, who has since retired, still suspects a "50-50" possibility of foul play, based on a "sixth sense" about the case. "I do think there is a good possibility that she was murdered," the former investigator said.

Krafft, who at the time handled nearly all death investigations in Burbank, never saw the apartment; he happened to be away that day. He suspects that the death resulted, at least in part, from illness.

"I'm not saying that is the cause of death," Krafft said. "It would just seem logical to me that if somebody is complaining they're so sick they can't even get up to go to the bathroom to vomit--or something along those lines--and a short time later they die, you would certainly think, 'Gee, what's the connection between those two things?' "

No emergency calls were ever recorded; if Spencer tried to phone for help, she apparently failed.

Kitchings immediately began, as per standard coroner's office procedure, to track down family members to gather information. Spencer, she learned, had a history of alcoholism and drug use and previously had threatened suicide. In fact, Spencer's mother--who now declines to be interviewed about the case--characterized her as an "unstable personality," according to the investigator's first report.

The peculiarities of the case were only beginning. The body, wrapped in plastic, was transported to the coroner's office. In its unidentifiable state, it was logged in as "Jane Doe 28," whereupon it was weighed, measured, affixed with "toe tags" for identification and rolled on a gurney into a refrigerated storage area that typically houses 200 or 300 bodies at a time, said coroner's spokesman Dambacher.

The autopsy was performed three days later. Fingertips too deteriorated for normal printing were cut off and sent to a laboratory, Dambacher said. A pathologist then charted the few remaining observable characteristics of a black-haired Caucasian woman whose eye color was no longer discernible.

The examination turned up no signs of trauma, no traces of drugs, aspirin or aspirin compounds, no bullet or knife wounds, no fractures, no evidence of rape or sexual attack. The cause of death: "Undetermined."

According to Kline, family members had not received the report--and were led by police to believe that Spencer died of illness--when the body was cremated. In tribute to Spencer's dreams of stardom, the ashes were scattered in a ceremony beneath the Hollywood sign.

By then, the police, and then family members, had combed through the disheveled apartment. The family's search began to raise questions about the quality of the police investigation. Spencer's camera was still there. Kline got the film developed. "The first eight pictures, in numerical sequence on the negatives, are Crystal and I," he said, alluding to the photos taken on their last night together.

The ninth picture, however, was alarming: "A gentleman in his 40s with a mustache and T-shirt, and he's sitting behind her table with a smile on his face. I had no idea who he was."

Kline said he managed on his own to obtain Spencer's phone records. By calling numbers, he was then able to reach the man in the photo, whose name he provided to police. The man was interviewed and dismissed as a suspect.

Although Kline has also come to believe in the man's innocence, he lambastes police for not even confiscating the camera in the first place. "What type of thorough, in-depth investigation do you have when (police) leave the damn camera?"

Krafft admitted that the police investigation was less than perfect. "We're human," he said. "We're going to make mistakes." But police had no reason to believe the camera might be important, he added, and the evidence obtained from it solved nothing anyway. Burbank police pursued the case for only a few months. By summer, it was considered a closed matter, a death by probable natural causes.

In September, Kline obtained the autopsy report. It made no mention of Spencer's previously broken ankle. There was no comparison of dental records. Neither did the autopsy show traces of the aspirin she had been taking. And on top of it all, the height and weight were wrong.

Kline reached a quick conclusion: The body was not Spencer's. "She hadn't been ID'd yet," he reasoned. "She was just a toe tag. You switch a toe tag and a body disappears."

Unappeased by the denials of the coroner's office, Kline voiced his suspicions at a meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which ordered a Sheriff's Department investigation. That review offered explanations for the autopsy errors that, according to investigators, ruled out Kline's wrong-body theory.

Body weights can be miscalculated by 50 pounds or more when workers fail to account for the weight of movable gurneys, the investigators reported. Mismeasurements of height occur when a body is bent or the toes are pointed. Students performing much of the work "just guess," complained Kitchings, the retired coroner's investigator. "Nobody pays attention."

To explore the chances of a mix-up with bodies, investigators said they reviewed the logs of "Jane Does" in a search for other unidentified females who were being processed with Spencer. Only two such bodies remained unaccounted for. In neither case, they said, were the fingertips removed for printing.

All in all, the investigators concluded, the problem appeared to boil down to sloppiness--a small moment of bungling that had cast a giant shadow of fear and suspicion. Even today, Spencer's family holds to the wrong-body theory. In December, her mother filed suit seeking unspecified damages from the coroner's office, charging that "the body of Crystal Spencer was disposed of with other John and Jane Does prior to autopsy," said family attorney Terry Kling. That suit is pending.

Kline's crusade has especially rankled authorities because of his high-profile approach. He has trumpeted the wrong-body question on TV programs such as "A Current Affair," "Hard Copy" and "Unsolved Mysteries." Not only that, but he has floated a long list of unproven theories--some of which, on instruction from his attorney, he no longer discusses.

One such hypothesis concerned a flamboyant, 300-pound man named Horace Joseph (Mac) McKenna, a onetime California Highway Patrol officer who was believed to maintain secret ownership of topless bars.

According to rumor, McKenna used some of the many women he knew to entertain friends in law enforcement. In addition to patronizing the Wild Goose, McKenna operated a clandestine gambling casino out of a warehouse in Inglewood, where Spencer spent time, according to a former waitress friend of Spencer's who, for fear of reprisals, asked not to be identified.

McKenna died violently less than 10 months after Spencer's death. He was ambushed in a hail of gunfire outside his Brea home less than 24 hours after a search warrant was made public disclosing a police investigation of his empire.

After McKenna's death, Kline learned that the FBI had been keeping a file on Spencer. The agency made him wait seven months after he requested access to the file and then told him that 21 pages of documents were being withheld. Kline suspected that those records would reveal that Spencer had been providing information on McKenna. And in retaliation, Kline speculated, McKenna may have had her killed.

Kline's speculation did not stop there.

"He's alleged, in some instances, that I've covered up a homicide," Krafft, the detective, said of Kline, decrying what he called an unending series of far-fetched "what-if" scenarios. "He's (also) alleged that I belong to Japanese organized crime, that I'm somehow associated with Japanese organized crime. It goes on and on. It's ridiculous," Krafft said.

Still, the swirl of fact and rumor, testimony and hearsay, dogs the case. Even a fact so basic as whether she worked the night of her death is mired in questions and contradictions. If she did dance at the Wild Goose, the theory goes, she could not have been sick enough to die a few hours later, and was probably murdered.

Although the club's records show that she did not sign in that night, a former waitress friend said she recalls Spencer being there. Looking back through the prism of nearly four years, the club's security officer, J. D. Leffler, said he also remembers Spencer at work.

Leffler, who said he walked Spencer to her car, postulated that she is alive in Japan, a white slave. The body in the apartment, he thinks, was planted, or was the body of a friend who may have tried to keep her from going.

"There's a lot of girls who go to Japan," Leffler said, "and don't come back."

If there was a crime, Krafft said, even Kline would have to be regarded with suspicion because he was one of the last to see her and has shown enormous interest in the case. But, as yet, there is no crime, just a case in limbo.

"I know of actual homicide cases where . . . from five to 20 years later somebody will call the police and say something . . . and it breaks the thing wide open," the detective said. "And that could happen on this."

Or it might not. "It also could be that this case is never going to be solved, and nobody's ever going to know."

Author: DAVID FERRELL
Section: Main News
Page: A-1

Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times 1992

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Paper: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Title: POLICE BACKED IN PROBE - DEATH-CASE RECORDS CAN BE WITHHELD
Author: Russell Rian Daily News Staff Writer
Date: February 20, 1991
Section: NEWS
Page: N3

Police can withhold records of their investigation into the death of a Burbank woman two years ago because turning over documents to her relatives and friends could thwart future inquiries in the case, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Burbank Superior Court Judge Thomas Murphy ruled that since police came to no conclusion in their probe of the death of Crystal Spencer, it would be wrong to release videotapes of the crime scene and other evidence to her former boyfriend, said Juli Scott, chief assistant city attorney."He felt there was still an investigation. It was inactive, but not solved or resolved," Scott said. State law, she said, allows investigative records to be withheld if it "would endanger the successful completion of the investigation or a related investigation."

Spencer's mother, Vernadine Spencer Deen, filed a lawsuit last September seeking the documents. Spencer's former boyfriend, Anton Kline, later took over as plaintiff at Deen's request, said Terry Kling, Kline's attorney.

"It was very disappointing," Kline said Tuesday. "We don't want to harass any witnesses or invade anyone's privacy. We just want to know what happened."

Kline said he wanted the records and lists of witnesses to see if detectives missed anything. Using the records would prevent a private investigator from retracing the work of police officers, he said.

Police said investigators found no evidence that Spencer had been killed. Traces of alcohol and marijuana were found in her body, officials said.

But Kline said he was concerned that Spencer, 29, a former topless dancer, might have been murdered. He claimed witnesses told police they heard screams several days before Spencer's decomposed body was found in her 316 N. Maple St. apartment May 13, 1988.

The coroner could not determine a cause of death, but the body was identified through fingerprints, officials said. However, the autopsy report conflicted with earlier medical reports about her height and weight, causing her friends to question whether the coroner had examined the right body.

But investigations by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the county District Attorney's Office ruled the body autopsied was that of Spencer and that a clerical error had been made about the height and weight, Scott said.

Author: Russell Rian Daily News Staff Writer
Section: NEWS
Page: N3

Copyright (c) 1991 Daily News of Los Angeles

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Paper: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Title: RECORDS SOUGHT IN WOMAN'S DEATH - BOYFRIEND PRESSES COURT FOR ACCESS TO POLICE REPORTS IN 2-YEAR-OLD - UNSOLVED CASE
Author: Dan Boyle Daily News Staff Writer
Date: February 1, 1991
Section: News
Page: N3

The former boyfriend of a woman found dead two years ago asked a judge Thursday to force Burbank police officials to disclose details of their investigation of the case.

Anton Kline told Burbank Superior Court Judge Thomas Murphy that the friends and family of Crystal Spencer need access to police records to find out how she died."We're trying to determine what happened to Crystal Spencer," Kline said. "We don't want to spin our wheels. We simply want the ability to examine records."

But Burbank police and city officials argued that their inquiry into Spencer's death, though suspended, could be reopened if new evidence is found. Disclosing details of their probe now could endanger any future attempt to investigate the incident, officials said.

Murphy made no ruling Thursday. He said he would issue a decision after reviewing documents presented by M. Terry Kling, Kline's lawyer, and Burbank Chief Assistant City Attorney Juli Scott.

Police officers found Spencer's body May 13, 1988, in her Burbank apartment, But decomposition prevented the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office

from establishing a cause of death.

Investigators found no evidence that Spencer had been killed, said Burbank police Sgt. Don Goldberg.

"There are certainly questions of what caused her death, but there's no evidence to believe she died at the hands of another," Goldberg said. Kling admitted earlier that Spencer, who worked as an exotic dancer, had a history of drug use.

But Kline said he suspects that Spencer was murdered because a neighbor had reported hearing someone screaming, gagging and choking in the apartment a week before the body was discovered.

Vernadine Spencer Deen, Spencer's mother, filed a lawsuit last September seeking access to the records. Kline took over as plaintiff in the lawsuit at Deen's request, Kling said.

Deen sought the change because she lives out of state, Kling said.

State law allows the police to refuse to release records if their disclosure could endanger an investigation.

"The status of the case is it is an unsolved, suspended death investigation," Goldberg said. "If anyone comes forward with credible evidence, we can then investigate it thoroughly."

But Kling said letters from former Burbank Police Chief Glen Bell and assistant city manager Steve Helvey stated the case has been closed.

"As soon as the lawsuit was filed, suddenly this investigation that was

closed is no longer closed," Kline said.

Helvey said Thursday he remembers sending a letter to Kline, but he could not remember exactly what he said.

"I think I told him the police had done their investigation."

Author: Dan Boyle Daily News Staff Writer
Section: News
Page: N3

Copyright (c) 1991 Daily News of Los Angeles

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Paper: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Title: MOTHER SUES FOR RECORDS OF WOMAN'S DEATH
Author: Terry Spencer Daily News Staff Writer
Date: September 20, 1990
Section: News
Page: N3

The mother of a Burbank woman found dead in her apartment has filed suit against the Burbank Police Department to obtain records of the investigation into her daughter's death, according to court documents.

In the suit, filed in Burbank Superior Court, Vernadine Spencer Deen claims police have refused to let her see documents related to the death of Crystal L. Spencer, 29."All this is is a mother who wants to know how her daughter died," said M. Terry Kling, an attorney representing the woman.

A Burbank police spokesman said they have not received the suit and could not comment.

Kling said he needs access to the records to determine whether further investigation of the woman's death is warranted.

"Mrs. Deen wants me to investigate the cause of her daughter's death, and she is willing to accept my determination - murder, accidental, suicide or natural," Kling said. "But I don't want to spin my wheels if the Police Department has already done a thorough investigation. I'm even willing to go down there and look at the file with an officer present so they can be sure I won't take anything. I don't understand why they won't agree."

Kling admitted that Spencer, who worked as an exotic dancer, had a history of drug use before she was found dead in her North Maple Avenue apartment May 13, 1988.

The woman had been dead several days when her body was found. An autopsy was unable to determine a cause of death, officials said.

According to Police Department letters mailed to Deen and filed with the suit, the department investigated the death but found no evidence the woman had been murdered.

"But one of her neighbors said he heard screams coming from her apartment at 2 a.m. several days before the body was found," Kling said. ''That doesn't mean anything was wrong. Maybe she had a horror movie on the TV. But it makes one think."

At the request of Spencer's family, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors ordered an investigation of the autopsy, because the coroner's report lists the body as six inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than Spencer actually was.

"And as a consequence of a very serious leg break, there were pins and plates in her leg," Kling said. "The autopsy report does not mention the pins or the plates." After the autopsy, the body was cremated.

But sheriff's investigators concluded that the autopsied body was Spencer, basing their determination on a fingerprint that was taken during the autopsy.

Coroner's officials blamed the height and weight discrepancies on a clerical error.

Author: Terry Spencer Daily News Staff Writer
Section: News
Page: N3

Copyright (c) 1990 Daily News of Los Angeles

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Paper: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Title: PROBE FINDS CORONER AUTOPSIED RIGHT BODY
Author: JOHN ROFE Daily News Staff Writer
Date: November 9, 1989
Section: NEWS
Page: N3

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has determined that the county coroner autopsied the right body in the death of Crystal Spencer, who was found dead in her Burbank apartment in May 1988, a report released Wednesday said.

The two-page report, signed by Sheriff Sherman Block, said that although there were discrepancies between the height and weight listed on the autopsy and Spencer's medical records, the Coroners Office had identified the body accurately through fingerprints and fingernail scrapings.The report dashed the hopes of friends and family members who believe Spencer, 29, was murdered and wanted the coroner to reclassify her death as suspicious to have the case reopened by Burbank police.

"This doesn't change my mind at all," said Anton Kline, a friend of Spencer's who convinced the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in September to order the review of the autopsy. "She was murdered. If they (the Sheriff's Department) had spoken to any outside forensic specialist, I think they would have gotten a different result."

Both the San Bernardino county coroner, Dr. Irving Root, and forensic specialist William G. Eckert, who was hired as a consultant on post-mortems for Marilyn Monroe and Robert F. Kennedy, said they have serious questions about the accuracy of the autopsy.

The autopsy prepared by the Medical Examiner-Coroners Office said that Spencer was 5 feet 7 inches tall and a "well-nourished" 140 pounds, while medical records provided by Kline show that she was measured at 5'1", 105 pounds two weeks before her death.

The autopsy also neglected to show that Spencer had a series of metal pins and plates in her ankle from reconstructive surgery, although a full-body X-ray was taken.

"It is apparent from the investigation reports that the Coroner's Office did not correctly measure Crystal Spencer's height and weight," Block's report said. "However the coroner's records and the subsequent re-evaluation and re-examination of both Miss Spencer's fingerprints and fingernail clippings prove that the body examined was that of Crystal Spencer."

The report, which has not yet been filed with the Board of Supervisors, also states that the Dr. Sharon Schnittker, who performed the autopsy, knew there were pins and plates in Spencer's ankle but did not report them because they were not related to the cause of death or the identification process.

Schnittker said in an interview last month that she was not aware of the pins and plates because she relied on a report by the technicians who took the X-ray, and they did not report that they found the metal.

"I'm going to find out where the body is," said Kline. "I don't believe that was her body. Her family doesn't believe it was her body."

Author: JOHN ROFE Daily News Staff Writer
Section: NEWS
Page: N3

Copyright (c) 1989 Daily News of Los Angeles

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Paper: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Title: DETECTIVES TO PROBE AUTOPSY DISCREPANCIES IN DEATH OF DANCER
Author: JOHN ROFE Daily News Staff Writer
Date: September 28, 1989
Section: News
Page: N6

Sheriff's homicide detectives have been assigned to investigate the death of a Burbank exotic dancer in a case where friends claim that the dancer was murdered and the county coroner performed an autopsy on the wrong body.

But deputies so far are careful not to call it a homicide investigation, and they say their probe focuses on discrepancies in the autopsy report."This (type of assignment) is new to us," said Deputy Betty Sanders. ''It's probably because (homicide detectives) would know something about dead bodies."

The Board of Supervisors ordered the investigation at a meeting last week after it was requested by Anton Kline, a friend of the deceased dancer, Crystal Spencer. Kline told the board that discrepancies between the coroner's autopsy and Spencer's recent medical records showed the wrong body was examined.

Sanders said the detectives were preparing to meet with Kline, who wants the cause of death changed from "undetermined" to "suspicious" in order to reopen the investigation. The dancer's decomposed body was found in her apartment May 13, 1988.

According to the medical records, Spencer was 5 feet tall and 105 pounds just weeks before she died. The coroner measured Spencer after at least a week of decomposition 7 inches taller and 35 pounds heavier.

Although a full-body fluoroscope to detect foreign objects in the body is reported in the autopsy, it failed to discover a series of pins and plates that medical records show were inserted to reconstruct Spencer's shattered ankle after a 1979 automobile accident.

The autopsy says Spencer was identified by a partial fingerprint of her right index finger, a finding the autopsy says was confirmed by the Sheriff's Department. But Kline said the finger was severed from the body for printing and that could have led to a mix-up.

Bob Dambacher, a spokesman for the county coroner said he could not explain the differences between Spencer's medical records and the autopsy report, completed three days after Spencer's body was found.

Burbank police have said that the death was thoroughly investigated and that there was no sign of foul play. The District Attorney's Office has also reviewed the case but did not file charges.

The Burbank Police Department and the District Attorney's Office both refused to release their files on the case.

Author: JOHN ROFE Daily News Staff Writer
Section: News
Page: N6

Copyright (c) 1989 Daily News of Los Angeles

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Paper: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Title: DANCER'S DEATH CLOUDED BY AUTOPSY CONFUSION
Author: JOHN ROFE Daily News Staff Writer
Date: September 24, 1989
Section: NEWS
Page: N4

Friends and family say Crystal Spencer, an aspiring actress working as a

topless dancer, was killed in her Burbank apartment last year but they can't get police to investigate because they believe the coroner examined the wrong body.

The Los Angeles County supervisors ordered the Sheriff's Department last week to look into discrepancies in the autopsy.Spencer was listed as 5 feet, 7 inches tall and 140 pounds when medical records show she was seven inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter three weeks before her death. The autopsy said the cause of death was unknown.

"If the Burbank police are relying on the autopsy of someone other than Crystal, then there are questions as to their conclusions," said Anton Kline, a friend who has been fighting to have the inquiry reopened since Spencer was found in her North Maple Avenue apartment on May 13, 1988.

Working with other friends and Spencer's family, Kline has had several medical experts review the autopsy and medical records and conclude that there should be an investigation and that the county medical examiner-coroner erred in failing to keep tissue samples for further review.

Kline also says police have not interviewed some potential witnesses - including the neighbor who said he heard screams in her apartment just after she was last seen alive.

Burbank police say the case has been thoroughly investigated and that there is no evidence that Spencer was slain.

Both police and the Burbank City Attorney's Office have refused to release reports of their investigation, which they claim are not public documents.

Burbank Sgt. Don Goldberg said the inquiry showed that Spencer had a substance-abuse problem and was "quite ill for several days preceding her death."

Burbank City Attorney Julie Scott said the investigation was closed.

The county District Attorney's Office has also reviewed the case and

closed its investigation, but would not release the file. Spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said that divulging the contents would compromise the sheriff's review of the autopsy.

"We have not been asked to file anything," said Gibbons. "We have never been presented a case. We did look at some material, but I can't go any further than that. The investigation is in the hands of the Burbank Police Department."

The decomposed body of Crystal Lene Spencer, who was 29 and seemingly in good health, was discovered eight days after she was last seen.

She had come to Southern California from northern Ukiah in the hopes of being an actress, according to Kline. But the only work she managed to land was at the Wild Goose, a bar near Los Angeles International Airport.

"She was very naive," Kline, a television writer, said. "I pulled out a traveler's check once and she said, 'What's that?' She knew there might be bad people there, but all she cared about was becoming an actress."

Kline says he saw Spencer on May 3, 10 days before she was found by Burbank police. Phone logs show she called her sister Julie in Torrance two days later.

Kline says he took pictures of Spencer the last time he saw her.

"She was counting her tips. She was happy with the money she was making," Kline says.

Jet Taylor, an engineer who lived downstairs from Spencer, said he heard ''incredibly scary" screams coming from Spencer's apartment on Saturday, May 6.

"It was some screaming, and hollering and gagging and choking," Taylor, who now lives in Mississippi, said. "You know how you can associate sounds with something you've heard before? These are sounds I've never heard. They were from her."

Taylor said that he got up from bed at about 2 a.m. and moved toward the part of the apartment nearest Spencer's.

"I put my ear up to the wall," he said. "That was one week prior to them finding the body. The next day, I went to the landlord and said they should check it out."

The building owners could not be reached for comment.

He said he told police when they came for the body that he thought she was murdered, but that they took no statement.

Taylor said he received a call from the Burbank police several months ago. "They called me and suggested it was not a murder. They said, 'Don't you believe she was just sick?' All of their questions were geared to that she was a junkie and that she overdosed."

The county coroner's autopsy of Spencer says that only slight traces of alcohol and marijuana were found in the body. It also quotes friends who said Spencer was depressed about "her situation" and had a drinking problem.

But what concerned Kline and compelled the Board of Supervisors to order a review of the medical examination was wild variations in the height and height listed in the autopsy and how friends described her.

Medical records that Kline said he received from the public county clinic where Spencer was examined three weeks before she was found dead placed her weight at 105 pounds. The autopsy described her as a "well nourished" 140.

Kline said Spencer was just over five feet. The autopsy listed her as 67 inches, or 5 feet, 7 inches. The medical records say she had metal pins and plates in her right ankle from a 1979 accident that shattered the bone. The autopsy says the body was tested for foreign objects such as metal but that none were found.

Coroners spokesman Bob Dambacher said Friday he did not know how such mistakes could be made. Another spokesman, Scott Carrier, attributed the discrepancies to "clerical errors."

Dambacher said Spencer was identified by fingerprints checked through both county and state files twice and that the identification was reliable.

Beginning early this year, Kline began gathering evidence to support his claim that the coroner had examined the wrong body.

He called Dr. Irving Root, a pathologist used by the San Bernardino County Coroner's Office for 10 years, who contested some of the conclusions in a February letter to Kline.

"The discrepancy in this case is certainly disturbing and there is no adequate explanation," Root wrote.

He said the measured weight "after the subject had been dead for perhaps a week, in a hot apartment and that her weight during life . . . was only 105, this becomes an even greater discrepancy."

Kline also solicited the opinion of Dr. William Eckert, a pathologist who was consulted during the post-mortems of Robert F. Kennedy and actress Sharon Tate, a Manson family victim.

Eckert, now based in Wichita, Kan., faults the coroner for not saving tissue from the body for future examination. In a February letter to Kline, Eckert said that details in the autopsy raised the possibility of strangulation."

"I don't know if I could suggest there was foul play, but in light of the differences, there are questions about the investigation," Eckert said in a telephone interview Friday.

Dr. Sharon Schnittker, who performed the autopsy and is now with the Utah state medical examiners office, is convinced that she examined Crystal Spencer and that a cause of death could not be determined.

"I can understand why Anton is concerned," Schnittker said. "But I feel that was her, that she was correctly identified."

After the supervisors ordered a probe of the autopsy, Burbank police released a statement calling Kline obsessed with the belief that Spencer's death was a homicide and saying they had investigated each one of his theories exhaustively.

Author: JOHN ROFE Daily News Staff Writer
Section: NEWS
Page: N4

Copyright (c) 1989 Daily News of Los Angeles

****************************************************

Paper: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Title: BURBANK: BRIEFLY - BUILDING PERMITS TRIPLE
Date: September 22, 1989
Section: News
Page: N3

The city issued permits for $14 million worth of apartments and houses in August, bringing the year's total to $140 million, nearly three times that of last year, figures released this week indicate.

A total of 149 permits were issued for apartments, houses and renovations in August, said Bruce S. Feng, head of the city's building department. In August 1988, there were 133 permits issued.Though the number of permits issued through August was roughly the same, in 1989 the value of the apartments to be built more than doubled to $110 million from the 1988 figure of $58 million.

SOURCE: - Daily News

Misidentification of body denied

BURBANK - Police denied Thursday allegations by a Playa del Rey man that the Coroner's Office erroneously identified the body of a woman as his girlfriend.

Burbank police Sgt. Don Goldberg said in a statement that the Coroner's Office correctly identified the dead female as Crystal Spencer, 29, of Burbank.

"The body was positively identified as that of Crystal Spencer by fingerprints," Goldberg said.

On Tuesday, county supervisors ordered the Sheriff's Department to investigate claims by Spencer's former boyfriend, Anton Kline, that the body was that of another woman.

SOURCE: - City News Service

Investment nets $460,000

BURBANK - Investment of the Burbank Redevelopment Agency's idle funds netted $460,000 for the month of August, bringing the fiscal year's total to $917,000, according to figures released this week by the city treasurer's office.

City Treasurer Jim Rogers said the interest comes from the investment of the Redevelopment Agency's $62.6 million in idle and reserve funds.

SOURCE: - Daily News

Acting city attorney gets raise

BURBANK - Juli Scott, who was appointed acting city attorney after City Attorney Doug Holland left his position earlier this month, had her salary raised by 5 percent this week to compensate for her increased responsibilities.

The City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to raise her salary to $7,212 per month, equivalent to $86,544 per year, until a new permanent city attorney is appointed. In addition, Scott will receive a $345 per month car allowance. Scott was a senior assistant city attorney until her promotion.

SOURCE: - Daily News

Section: News
Page: N3

Copyright (c) 1989 Daily News of Los Angeles

****************************************************

Paper: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Title: SAN FERNANDO VALLEY: BRIEFS - HOSPITAL CERTIFIED
Date: September 21, 1989
Section: News
Page: N3

AMI Tarzana Regional Medical Center's emergency room and coronary unit received certification by the American Heart Association this week for complying with the group's emergency heart care standards, officials said.

The Heart Association certified the hospital's program after officials conducted an on-site inspection and determined the hospital met specific guidelines in areas such as equipment availability and staff expertise.

SOURCE: Daily News Sheriff to conduct inquiry

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Wednesday that it would look into claims that the Coroner's Office conducted an autopsy on the wrong body in a 1988 Burbank death, officials said Wednesday.

The Board of Supervisors ordered the investigation late Tuesday after the woman's boyfriend claimed that errors in the height and weight of the victim reported in the autopsy showed that a mistake had been made in the examination of Crystal Spencer, found dead in her apartment on May 13, 1988.

"Crystal was barely 5-feet and 100 pounds," Anton Kline said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "This says she was 5-feet-7 and a 'well- nourished' 140 pounds. This is not the body of Crystal Spencer."

Coroner's spokesman Scott Carrier said the office acknowledged it made a mistake when it recorded the victim's height and weight during the May 16, 1988, autopsy, but that the 29-year-old Spencer was identified by fingerprints taken when she was discovered.

SOURCE: Daily News

Section: News
Page: N3

Copyright (c) 1989 Daily News of Los Angeles

****************************************************

Paper: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Title: L.A. COUNTY SETS CORONER PROBE - OFFICE ACCUSED OF PERFORMING AUTOPSY ON WRONG BODY IN 1988 BURBANK - DEATH
Author: JOHN ROFE Daily News Staff Writer
Date: September 21, 1989
Section: News
Page: N3

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Wednesday that it would look into claims that the Coroner's Office autopsied the wrong body in a 1988 Burbank death, officials said Wednesday.

The Board of Supervisors ordered the investigation late Tuesday after the woman's boyfriend claimed that errors in the height and weight of the victim reported in the autopsy showed that a mistake had been made in the examination of Crystal Spencer, found dead in her apartment on May 13, 1988."Crystal was barely five feet and 100 pounds," Anton Kline said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "This says she was five feet seven and a 'well-nourished' 140 pounds. This is not the body of Crystal Spencer."

Coroner's spokesman Scott Carrier said the office acknowledged it made a mistake when it recorded the victim's height and weight during the May 16, 1988, autopsy, but that the 29-year-old Spencer was identified by fingerprints taken when she was discovered.

The Coroner's Office is already under investigation by the county District Attorneys Office for its role in a suspected scheme to double bill the government for mortuary and funeral services provided to indigent veterans.

The investigation spurred an audit commissioned by the county Auditor- Controller's Office which will examine the management of the office by Dr. Ronald Kornblum.

Kornblum replaced Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the self-proclaimed "coroner to the stars," after he was demoted for using his office for private gain in 1982.

Kornblum himself acknowledged that he had asked his niece, a Sheriff's Department pathologist, to examine evidence in a county crime lab so that he could use it to testify as a $150-an-hour witness in an Orange County murder case.

The revelation led to an internal investigation by the Sheriff's Department into Elizabeth Kornblum but no action against the coroner.

Kline, who said he had dated Spencer for four months before she was found badly decomposed in her apartment, said he wants the Coroner's Office to reclassify Spencer's death as suspicious so that an investigation can be conducted.

The coroner listed the cause of death as undetermined: a change would be needed to force a probe.

Kline showed the supervisors a letter from renowned pathologist Dr. William Eckert, who performed autopsies on Robert F. Kennedy and Sharon Tate, which said the case should be reopened because it "is definitely a suspicious one."

Author: JOHN ROFE Daily News Staff Writer
Section: News
Page: N3

Copyright (c) 1989 Daily News of Los Angeles

****************************************************
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Old 12-01-2005, 04:29 PM   #2
crystaldawn
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Hey JS - great work at finding this one. Articles about her on the net are almost impossible to find. Hmmm do you think there's any credence that they examined the wrong body? I never really gave it much thought because it seemed farfetched but it seems strange that they wouldn't have noticed the metal pins in her leg/foot from that car accident. This is the first I've heard that she was found entangled in her phone cord. I don't know much about decomposition so maybe someone out there can help me out but is it normal that she would be so decomposed after only 8 days that they weren't even able to determine a race? I mean she was in a controlled environment I assume and probably had air conditioning if she lived in CA so you would think that would help preserve the body. Maybe its possible that she died of some heart ailment that no one knew she had. If she had the flu as some have said she could have had some sort of complication from it and it caused her death. Maybe the sounds that couple heard were her "getting sick" as a result of the flu since they didn't find any signs on foul play on her. What suprises me is that her boyfriend and family knowing that she was sick with the flu let 8 days go by without even checking in on her. Any thoughts?
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Old 03-07-2010, 02:00 PM   #3
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bump

These articles really shed some new light on the case. Maybe Crystal was kidnapped and brought to Japan.

That "clerical error" at the coroner's office is really fishy. I would think the LA County Coroner's Office would be more careful, but who knows.

There used to be a little part of me that thought Anton might have done it - I don't think so anymore.
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Old 03-07-2010, 03:21 PM   #4
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Yes, I mean I am not saying that Anton should not have been investigated. However it seems this case was bungled from the start. I think the Burbank Police was content to write this off as being a stripper that died in a 'sex game'. Then they changed their story to natural causes. Then when Anton Kline started looking into this too much then they started suggesting he killed her, most likely to try to intimidate him into silence.

The only reason why I remotely considered that Anton might have done it, is that I always found it strange that neither he nor anyone else in Crystal's family bothered to check on her even though she was sick. I mean you do not hear from her for five days and you know she is sick yet you never bother to go over to her apartment when she does not answer the phone? I mean I got the impression that Anton was in regular contact with her so I always found that odd that he never went over there to check on her.

However after learning more about her background, I think that she was murdered but not by Anton Kline. It appears Crystal in addition to being a stripper had struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. She worked for a rather shady character who himself was murdered just a few months after Crystal Spencer's death. Plus the fact Crystal Spencer had contact of some form with the FBI, there was 21 pages of info on her that the FBI refused to turn over. MY guess they turned over the pages but most if everything in them was blacked out for various reasons.
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