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Was foul play involved in the death of an exotic dancer

Crystal Spencer

Crystal Spencer

Crystal Lene Spencer was raised in a small northern California town. At 17, she dropped out of high school and took a job to help support the family. In the summer of 1982, she moved to Los Angeles to chase her Hollywood dream. But she soon realized that stardom was not so easy to come by. Crystal reluctantly took a job as an exotic dancer to pay her bills. On a good night, she took home $400 in tips, but she never fully accepted the fact that she was basically a stripper. According to Crystal’s friend, Patti Jo Millhouse, the fact bothered Crystal:

“She would just start crying. Like she felt degraded about herself, of what she’d done.”

In May of 1987, friends invited Crystal to a barbeque. She was eager to socialize with people who might help with her acting career.  It was there that she met Anton Kline:

“There was something very alluring and compelling about Crystal that would readily catch your eye. She knew that she would become, not only an actress, but she’d become a very famous actress, and it was just a matter of time.”

Anton Kline was an aspiring screenwriter and Ph.D. candidate. He and Crystal came from totally different backgrounds, but they soon fell in love. Anton took it upon himself to help Crystal broaden her horizons. Anton says he introduced her to art galleries, museums, and concerts:

“She loved classical music. She loved fine art. She wanted to know more about these other wonderful things of life that she had never been exposed to before.”

Anton had no idea that Crystal worked as a stripper. She walked a fine line, discovering art and culture by day, and working Hollywood’s dark side by night. Patti Jo said Crystal did her best to keep her night job a secret:

“Crystal loved Anton very much. She was very scared about him finding out, and she said, ‘Well, I better quit dancing then before he finds out.’”

Finally, four months after they met, Anton says he found out about Crystal’s other life:

“A neighbor saw her dancing at the club by the airport where she worked. And he said, ‘I saw that girl on stage.’  I said, ‘No, you couldn’t have.’  He said, ‘That was her.’  Of course it was her. And I was shocked.”

She had been dead in her apartment for a week

She had been dead in her apartment for a week

According to Patti Jo, Anton forgave Crystal:

“He was very upset, but he said it was OK. He accepted it. Which shocked her, and she didn’t know what to say.”

On Wednesday, May 4, 1988, Crystal was home sick with the flu. Anton stopped by and they talked about an offer she had received to work in Japan. The next night, Anton said he spoke the Crystal on the phone and she said she was feeling better:

“The conversation lasted about fifteen minutes. I said, ‘I’ll be in touch’, and she said OK, and I hung up the phone, and that was the last time I ever spoke with her.”

Three days later, Anton tried to reach Crystal by phone, but he kept getting a busy signal.  An operator told him the receiver was off the hook. Anton said he just assumed that Crystal had left for Japan without saying good-bye:

“I was expecting, any day, to receive a very excited phone call from Crystal saying, ‘It’s wonderful here.’ And instead, I got a phone call from the Burbank police department.”

On Friday, the 13th of May, 1988, police had discovered Crystal’s decomposed body in her apartment. She appeared to have been dead for almost a week. Anton Kline was questioned:

“They at first just said she was found dead at her apartment and they wanted to know when I’d last seen her. And I said I last saw her Wednesday. They asked, ‘And how was she?’  I said, ‘Well, she had a cold.’  And they said they believe she died of natural causes.”

An autopsy revealed no trace of drugs or alcohol in Crystal’s system. There were no obvious signs of foul play or suicide.  The coroner ruled that her death was a result of “undetermined causes.” Deputy District Attorney Robert L. Cohen:

“The body of Miss Spencer was in such an advanced state of decomposition, they were not able to ascribe the cause of death so they have no finding.”

Family and friends were upset with investigators

Family and friends were upset with investigators

Anton could not believe that Crystal had died of natural causes:

“When I last saw her, she was a young woman with a cold. I was suspicious because of the way I was told the body was found in an obscure corner of her apartment, nude from the waist down. And I learned that neighbors had heard terrible screams coming from her apartment, that someone had described as ‘the sounds of torture.’”

On May 7, three days after Crystal had been at home sick, two of her neighbors, Susan Akin-Taylor and Jet Taylor were woken up around 4 A.M. by a strange crying sound.  According to Susan:

“I laid there thinking, ‘Someone’s being tortured. Someone’s being hurt. Something’s going on.’”

Jet Taylor:

“Susan was very adamant about calling the police, but out of my fear of what I heard, I didn’t want to get involved.”

Susan Akin-Taylor:

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to live with the fact that I didn’t call the police. If I had, maybe she would still be alive.”

Crystal’s body was discovered a week after her neighbors heard the screams. They finally told their story to the police. Jet Taylor said the police officer seemed disinterested:

“He just took my statement and my name, asked me for my driver’s license, and that was it. And he was just very nonchalant about it.”

Crystal’s family requested to view the body several times, but the coroner’s office continually refused, claiming the body was in no condition to be seen. Anton was denied access to the police records. However, in September of 1988, four months after Crystal’s death, he was able to obtain the autopsy report. Anton says he was shocked by what he found:

“Crystal Spencer was barely five foot tall. The autopsy report claimed that she was an amazing five foot seven. Crystal weighed approximately 105 pounds.  The autopsy claims the body is a well-nourished, 140 pounds.  I was stunned.  I said, ‘This is the not the body of Crystal Spencer. Where is the real body of Crystal Spencer?’”

Deputy District Attorney Robert L. Cohen:

“We do have the remains identified by fingerprints from two different agencies, and those really eliminate any possibility of the coroner’s autopsying the wrong remains.”

Anton has come to the conclusion that the police know more than they’re admitting:

“I was told by one law enforcement official, ‘Bad things happen to bad girls.’  And I said, ‘You mean, bad girls die of natural causes?’ And he said, ‘You know what I mean’, and hung up the phone on me.”

Two weeks after Crystal’s body was found, family and friends gathered for a private memorial service. Crystal’s ashes were scattered beneath the famous Hollywood sign.  Anton Kline is still searching for the truth:

“I am angered that they are attempting to suppress the police reports in this case forever.  We need to know what happened to her. It’s important to all of us who cared about her to learn the truth. That’s all we want, is the truth.”