Ducks deserves huge credit, imo. 🎉👩💻🏆 —(serene)
NEIL STRAUSS/VO: A short note before you listen to this podcast. The following is a documentary of real events as they unfolded over the last four years. In cases such as these, everyone appears suspicious at some point over the course of a thorough investigation. If you listen and discuss this, please be mindful of those whose lives were impacted by these tragic events. Especially before you know the full story as it’s documented over the course of this season. Every detail here has already been shared with the proper authorities. There are accounts of violence and sexual assault, so listener discretion is strongly advised.
[indistinct noises, paper shuffles]
NEIL: You gotta change it, we said the first of the month out of five, rent due on the 15th of each month. And then we’ll sign.
NEIL/VO: That is the sound of me renting a room where a murder may have taken place just weeks earlier.
NEIL: Just initial it and date, that you want to make a change.
NEIL/VO: This room belonged to a 20 year old girl named Elaine Park. And some people believe that she was murdered here, but I can’t prove it. So I’m signing the lease and hoping I can somehow pull off two things. One, preserve and gather enough evidence to present to the police so they can arrest those responsible. And two, not get killed in the process.
[music intercut with news coverage of Elaine’s missing person case]
NEIL/VO: The only reason I’m involved in this case is because I accidentally stumbled across something I shouldn’t have seen1. Something that turned the case of a missing young woman into one of the most bizarre, perplexing, tragic mysteries I’ve ever come across.
This is the story of Elaine Park, a 20 year old with roles as an extra on ER and Crazy Stupid Love, a dancer, a musician, a student, a cheerleader, a poet, a dreamer, someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s friend. A good person who, as far as I can tell, never did a thing to hurt anyone.
She went missing in my neighborhood in Malibu in January 2017, just prior to the date I’m renting this room and hoping those who may have murdered her don’t find out what I know. I’m here with my wife, signing the lease, right now.
NEIL: Should I sign it, babe?
INGRID: Yeah, we should all sign it.
NEIL: And then, ah… Alright then, it’s official. I’m renting the room. Ah, yeah, definitely, it’s very strange, I’m getting like… weird chills.
NEIL/VO: Welcome to To Live and Die in LA, Season 2, The Erasing of Elaine Park.2
Episode 1, Chapter 1: Black Vans
NEIL/VO: The voice you hear is that of Elaine Park from a video that she recorded weeks before she went missing. When I first got involved in the case, she’d only been gone a month but even at that point, many of us were worried she’d never get to experience those beautiful dreams.
NEIL/VO: The following are the only facts that are publicly known about this case. You’re about to learn a lot more, but let’s start here.
“Elaine Park vanished back on January 28th after leaving the Calabasas home of her on-again off-again boyfriend.”🎞
“They say the last time Elaine was seen alive was the next morning, January 28th, around six, leaving the Compere family home.”🎞
“–He said she left early Saturday morning, an account verified by security camera video.”🎞
“–A few days later — five days later — her car was found along the road in Malibu, the keys in the ignition. Her personal belongings, including her cellphone, were still inside.”🎞
“Numerous searches turned up no sign of Elaine.”🎞
NEIL/VO: Think of the disappearance of Elaine Park as the prequel to last season. Her case predates the disappearance of Adea Shabani by 11 months. This is the investigation that started me down a path to helping the families of missing persons and I wouldn’t have been so deeply involved in any of this if it wasn’t for my then-wife, Ingrid. I say then-wife, because unfortunately, our marriage did not survive this investigation.
Ingrid found out about Elaine Park’s story because she randomly stumbled across it on the internet one day, weeks after Elaine went missing, setting in motion a chain of events we’re still reeling from. Here’s Ingrid.
INGRID: I was at a point in my life where I was searching for a new beginning and I didn’t know what I was looking for. I had left my job and had just given birth to Ten.
NEIL/VO: Ten is our son, who was born the year before.
INGRID: I just remember being emotionally exhausted. I was going through postpartum depression. One of my friends had texted me, she was telling me how she was so scared of driving at Malibu Canyon at night. And so, instead of replying to her I remember this case of a woman that when she was driving on Malibu Canyon her car went down a ditch and nobody knew where she was for two days. I wanted to send that to my friend and when I searched “malibu, car, woman missing,” Elaine popped up.
NEIL/VO: Ingrid read the article that came up about the disappearance of Elaine Park. Almost immediately, she needed to know more, so she started digging. The first thing she found was Elaine’s Instagram profile.
INGRID: Usually, see, when people go missing, you see on their Instagram like, “Hey, I miss you,” “Hey, where are you, I hope you come home,” and you see all the friends come together, but if you go to her Instagram, there was nothing. Nobody3. No one said a word. I saw myself in her. If I go missing, are people not going to care? I want people to care! No one goes missing in Malibu, I don’t hear that, Malibu’s supposed to be super safe4 and this happened down the street from our house.
NEIL/VO: One of the things Ingrid had been doing in her spare was going on hikes. Being in nature helped lift the depression she’d felt since leaving her job and becoming a new mom. Many of those hikes were along Malibu Canyon Road, the route Elaine likely drove from her ex-boyfriend’s home in Calabasas to the spot on the Pacific Coast Highway where her car was abandoned.
INGRID: Since I was already hiking every single day, I reached out to the family on Facebook and I said, “Hey, I’m a Malibu local and I noticed that you guys are not from here. I’m very familiar with all the hiking spots and so if you guys need my help, I’m hiking tomorrow. And also give me the list of the places you’ve hiked so I don’t look at the same places.”
NEIL/VO: When the administrators of the Facebook page told Ingrid that no searches had been done, she started searching Malibu Canyon on her own without telling anyone, including me, and it turns out, she found something.
INGRID: On every hike, I would find pieces of clothing, sweaters left behind, bottles, shoes. All kinds of stuff. Every time I took a picture, I would mark it on a map. On the corner, when you’re making a left on Malibu Canyon, I found a pair of tennis shoes.
NEIL/VO: When she cross referenced accounts belonging to Elaine’s friends, she got a hit. Elaine’s ex-boyfriend, Divine Compere, the person who’s home she was last seen at, was wearing what appeared to be the same shoes.
INGRID: It was some Vans. Black Vans5.
NEIL/VO: Ingrid decided to reach out to the Facebook page to let them know what she’d found.They put her in touch with their private investigator, and he in turn contacted the police.
INGRID: It’s a helicopter and this police barricades, they blocked the whole… canyon.
“Now you can see how dark it is, but earlier tonight search crews with flashlights, looking for any clues for where this missing woman could be. This is twenty-year old Elaine Park from Glendale–“🎞
JAYDEN: You know, again, just out of respect for the family, I wanted to, to talk to Susan. [inaudible] I’m gonna run the case for you guys
INGRID: I looked through her snapchat, her Instagram, she was funny, she was, um, charismatic. She had a fun personality and it was weird that no one was searching for this girl. It was like she disappeared. She was erased.
NEIL/VO: The following day, Ingrid was at Starbucks, where she ran into one of our neighbors, Mike.
INGRID: Me an’ Mikey go way back. I would go to their house, him and Ann Marie, and we watch… crime investigation shows and movies. So, when he walked in on, I was like, “Mikey, you gotta sit down.” I told him everything that had happened.
NEIL/VO: Mike and Ann Marie are Michael Einziger, the guitarist in the rock band Incubus [ sound clip of Incubus being announced on talk show performing Drive ] and Ann Marie Simpson, his wife, a concert violinist who’s played with everyone from Mick Jagger to Hans Zimmer.
[clip of Ann Marie discussing the Superman soundtrack]
They’re not your typical investigators, but then again, neither are Ingrid and I. I was interviewing artists and musicians for Rolling Stone at the time, and Ingrid was a new mom. This investigation soon became Ingrid’s full time job and she dragged the rest of us into it at such a deep level that we’d soon be meeting with the police every week. Here’s Mike on the Los Angeles radio station, K-Rock6, explaining how we got mixed up in all this.
MIKE: Ann Marie, my wife, and Neil, and his wife, Ingrid, we all live in Malibu and this girl, Elaine Park, her car was found on Pacific Coast Highway, uh, very close to where we live, actually. And it was very disconcerting that somebody could just… disappear like that. So, we kind of all just got together and, uh, reached out to some people who were running a Facebook page on Elaine’s behalf, a very kind woman named Rose Marie Wheeler, along with Elaine’s mother, and we started getting some more information. You know, Ann Marie and I, we just have our first children, in this world— Like, you know, our children are three months old, we have twin girls, and, um, our own daughters, you know, and a situation like this it’s so.. It’s shocking. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for her family in a situation like this. We’re just trying to bring her home to her family where she belongs.
NEIL/VO: I wish I was as good a person as Mike, because when he told me he reached out to the family on Facebook and they were coming to his home to discuss how we could help, I wasn’t excited to participate. I was on deadline for a book I was writing with the comedian Kevin Hart, and I felt like the four of us — myself and Ingrid, and Mike and Ann Marie — were unqualified to really help this suffering family, since we had no experience whatsoever with missing persons cases or police work. However, this meeting would soon change my mind.
Chapter 2: The Visit
[sound of knocking, door opening, people greeting each other]
NEIL/VO: Susan is the mother of Elaine Park. This was our first time meeting her, exactly two months after Elaine went missing. Two other people arrived at Mike and Ann Marie’s house that day. There was Susan’s friend and neighbor, Rose Marie Wheeler, who started the Help Find Elaine Park Facebook page and Go Fund Me account. And then, there was a private investigator, who looked very unhappy to be dragged to the home of these Malibu dilitants. His name was Jayden Brandt.
[greetings are exchanged, Jayden introduces himself]
NEIL/VO: You may remember Jayden from the first season of this podcast. Jayden sat down and greeted the four of us exactly as how I expected we’d be greeted: with suspicion.
JAYDEN: Forgive me, I just want to clarify, and um, I don’t mean to be rude, but your… your guys’ interest in this case is– I want to get an idea [Mike talks over Jayden, saying “yeah”] of what we’re sharing, who we’re sharing with—
MIKE: [partially talking over Jayden] Just hearing about it, reading about it, and… just wondering if there’s anything we can do to help.
JAYDEN: Typically, you know, I’m– law enforcement background—
MIKE: I understand.
JAYDEN: —I adhere to that code where, you know, it’s, you put up the wall, the evidentiary wall, and we don’t discuss things. But I’m stepping outside of that at this time because of where we are in the case. You came out of the blue and found some good evidence, and so, of course the first thing I say is [Ingrid in background: Uh, well, yeah-] who is this person and how are they finding this stuff?
MIKE: All of us are very adept social media divers, and so—
JAYDEN: Yeah, I know, you have shown to be that. And I want to tell you that, we take all of this stuff very seriously. Um, what you saw the other day was direct action from what you found that day. So, we went out, we recovered that evidence, we had a six person search team search that entire area. Um, they went all the way deep into the canyon, did a grid search in there, um-
NEIL/VO: It turned out that the search did not reveal any new evidence. However, the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department in Malibu did collect the shoes Ingrid found for testing. Impressed by Ingrid’s sleuthing, Jayden and Elaine’s mother explained the facts of the case to us, some of which we’d read about in the news, and some of which had never been revealed. You’re going to want to listen very carefully, because every detail here matters.
On January 27, 2017, around 7:30 PM, Elaine drove roughly 40 minutes from her home in Glendale, California to visit her ex-boyfriend, Divine Compere, in a gated community in Calabasas. She’d been seeing Divine for 2 ½ months, and a few weeks earlier, she’d cut things off with him. Here’s Susan, Elaine’s mom:
SUSAN PARK7: And then in beginning of January, um, she broke up with him. She broke up with him cause she felt like his life is not going anywhere and she needs to straighten her life. Then two weeks after that, they went to see movie.
NEIL/VO: Divine lives in Calabasas California, home to stars like Kim Kardashian, Drake, and Kevin Hart. Divine, or Div, as his friends call him, was 19 at the time. He was living in a guest house on the property of his parents, Shakim and Tanya. Shakim is a film producer credited with over 35 films and TV shows. Why Elaine was going to see Divine on this particular night, weeks after they’d broken up, is the first of many mysteries.
SUSAN: He lives in a guest house, it’s a huge mansion house, and he lives by himself. He said, um, that they went to see a movie Friday night, uh, and then they came— and she was not in a good shape to drive8, so we decide to take a Uber.
NEIL/VO: At 10:20 PM that evening, Divine and Elaine took an Uber to AMC Movie Theater in Woodland Hills to watch a Vin Diesel movie, “XXX: The Return of Xander Cage.” Afterward, they returned home and went to bed.
Early that morning, just before sunrise, according to a statement from Divine, Elaine woke up in a panic and left without saying a word.
SUSAN: She wakes up all panicking and singing and shaking, and she was in panic mode9, and she just left. And that’s last time he saw her.
NEIL/VO: At 6 AM, Elaine is seen on security video leaving the house.
SUSAN: 6:01 to 6:05, I see her leaving by herself. At 6:05, um, the video gets cut off, right immediately when she exits the guest house.
NEIL/VO: Due to an error the police say they made while copying the file, the video cuts off just before Elaine gets into her car, so we don’t actually see that moment. A license plate reader shows Elaine’s Honda Civic exiting the gated community a few moments later.
SUSAN: And then the community one is a- ah- plate cam, and you can see the car going out, it’s pitch dark, you can’t really see anything.
JAYDEN: Just a plate is all—
SUSAN: [talking over Jayden] The plate, I could see definitely that’s her license plate number.
NEIL/VO: And that was the last time anyone we know of saw Elaine Park. Five days later, on February 2, 2017, police found Elaine’s car abandoned on the side of the Pacific Coast Highway. This is where the mystery really deepens.
JAYDEN: We know that the vehicle was there on the 28th and we know that the vehicle was there on the 2nd. The doors unlocked, the keys in the ignition, the computer found—
NEIL/VO: The car keys were in the ignition in the on position so that the car battery was running but the engine was not. Elaine’s phone was in the center console, her backpack was in the passenger seat, inside it was her computer along with about $30, which was all the cash she had. In other words, everything that was important to Elaine was in that car, except Elaine herself.
JAYDEN: This case has gone through a few different stages. Initially, she was a Voluntary Missing—
JAYDEN: —because of her age—
SUSAN speaking over JAYDEN: Her age.
INGRID: That makes sense.
JAYDEN: —she’s 20 years old, she’s a runaway. Um, once the vehicle was found, you know, that was upgraded to a Critical Involuntary Missing, but… you know, there’s still the possibility that she’s a Voluntary Missing. Now, that’s a remote possibility, but it’s still a possibility. So, the resources that can be put into it, especially by Glendale Police Department, is very small. They’re acting on the evidence we’re bringing forward, but beyond that, there is no active investigation.
SUSAN: I just you know, I just [voice breaks, crying] want a second chance with her, I wanna make up to her, I wanna make it up to her. I really wanna make it up to her, she didn’t leave a good life, I feel like she— I messed her up10.
Chapter 3: The Secret
NEIL/VO: At this point, Susan, Elaine’s mom, Rose Marie, her friend, and Jayden, the private investigator, had been sitting with us for an hour and a half. But they hadn’t said yet what they thought happened to Elaine, so I asked them directly.
JAYDEN: I mean look, if I had to make a call right now and present a case? You know, we don’t have a smoking gun—
SUSAN: Yeah, we don’t have anything tangible.
JAYDEN: —but everything, all of the circumstantial evidence we have, and I mean, we have a lot, is all going to one angle here11.
MIKE: Why would the police say that he’s not a suspect?
NEIL/VO: What Mike is referring to are the initial articles that came out about the case, in which the police immediately said that Divine was not a suspect. Jayden and Susan appear to be implying that they think this decision was made too quickly without a thorough investigation12.
JAYDEN: What happened here is the Glendale detective sort of jumped the gun in making a public statement that they were not a suspect. Now at this point, it would take something massive for them to reverse that statement. It’s harder to take all the little numbers and add ‘em up and convince a judge to- to sign a warrant.
NEIL/VO: There’s a double bind of police work and it’s that if you want evidence of whether someone committed a crime, you need to get a search warrant from a judge, but if you wanna get a search warrant from a judge, you need evidence that someone may have committed a crime. So in order to get the evidence you need, you need evidence to begin with, which is making this whole situation very frustrating for Jayden and Susan.
JAYDEN: You have to look at the different theories, okay? The car being there for six days, that pretty much puts out the theory [Susan murmuring unintelligibly in the background] of she went down there and took off, or committed suicide or something like that, because I just don’t think the car could be there for six days. That also puts out the theory that she goes down there and she gets abducted randomly. People don’t just disappear. Somebody knows what happened. Somebody knows what happened or somebody saw something— [Susan speaking over Jayden: Or somebody did it.]—they don’t know they saw.
NEIL/VO: While I was working on my book deadline, I had no idea of the degree to which Mike, Ingrid, and Ann Marie had been deep diving into the social media accounts of Elaine, Divine, and their friends looking for clues, and actually finding some. Here’s Mike.
MIKE: We just started looking at trying to find common denominators, trying to tie groups of people together. A photograph of Divine with a few of his associates and people that you see in lots of his social media and there’s a girl in this photograph. The first thing that’s posted on her Instagram is a photo of her and these two guys. It turns out that one of them had just gotten murdered. Some kind of shooting incident. One of them died, and the person who died was in this shot with this girl, who was also in another shot with Divine and their other friends, and there’s a few of these people that are tied together through their social media accounts. That we were trying to find digging through some of these things, is trying to figure out are these kids just kinda wanna be suburban acting tough kinda kids? Or are they brushing up against real criminal behavior? Guns all over their—
ANN MARIE SIMPSON: Yeah, they’re flashing money, guns, drugs—
MIKE: Flashing money, guns—
INGRID: We looked for the three, who are Divine’s main friends? And there’s like, three guys he’s always with, and they call themselves the [inaudible] Gang.
MIKE: [name inaudible] who’s page is so scary.
INGRID: Disgusting, posting, like rape photos, and like woman tied up, saying he’s, like, so into guns, and like, it’s like the darkest thing. We were able to connect the dots.
NEIL/VO: If I were the parents of a missing child, and I saw that my daughter was two degrees of separation from a recent murder, and that she was dating someone and hanging out with his friend, who has an Instagram account that depicts images of Jason from Friday the 13th carrying a woman over his shoulders with the caption #mood. Or if I saw another post of his, also captioned “mood,” showing a woman tied up and apparently forced into sex, I would be very upset that two moths after my daughter’s disappearance, no one had looked into this. At the same time, keep in mind that we’ve never investigated a missing person’s case before, so we were grasping at straws.
JAYDEN: I think you’re, you guys are on the right track. I mean, because there’s only so much we can investigate and once the case goes cold, at some point, and that point is rapidly approaching, we need to… we need to change tactics.
NEIL/VO: As I sat there and saw how little was known about what happened to Elaine, and how dedicated my friends had been to making a difference, I thought that, just maybe, if I helped Ingrid with this investigation, and we worked together side by side, we’d also be able to reconnect and repair our relationship.
NEIL: So, question, which is, what are the ways we can help the most right now?
JAYDEN: Well, I think a lot of the social media stuff is very helpful, you know.
ANN MARIE: We can go deep down that.
JAYDEN: We— we really have to— estab— ’cause we’re up against– we’re sort of up against a brick wall with ah, Glendale PD, so, um, you know, we’re really trying to find something that’s like— We need some concrete stuff to really move in that direction, to actually get anything done. I think that it’s a decision that is going to ultimately have to be made by Susan. Ah, just, respect for her, can we talk a second?
MIKE: Absolutely. [crosstalk] Please.
NEIL/VO: Jayden asks if he and Susan can have a private conversation away from us, so Mike escorts them to his music studio.
MIKE: There’s a little room in here. Uh, I’ll give you guys– I’ll show you guys a private place where you can talk.
ANN MARIE: [over Mike] We have a soundproof uh, music, um, recording studio, if you want to go–
MIKE: You can talk in here.
JAYDEN: Just for a moment–
NEIL/VO: When they walk out, I kind of assume that they’re discussing maybe they went too far, that they don’t really need our help in this, because we have no experience, and quite honestly, have no idea what we’re doing. After almost 10 minutes, Jayden and Susan return from their private conference in Mike’s music studio.
JAYDEN: You know, again, just out of respect for the family, I wanted to, to talk to Susan. I’m gonna run the case for you guys, tell you exactly what’s going on. Um, because, there’s no way you guys can effectively help without knowing what’s going on. [ everyone agreeing, SP seems to say “but” ] Because there’s a lot more to this than- than meets the eye.
NEIL/VO: And then they reveal something horrifying.
JAYDEN: What we’ve discovered, beyond what the police discovered, um, is that um— Elaine was— um, at a concert, and dates are important, because it’s going to help with social media investigation, ah she was at a concert on July 27th, 2015 at the observatory. Ah, a concert, the, the artist Father? All the indications [woman’s voice mumbles: on the 27th] from multiple sources, ah, she was raped at that event by multiple parties, backstage.
ANN MARIE: I’m so sorry.
JAYDEN: Ah– she was heavily intoxicated at the time.
SUSAN: She lost memory that night.
JAYDEN: I mean, it was a bad night for her. She lost all of her belongings, she lost her keys. The reason that she became aware of it is that someone had videotaped the assault and had recently shown her a video of it. She also posted a couple things that night on social media. One was saying that “I hope I don’t die tonight.” There were deleted tweets online from her account that we got from friends that had screenshot-ed it at the time talking about the rape, talking about the fact that, ah, you— you know who you are, you know what you did, talking about seeking justice.
NEIL/VO: If this is true, then it’s possible that these individuals tried to silence Elaine to keep her from going to the authorities, and Jayden has a theory just who those people are.
This season on To Live and Die in LA:
JAYDEN: All of the motive is consistent with either somebody that’s trying to shed guilt or someone that’s trying to hide evidence.
Woman: Like, what the fuck is going on, like this is fucked up, they don’t give a fuck.
Dr. Hampton: Smoke those friends out, somebody knows something.
Woman: They pulled out a gun in his back pocket and she had no idea.
NEIL: Ingrid called me and sent me a text, and there are pictures of Elaine with bruises on her body.
JAYDEN: Once I unlocked the keychain on her computer, text messages just started to populate.
INGRID: Oh man, you should see these text messages! It’s so crazy.
NEIL: Sending 10 texts like that, man?
Woman: Saying, “DIE DIE DIE! DIE YOU FUCKING BITCH! DIE DIE DIE!”?
– “Man I feel like it’s my fault, man–”
– “Why would it be your fault?”
– “I left her alone”
NEIL/VO: Thank you for listening to this episode. I have a few important announcements. This is still an active investigation so if you have any information regarding the disappearance of Elaine Park, or any of the parties that have been mentioned here, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call us anonymously at 213-204-2073. I’ve also posted several details about the case, including the security camera footage of Elaine leaving the Compere home and an exact map of where her car was found on PCH. You can find these on our social media accounts @livedielapod. Please reach out if you have any information, specifically photographs or videos of the area where Elaine’s car was found, between January 28, 2017 and February 2, 2017.
Visit https://season2.livediela.com/ for all official information about this podcast and the people responsible for its creation.
- Possible reference to the “die” text messages Susan sent to Elaine? ↩
- This really stood out on a 2nd listen considering what we learn in later episodes about the actions transpiring behind the scenes with Elaine’s possessions, pets, etc. ↩
- Was this ever addressed? It seems strange. ↩
- Exactly what they want Malibu residents to think. ↩
- While interesting on the surface, if DC needed to dispose of his shoes because they are evidence, this is a terrible way to go about it. ↩
- Aug 22, 2017, https://youtu.be/WkWu8fWGiQM ↩
- English is SP’s 2nd language. I’m leaving everything the way she said it rather than cleaning anything up, as I wouldn’t want to change or misrepresent her phrasing. If you hear something different, please let me know. ↩
- This is glossed over. Did Elaine arrive incapacitated? Were drugs consumed upon arrival? Is this documented as part of DC’s statement to police? We know Daisy also spoke to DC, so this could be a whisper down the lane session: DC > Daisy > Susan > everyone else. ↩
- Assuming Susan’s recounting of DC’s recollection is accurate, could this be related to the earlier reference of Elaine being “not in good shape to drive”? ↩
- To me, SP sounds like she means everything she is saying here. ↩
- It feels important to note that at this point, JB is working pro-bono; was given an inaccurate accounting of Elaine’s tweets and intent to press charges for the sexual assault; may be unaware of “The Other Ex” SP tells the team about in Ep.4, or the involvement of yet another police jurisdiction due to the gun charges and Elaine potentially needing to testify, etc. ↩
- They cooperated with LE from the beginning, but how hard did LE really push them? ↩