11.19.2019

COLD CASE: THE INDIANA BURGER CHEF MURDERS 40 YEARS LATER


The Burger Chef murders began at a Burger Chef restaurant in Speedway, Indiana, on the night of Friday, November 17, 1978. Four young employees went missing in what was initially thought to be a petty theft of cash from the restaurant safe.


By Saturday morning it became a clear case of robbery-kidnapping, and by Sunday, when their bodies were discovered, a case of murder. While investigators believe they have identified some or all of the perpetrators, without physical evidence they have not been able to prosecute those who remain alive.


At some point between 11 pm (closing time) and midnight on November 17, 1978, four employees of Burger Chef restaurant in Speedway, Indiana (at 5725 Crawfordsville Road) disappeared: Jayne Friedt, 20; Daniel Davis, 16; Mark Flemmonds, 16; and Ruth Ellen Shelton, 18.

A fellow employee who came by at midnight to visit the four noticed that the restaurant was empty and the back door ajar and raised the alarm.

Initially, police did not consider the case to be serious, given that management reported the loss of only approximately $581 (equivalent to $2,232 in 2018) from the safe and no clear signs of a struggle.



It was thought to be a case of petty embezzlement, with the assumption that the pilfered cash had been used by the youths to go partying that night. Change had not been taken from the registers. Although the purses of the missing women had been left at the shop, the petty theft theory initially seemed most likely and the scene was cleaned up by employees early Saturday morning.



When the four did not show on Saturday morning and Friedt's Vega was found partially locked in town, concerns grew. It became evident that they had been abducted while closing up the restaurant for the night, with the attack possibly beginning as they removed trash bags out the back door.

On Sunday afternoon, hikers found the bodies of the four over 20 miles away, in the rural woods of Johnson County.

Both Davis and Shelton had been shot execution-style numerous times with a .38 caliber firearm.



Friedt had been stabbed twice in the chest. The handle of the knife had broken off and was missing; the blade was later recovered during an autopsy. Flemmonds was later determined to have been bludgeoned — possibly with a chain — prior to his death.

The leading theory has been that the four victims were kidnapped during a botched robbery, possibly after one of the victims recognized one of the perpetrators. Read more here

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