The Burger chef murders

Burger Chef was an American fast-food restaurant, it was opened in 1954 in Indiana.  In 1973 Burger chef had over 1,000 stores, however, in 1996 its last restaurant closed. The burger chef murders occurred in November 1978, in Speedway, Indiana. Speedway is a town in Wayne township in Marion county.  

The Burger chef logo used in the 1980’s.

On November Friday the 17th 4 teenagers were working the late shift, which was until 11pm. These teenagers included Jayne Friedt 20, Mark Flemmonds, 16, Daniel Davis 16 and Ruth Ellen Shelton, 17. These young employees went missing, from the burger chef restaurant in speedway.

At 12pm, a passer-by noticed the door open, this individual knew the restaurant quite well. The police where connected shortly after the discovery, the disappearance was thought to be a part of an inconsequential crime. The police arrived at the scene, but no further investigation occurred. As a result, the morning shift workers continued there daily shift the next day.

On Saturday 18th an abandoned car was discovered, this was Janes friedts car.  A call was also received on this day from a 16-year-old boy, in this phone call, he discussed two individuals were outside the burger chef restaurant on the night of the disappearance.  The 16-year-old talked to one of the men and was able to give a clear description of both men to the local police.

The polices opinion was quickly changed when the bodies were discovered on Sunday the 19th of November, a local property owner near Johnson county, this was 20 miles away from the burger chef restaurant. All four young adults where found, two victims had multiple gunshot wounds, one had been stabbed to death, and the fourth had severe head injuries.

Daniel and Ruth were both shot and discovered first by the police, the gun was a .38 calibre firearm.

Jayne was found nearby and had been stabbed twice in the chest area the knife was discovered within the body of Jayne.

Mark Flemmonds was found a considerable distance away from the rest of the individuals, as though he attempted to escape the scene. Some Police theorised that if mark fell in a different direction, he would have more than likely survived. 

All four victims.

An autopsy revealed that mark received beatings from the murderer and the knife was still inserted into the torso of Mark.  This knife was not released to the public until many years after the murder.

The FBI, state police, and Indianapolis police department were called to assist with the investigation, as unfortunate as it is the first 24 hours had already passed. As a result, the chance of solving the case was almost cut into half.

scene of the crime.

A multiple-agency task force was organised to investigate the murders, and a reward of $25,000 was posted for any information leading to an arrest. 

Since the restaurant had been cleaned, there were no fingerprints, blood or even hair samples. This meant that there were hardly any leads or theories, despite this, there were still some theories.    

image of the knife found at the scene.

Theories.

Later, in the year, a man bragged to local people within the community, claiming to be involved in the murder. Upon passing a polygraph test, he informed the police of the names of individuals who were engaged in robberies in the area.

This man leads them to another inquiry, a man who looked very much like the description of the bearded man described on that night. However, before the line up the man had been clean-shaven, speculation was that he had a beard for over 4 years.  This suspect named another individual, who fit the other description very well and he was later imprisoned for other armed robberies of fast-food restaurants.

Despite the police finding some potential suspects there where some issues, this included no confessions and no physical evidence.

sketch of suspect.

the most plausible and believed scenario is that the four employees were kidnapped following a botched robbery.

Developments.

As of 2018, the case was still being actively worked on by the local police, Authorities said they are considering, but have not acted on, the use of genetic genealogy to further the case along. 

In 2018, people gathered at Leonard park in speedway to dedicate four trees, one for each of the victims. Alex wise miller made this project a reality; however, he wanted to remember who the individuals were rather than how they died.

Each tree has a plaque next to it, telling people more information on each individual victim.

  • Mark was friendly and selfless, with a sense of style.
  • Daniel was a talented photographer who made loved one’s smile.
  • Jayne was a leader with a sense of humour and a heart of gold.
  • Ruth was creative, honest and kind with love for music.

https://www.wthr.com/article/remembering-burger-chef-victims-speedway-park – news report on remembering the victims in 2018.

please call:

Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS    if you have any information.

Further reading and viewing.

https://abcn.ws/2OKFlxp – Ruth Shelton’s sister discussing the loss of these young individuals.

https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/105898684/ – newspaper from the year of the murder.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=bg13QcMSsq8C&pg=PA364&dq=burger+chef+murders+1978&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=burger%20chef%20murders%201978&f=false – the discovery of the bodies of the four young individuals

https://web.archive.org/web/20090708103122/http://www.noveljustice.com/files/sep06profile.html# – day by day account.

Published by Elle Lea

I am an amateur historian guided by intrigue and free Wi-Fi. Solved and Unsolved crimes are intricate puzzles which interest me and others. This blog looks at the evidence and the facts and aims to deliver the cases in a detailed and accessible to all manner.

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