Indiana Creepy August 30, 2021
The Burger Chef Murders Are One Of Indiana’s Lesser-Known, Most Baffling Crimes
It was a chilly night on November 17, 1978. There were four people working at the Burger Chef restaurant in Speedway, Indiana when the unthinkable happened, but due to nothing but circumstance, the full scope of the horror wouldn’t be understood for another 48 hours. What initially seemed like a petty robbery became a brutally vicious unsolved crime in Indiana’s history, and to this day, thanks to a bungled investigation, the facts are still hardly known at all.
Burger Chef was a restaurant chain originally established in 1954 in Indianapolis.
By the early '70s, Burger Chef had more than 1,000 locations, and things were going well. It was within one of those restaurants in Speedway, Indiana, that a shockingly brutal crime was put in motion.
On a chilly Friday evening in 1978, four employees disappeared, leaving an open and empty safe behind at the restaurant, as well as an open back door and cleaned-out cash bags.
At first, what happened seemed obvious: the four youngsters had taken the money and run, probably to go partying over the weekend.
...but when, by Saturday morning, none of them had resurfaced, it became obvious that something was wrong.
Unfortunately, it was already too late for a decent investigation. Based on the assumption that the disappearances of the cash and the employees were a simple case of theft by workers, police took no photos of the scene at all, and employees were allowed to clean the restaurant and re-open the following morning. It was this decision that would forever mar the entire investigation, resulting in little to no answers for the families of the four employees, two of whom were 16 years old, while the others were 17 and 20.
Another night passed with no sign of them. No calls. No friends claiming to have seen or heard from them. Nothing.
On Sunday morning, a call came in that nobody wanted to hear: four bodies had been found 20 miles away, in Johnson County. It was the missing Burger Chef Employees, and each had been brutally assaulted before their murders. But with no crime scene, no evidence, no photos, and no witnesses, the chances of solving the crime looked bleak.
Over the decades, various suspects came in and out of play, though there was never enough evidence to make an arrest.
Many of the suspects were already deceased by the time that, in 1984, a man named Donald Forrester called detectives from prison and confessed that he had been there that night. He knew details that had never been released to the public; he led police to the crime scene in the woods and described the positions in which the bodies were found. It seemed as if the case was on the verge of being solved - until Forrester suddenly recanted his confessions, claiming he had been coerced. With no evidence to back up his claims other than circumstantial anecdotes, he was never arrested. He died in prison in 2006.
In 2018, the community planted four red oak trees in honor of the four victims.
Each tree sits behind a small plaque describing each soul lost that horrible night. Jayne Friedt, Ruth Ellen Shelton, Daniel Davis, and Mark Flemmonds are forever memorialized in their hometown, and to this day, their loved ones wonder what could have been. Who would each of them be today? What lives would they have lived?
The last Burger Chef restaurant closed its doors in 2006.
What unsolved crime in Indiana keeps you up at night? Have you ever read the brutal tale of Sylvia Liken’s murder at the hand of her caretaker (and her caretaker’s children)?
It was so horrific that it inspired a movie.
If there are any spooky unsolved mysteries in Indiana you’d like to see us cover,
send us your suggestions using this form. Address: Speedway, IN, USA