Just after midnight on November 18, 1978, Brian Kring, an off-duty employee of the Speedway Burger Chef, 5725 Crawfordsville Road, discovered the backdoor of the restaurant open and the staff missing. The four young employees working at the time—Jayne Friedt, Ruth Shelton, Daniel Davis, and Mark Flemmonds were abducted from the restaurant and $581 stolen. The kidnapping had no eyewitnesses.  

A series of four headshots of two young women and two young men.
The Burger Chef kidnapping/murder victims from left, Jayne Friedt, Mark Flemmonds, Ruth Ellen Shelton, and Daniel Davis, ca. 1978 Credit: IndyStar View Source

Over the next two days, police and volunteers mounted an intensive search for the missing employees and their kidnappers. Police discovered Friedt’s car, which may have been used in the initial part of the abduction, near the Speedway Police Department. On Sunday, November 19, the bodies of the four employees were discovered in a rural wooded area in nearby Johnson County by a local property owner. Two victims had multiple gunshot wounds to the head, neck, and shoulders from .38-caliber slugs. A third had been stabbed to death with a hunting knife found in the body, and the fourth died from severe head injuries. 

A police car is parked outside of a fast food restaurant.
The Burger Chef restaurant at 5725 Crawfordsville Road, 1978 Credit: IndyStar View Source

The police organized a multiple-agency task force to investigate the murders. Burger Chef Systems, Inc., headquartered in Indianapolis, posted a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderers and established a memorial fund for the families of the four victims. Despite thousands of hours devoted to the investigation, with leads pursued throughout the United States, the murderers remain unidentified. 

In 2018, on the 40th anniversary of the murders, the Indiana State Police (ISP) held a press conference and displayed a piece of evidence in hopes of opening memories to help gain information. The ISP hoped that new forensic technologies not in use at the time would help solve the case. The murders have also been brought back into the public eye through multiple podcasts about the cold case, a book titled “The Burger Chef Murders in Indiana,” and a documentary that was released in 2022 on Discovery Plus titled “Murders at the Burger Joint.” 

Revised May 2024

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