Four Burger Chef Employees Were Kidnapped and Murdered in 1978 — Were the Killers Ever Found?

The tragic story of the Burger Chef murders still haunts the city of Speedway, Ind., to this day.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Jun. 10 2024, Published 3:58 p.m. ET

Believe it or not, there were once almost as many Burger Chef locations as McDonald's locations. Although Burger Chef was founded a full 17 years after McDonald's, it quickly became a popular fast-food chain that began in Indiana and stretched out to small cities across the U.S. There was even a brief period when people preferred Burger Chef over McDonald's, per WFMK. In fact, many believe the Big Shef and Super Chef at Burger Chef became the Big Mac and Quarter Pounder.

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Unfortunately, one Burger Chef location would eventually be known for something more than its $0.15 burgers and delicious shakes. In November 1978, four employees were kidnapped from a spot in Speedway, Ind., reported ABC News. Their bodies were found two days later. Did the police ever find the Speedway Burger Chef murderers? Here's what we know.

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Did police ever find the Speedway Burger Chef murderers? They could be close.

As of the time of this writing, police have yet to find the Speedway Burger Chef murderers although a documentary about the crimes might have some answers. The Speedway Murders will hit some theaters and will be available to purchase at home on June 21, 2024. According to IndieWire, the documentary focuses on four theories and includes a "second-hand confession from the close friend of a now-deceased lead suspect."

In November 2018, exactly 40 years after the killings, a family member of one of the victims spoke with ABC News about the impact of losing someone in such a horrific way. Theresa Jefferies's sister Ruth Shelton was only 18 years old when she was abducted and then murdered along with Jayne Friedt, 20, Mark Flemmonds, 16, and Daniel Davis, 16. Their bodies were found 48 hours later in a field in Johnson County.

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Jefferies wanted people to remember that these kids weren't just victims. There were people in the world who loved them and they wanted to know what happened. "I hope that before my time on Earth is gone that I have those answers," she told the outlet. They were still investigating the case in 2018 and after the documentary filmmakers told authorities what they knew, they were looking into it. Those answers could very well be coming soon.

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What happened to the kids who were killed at the Speedway Burger Chef?

Around 11:00 p.m. on Nov. 18, 1978, police believe two robbers snuck in through the back door of the Speedway Burger Chef, reported the Indy Star. Not only did they take $581 from the cash register, but they forced the four employees still working to go with them. Shelton and Davis were both shot in the back of the head. They were also next to each other in the field.

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Friedt was the assistant manager and as far as law enforcement can tell, she might have tried to run but was stabbed in the chest. The knife's blade was still lodged firmly in her torso when her body was discovered, but the handle was never located. Flemmonds died after choking on his own blood, possibly after knocking himself unconscious after running into a tree. All four victims were still wearing their Burger Chef uniforms, which police still have in their possession.

In 2017, Indiana State Trooper William Stoney Vann was the only active-duty police officer still investigating this case. The State Police building has two 3-D busts made based on police sketches of the suspects, as well as "victims' hair samples, blood samples, and fingerprints, bullets recovered from Davis and Shelton's heads, the knife blade from Friedt's chest, cigarette butts from Friedt's 1974 Chevrolet Vega, and all the other information related to the case."

There are also 24 three-ring binders filled with notes from various detectives and numerous cassettes filled with police interviews. It's about as thorough as any investigation could get. Sadly, none of this has been very useful for Vann who believes he knows who did it. He has focused on a group of five men who were responsible for a string of robberies during that time. Three of them have since died. "The problem is we don't have enough physical evidence," he said. Perhaps one of these men is named in the documentary.

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