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Indiana Cold Case: The Burger Chef Murders

In 1978 at a Burger Chef in Speedway, an employee found the doors unlocked, but nobody inside. It wasn't very long before police knew they were looking for a killer.

The Burger Chef murders story is part of a WIBC News special called "Indiana Cold Cases", which airs tonight for the first time, at 7 p.m., and again at 9 a.m. Memorial Day.

INDIANAPOLIS--Burger Chef was a restaurant chain headquartered in Indianapolis. It was a place, like one of the commercial said, where the family didn't have to dress up. The kids could get a burger and a shake cheap. You might've seen the Mad Men episode where the guys from New York came to Indy to try and get the Burger Chef account. That story was fictional. Unfortunately, what happened at the Burger Chef on Crawfordsville Rd. in Speedway, sometime after 11 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, 1978, was very real.

No one inside

At 12:15 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18, another employee stopped by and saw the back door open, and no one there...

They had closed the store that night and were expected to stay a while and clean up. When police searched the restaurant, they didn't find any signs of struggle. Purses were still there. Even though over $500 was gone, there were still hundreds of dollars in the cash drawers. 

The police came up with a theory. Maybe the four had taken off with the money that was missing and went to party. When the store was cleaned for the next day's business, so was the forensic evidence.

Later that day, Speedway Police determined it was no party.

WIBC Audio from 1978

Bodies found

The next day four bodies were found on property just off State Rd. 37, in Johnson County. Daniel Davis and Ruth Shelton had been shot execution-style. They were next to each other on the ground, face-down. Jayne Freidt was murdered with a knife. The handle of the knife broke off and was never found. Mark Flemmonds died choking on his blood. He had also been beaten with a chain. Police theorize he may have run into a tree while trying to flee and knocked himself unconscious.

People in Speedway were frightened and angry. The people at Burger Chef offered a reward for tips that might've led to an arrest. 

A new set of eyes on the case

Nearly 40 years later at Indiana State Police Post 52, in Indianapolis, two fresh sets of eyes are now on the case. Detective Nick Alspach and Sergeant Bill Dalton are working on going through all of the case files, and all of the paper and electronic evidence.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating pieces of evidence in the Burger Chef murders or in any cold case are twp clay sculptures of the men police consider to be suspects.

"At the time there were some composite sketches done, back in the early stages of the investigation,' said Alspach. "Those composite sketches were taken to Purdue Univesity and some art professors, art students, I'm not exactly sure which, created these life-like busts." He said the purpose was to give people a better chance to see the suspects and ID them.

And the detectives, both new to the case, say their info says the sculptures are accurate.

"These are off of a couple of children that were in the area that had these descriptions of some gentlemen they saw shortly before the robbery and the abduction," said Alspach.

Many theories

Twenty binders, photographs of the victims and the clay busts are what Alspaugh and Dalton could show us. The detectives said there are rooms dedicated to the holding evidence from the case, which include video and audio recordings.

Alspach and Dalton said they have heard many theories, some of the same ones you probably have heard, but they are taking the case as it comes with their re-examination. They hope to generate more tips and they hope the right one leads to the killer or killers.

If you know anything about who kidnapped and killed Daniel Davis, Ruth Shelton, Jayne Freidt and Mark Flemmonds, call the Indiana State Police.


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