INDIANAPOLIS — The abductions and murders of four young employees of a Burger Chef in Speedway on November 17, 1978, have remained some of Marion County’s most enduring crime mysteries.
In 2019, Kevin Greenlee of The Murder Sheet podcast made a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI, seeking its file on the case.
Recently, Greenlee received the 414-page redacted investigation.
”In the early days, they talked to a lot of the witnesses and got early statements from them,” Greenlee said. “So, this is first-hand early statements which is invaluable because, as time passes, memories fade. This is a snapshot of what happened just after it happened.”
Included are names, tips and accounts not previously known in the kidnappings and killings of Jayne Friedt, Ruth Ellen Shelton, Daniel Davis and Mark Flemmonds.
”The FBI seemed especially interested in one particular employee who had had some trouble recently with manager Jayne Friedt,” Greenlee said. “In fact, he had been officially fired but he had not yet been notified of that. He was scheduled to show up at 10 p.m. on the night of the murders. He doesn’t show up. In fact, he doesn’t show up at the restaurant that night until just after midnight. He shows up at just about the same time a witness, Brian Kring, discovers the empty restaurant. And he has communication with Kring, Kring says, ‘I’m calling police,’ and he gets out of there.
”There’s another witness in this case named Kirk Thomas who was across the street walking towards the restaurant at around the time of the abduction. He observed two men inside the restaurant behind the counter. By the time he reached the restaurant from across the street, they had gone.”
”We have an allusion to Jayne Friedt getting harassing and obscene phone calls in the days and weeks before her murder,” said Murder Sheet podcaster Aine Cai, who has also dug deep into the accounts of two teens hanging around behind the restaurant that night before they ran into a pair of people who warned them off. ”What they claim is that two white males approached them and basically say something to the effect of, ‘You kids better get out of here, there’s been a lot of vandalism in this area recently.’ And they take that as their cue to leave.
”There just seemed to be things brewing beneath the surface of this workplace,” Cain said.
Greenlee raised other tips uncovered in the FBI investigation.
“There’s indications in the FBI file that, shortly before the murders, two employees were caught doing something behind the restaurant, and its not clear what they were doing, but it’s the impression that it was so improper that it resulted in them getting fired,” he said. ”Drugs seem to be the current that runs underneath this case.”
Indiana State Police investigators have theorized that the workers were kidnapped and killed by a robbery crew that had been knocking over Indianapolis fast food restaurants that year, even releasing the photos of three dead men suspected of doing those stickups.
“The FBI files don’t get into the robbery gang theory,” Cain said.
In 2018, ISP held a briefing in which it revealed a photograph of a suspected murder weapon, a large knife, and displayed several binders which the lead detective said he would digitize and subject to Artificial Intelligence, as well as DNA some evidence, in an attempt to crack the four-decades-plus cold case.
The podcasters, who remain in contact with a number of witnesses in this case, are doubtful of the ISP approach to the Burger Chef investigation.
”This is a case where I don’t believe the cavalry is coming,” Cain said. “I think a lot of people take hope from cold cases that have recently been solved by DNA, and that’s wonderful, but given the mishandling of the crime scenes here, I think this is going to be solved by old fashioned detective work. Going back and re-interviewing people. Relationships may have shifted in these decades since the murders and this is gonna take a lot of that, getting back out and knocking on doors.”
”I think the biggest reason why this case has not been solved in over 40 years is because of initial errors made by first responders,” Greenlee said. “They simply did not protect the crime scene. The Speedway Police who responded to the call of the empty restaurant allowed employees to come in and clean the place. This destroyed forensic evidence. This destroyed any fingerprint evidence that may have been left.”
Follow this link to read the FBI files acquired by The Murder Sheet.