Wrong Place At The Wrong Time
“Between closing time 11:00 pm and midnight on November 17, 1978, four employees of the Burger Chef restaurant at 5725 Crawfordsville Road disappeared: assistant manager Jayne Friedt, 20; Daniel Davis, 16; Mark Flemmonds, 16; and Ruth Ellen Shelton, 18. A fellow employee who came by at midnight to visit the four noticed that the restaurant was empty, the safe was open, and the back door ajar. Police found two empty currency bags and an empty roll of adhesive tape next to the open safe.
Police did not initially consider the case to be serious, given that management reported the loss of only approximately $581 from the safe and no clear signs of a struggle. It was thought to be a case of petty theft, with the assumption that the pilfered cash had been used by the youths to go partying that night. More than $100 in coins was left in the registers. Although the purses and jackets of the missing women had been left at the shop, the theft theory initially seemed most likely and the scene was cleaned by employees early Saturday morning.
Buddy Ellwanger, a Speedway police officer who was eventually assigned to the case, admitted, ‘We messed it up from the beginning.’ Not only was the restaurant cleaned and allowed to be reopened, but no photographs were taken beforehand, effectively eliminating all potential evidence at the crime scene.
When the four did not reappear the following morning and Friedt’s Chevrolet Vega was found partially locked in town, concerns grew. It became evident that the youths had been abducted while closing the restaurant for the night, with the attack possibly beginning as they removed trash bags out the back door.
On Sunday afternoon, hikers found the bodies of all four youths over 20 miles (32 km) away, in a wooded area of Johnson County. Both Davis and Shelton had been shot numerous times with a .38 caliber weapon. Friedt had been stabbed twice in the chest. The handle of the knife had broken off and was missing; the blade was later recovered during an autopsy. Flemmonds was later determined to have been bludgeoned — possibly with a chain — and died from choking to death on his own blood. All four victims were still wearing their Burger Chef uniforms.
Money and watches were found on the dead victims, implying that robbery might not have been the sole motive for the murders.
The leading theory of investigators has been that the four victims were kidnapped during a botched robbery, possibly after one of the victims recognized one of the perpetrators. Flemmonds was covering for another employee’s shift and was not scheduled to work that night, leading investigators to speculate that perhaps he was the one who recognized the killers since they had not planned on him being there.”