One morning in November 1978, the residents of Speedway, Indiana, woke up to the horrifying news of four fast food restaurant employees being brutally murdered. Over the years, the case has garnered national attention with various theories of what possibly happened. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Murders at the Burger Joint’ chronicles the events surrounding the quadruple slaying and the inquiry that followed. So, let’s find out what happened then, shall we?
How Did Jayne Friedt, Ruth Shelton, Daniel Davis, and Mark Flemmonds Die?
Jayne Friedt was a 20-year-old working as the assistant manager at the Burger Chef restaurant in Speedway. Also working with her on the night of the incident were 17-year-old Ruth Shelton, 16-year-old Daniel Davis, and 16-year-old Mark Flemmonds. All four were considered responsible employees, making what happened on the night of November 17, 1978, quite shocking.
Around midnight that night, another employee came by to pay a visit after noticing the lights still on at the restaurant. The back door was open, but he quickly realized something was wrong because the place was empty, and the safe was open with the money gone. Two days later, the four employees were found in a hilly, wooded area in Johnson County, Indiana, about a 35 to 40-minute drive from the restaurant.
Daniel and Ruth were found lying side by side, face down. Both were shot multiple times in the head, neck, and shoulders with a .38-caliber firearm. Jayne was found a few yards away; she had been stabbed twice in the heart, with the broken-off knife still in the body. As for Mark, it was determined that he had blunt force trauma and died from choking on his own blood. It was possible that he was beaten and, at some point, ran into a tree.
Who Killed Jayne Friedt, Ruth Shelton, Daniel Davis, and Mark Flemmonds?
Initially, the authorities believed Jayne Friedt, Ruth Shelton, Daniel Davis, and Mark Flemmonds just left with the money for a night out, but that seemed out of character. Plus, Ruth and Jayne’s jackets and purses were still at the restaurant. Robbery was considered a possible motive, but there was a lot of money in change left behind, and the victims still had cash and valuables on them. Furthermore, the different methods of killing stumped the police.
The investigation also faced several issues because the restaurant was allowed to be cleaned up the morning after the disappearance, which meant that any potential evidence was gone. It was also reported that vehicles drove through the area where the bodies were found, compromising the crime scene. In the time after the bodies were found, the authorities had the description of two men who were seen at the restaurant. As a result, composite sketches and clay busts were made.
While there were many theories regarding what happened, little evidence coupled with non-productive leads meant that the case went cold. Then, in 1981, the authorities heard from Alan Pruitt, who claimed to have information about the murder. He remembered seeing two men, Jeff Reed and Tim Willoughby, take the four employees in their van and Jayne’s car. At the time, Alan stated that Jeff slammed Mark’s head into the van.
The day after the disappearance, Alan hung out with the two men in addition to Tim’s girlfriend, Mary Ann Higginbotham. The four drove around in the van, and Alan claimed that Mary rambled about Tim and Jeff killing the Burger Chef employees. The two also asked Alan about what he saw the previous night. The group then ended up in an isolated area and got out of the car.
Alan claimed that Mary asked him to run because she said they would kill her and him. As Alan ran away, he mentioned hearing a gunshot. About seven months after the Burger Chef incident, Mary was found shot to death in a barrel. However, Alan’s story kept changing over the years, and with no concrete evidence tying Jeff and Tim to the murders, the case remained unsolved.
Then, in 1989, Donald Forrester, a convicted rapist serving time, confessed to the Burger Chef murders. He claimed that they were the result of a drug debt that Jayne owed. Donald stated that he had a few accomplices, and the police at the time believed that multiple kidnappers were involved. Initially, he did have some information that was not public and led the police to the remote crime scene. However, as per the show, Donald talked about the victim’s being bound, which was untrue.
The authorities also found shell casings in the septic tank of a house Donald used to live in. But while the murder weapon was a .38-caliber, the casings found were .22-caliber. In the end, the police believed that Donald was only looking to shorten his prison sentence and found no evidence connecting him to the murders. For now, the case remains unsolved, but the authorities have maintained that tips have continued to come in. In 2018, they released an image of the knife that killed Jayne. Its handle and the gun have never been recovered.
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