On Nov. 17, 1978, four young employees of Speedway’s Burger Chef restaurant went missing. Police assumed — given the $500 missing from the cash register — they went to a local 21-and-under nightclub to party. Two days later, hikers found the bodies of the young adults about 30 minutes away in a wooded area of Johnson County.
Ruth Shelton, 17, and Daniel Davis, 16, were both shot. Jayne Friedt, the 20-year-old assistant manager at Burger Chef, was found stabbed in the chest about 50 yards away from Shelton and Davis. And 16-year-old Mark Flemmonds, the only African American victim, was found beaten to death near a main road. While multiple suspects were interviewed for the murders, no one was ever charged, and the case remains cold.
A new podcast, “Murder Sheet,” will examine the 42-year-old case. Through the podcast, hosts Áine Cain and Kevin Greenlee hope to shed light on various theories surrounding the night four young Hoosiers lost their lives.
Cain, a New York-based reporter for business news website Insider, and Greenlee, an Indianapolis lawyer, met through Newspapers.com, where they noticed they were clipping the same archived articles about the case. While “Murder Sheet” will focus on several different cases, the miniseries “You Never Can Forget” takes a deep dive into the infamous Burger Chef case. One theory the team will tackle: the possibility these murders were a hate crime.
“If you talk to white people in Speedway who lived there in the ‘70s, they say it was like Mayberry,” Greenlee said, referencing the serene setting of “The Andy Griffith Show.” “When you talk to people of color, they describe a lot of racism and being hassled by white citizens.”
According to a person close to Flemmond’s family, the family — one of the few Black households in Speedway at the time — received threats. Some believe a motive for the crime was Flemmond’s alleged relationship with a white employee at Burger Chef.
“Mark was the victim who suffered the most,” Cain said. “The others were killed relatively quickly, and he was the only Black victim. It shouldn’t be understated that he was singled out for that treatment.”
While neither Cain nor Greenlee can definitively say the Burger Chef murders were a hate crime, they say there’s enough evidence to consider that angle.
The hate crime possibility, along with other theories, will be discussed throughout the miniseries. While both Cain and Greenlee have been interested in the case for years, they’re careful to not forget the humanity of the victims while searching for answers.
“It’s so easy if you consume a lot of true crime to view things as a puzzle and not as human beings who lost their lives,” Cain said. “We take a victim-centric approach. … We try to give people a glimpse into what these kids were like and why it’s an outrage it hasn’t been solved. True crime matters because there’s a victim at the heart of it, and they deserve justice and deserve to be remembered.”
“Murder Sheet” will be available to stream on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify on Nov. 17.
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.