The Terrifying Unsolved Mystery Haunting An Indiana Fast Food Chain

It's possible you've never heard of Burger Chef, considering that the chain closed back in 1996. It was at one point a rather popular name in the fast-food industry, being the second largest fast food restaurant behind McDonald's in the 1960s (via Time). Burger Chef is even credited with inventing the first "Happy Meal" back in 1973 (via MeTV), just a few years before McDonald's rolled out its famous kiddie meal. While corporate mismanagement and changing times eventually led to Burger Chef's downfall, the chain is still known for one gruesome and haunting mystery: the murders of four employees.

As Unresolved explains, the story begins on November 17, 1978, at a Burger Chef in Speedway, Indiana. Four Burger Chef employees — Jayne Friedt, Daniel Davis, Ruth Shelton, and Mark Flemmonds — went missing. That evening, another employee stopped by and found the restaurant completely empty. The cash in the safe was missing, and so was Friedt's car. While authorities believed that it was a case of the young employees emptying the safe and heading away to spend their stolen cash, the horrible truth came to light when the bodies of the four employees, still clad in their uniforms, were found beaten and shot to death two days later in a wooded area.

What exactly could have happened to these four employees? Why did the criminals murder them instead of simply taking the money?

The case remains cold today

One would think that, if there was a robbery at the restaurant, the Burger Chef would be overflowing with clues as to what happened. The problem, Insider tells us, was that the police mishandled the investigation. Since they assumed that the missing employees were nothing but some kids taking the money and running, the local authorities never treated the restaurant as an active crime scene. The Burger Chef was allowed to close, be cleaned up, and serve customers the next day — thus removing what could have been key evidence.

But who could have murdered the four employees, and why? Theories abound. The now-former employee who showed up the night of the murder, according to FOX 59, believes that the killings were related to drugs. The theory goes that drug dealers came into the store to collect a debt from one of the employees and, upon being recognized, killed all four employees to prevent any witnesses from identifying them. Jayne Freidt's brother, James, was reportedly involved in the world of drugs, which adds credence to this theory (via Indianapolis Monthly).

Today, the Burger Chef murders remain cold and, just like the namesake restaurant today, the case teeters on the brink of being forgotten as time marches on.