SPEEDWAY, Ind. – The Burger Chef murders are still among the most notorious killings in the city’s history.
Back in November of 1978, fast food workers Ruth Shelton, 17, Daniel Davis, 16, Jayne Friedt, 20, and Mark Flemmonds, 16, were kidnapped from a west side Burger Chef restaurant and killed. Their bodies were found a few days later in Johnson County. To this day, their killer has never been caught, but now one local man is trying to keep their stories alive.
Alex Wisemiller grew up on the west side, hearing stories about what happened to those four young restaurant workers.
“Whenever the anniversary comes up, it’s always ‘Oh, it’s still unsolved,’” Wisemiller said.
They’re four lives that for so many even today are just one part of a murder mystery gone cold.
“I feel like that’s all they’re known for, and it makes me sad,” said Wisemiller.
Now, four months shy of the murders’ fortieth anniversary, Wisemiller’s GoFundMe page is raising money to plant a tree, along with plaques, for each victim at Leonard Park in Speedway.
“I really want to change the conversation,” said Wisemiller. “I want to change the way it’s brought up.”
There is still an Indiana State Police detective assigned to the case, and from time to time, tips still float in, usually when the story comes up in the news again.
“It would be nice if it would generate that kind of stuff,” said Wisemiller, “but again honestly, it’s not why I’m doing it.”
For him, the trees aren’t so much about solving the case, but knowing that things remembered still live.
“I just think their stories should be known but not just the tragedy,” said Wisemiller, “they should be remembered for who they are and how many people they touched.”
He’s buying these trees at $250 apiece through a Speedway Parks Department city beautification project. The initial goal was $1,000, which has been met but he’s hoping to buy a fifth tree in honor of their families and friends who have now gone almost 40 years with no answer.