Fast food and death: The cold case of four Burger Chef murders
If you’re a Millennial, you may not have heard of Burger Chef, a restaurant chain which once provided millions of hungry customers with late-night comfort food. Founded in 1958, Burger Chef was home to some of America’s greasiest meals, as well as one of its most gruesome murders.
One November night in 1978, four teenage employees of a Burger Chef joint in downtown Indianapolis mysteriously disappeared. Not only was the restaurant left completely unattended, but the facility’s safe had also been cracked open.
Surprisingly, police concluded a search of the Burger Chef almost immediately. Given that only about two thousand dollars (adjusted for inflation) had been stolen, officers assumed the teens had simply gone for a joy ride. They figured the matter wasn’t urgent or serious enough to warrant an immediate investigation.
However, when none of the teens were found the next day – and one of their cars was discovered elsewhere in the city – authorities began considering the possibility that their would-be culprits were actually victims of a kidnapping.
Sure enough, four bodies dressed in Burger Chef uniforms were found in a neighboring county, and the result wasn’t pretty. Forensics indicated some had been shot with a .38 caliber gun, one had been stabbed, and another bludgeoned with what is presumed to have been a metal chain.
Perhaps most confusing of all was the fact that several of the victims were still wearing their watches and a few even had a bit of cash left in their pockets. This, together with the money bags that were found hastily discarded outside the restaurant, seemed to indicate the crime at stake was something other than a mere robbery.
When the murders were still fresh, one member of the community claimed responsibility for them. That claim, however, turned out to be nothing but a bragging exercise, and one in poor taste at that – although the man did give up the names of some people whom he said were part of a fast-food robbery gang.
When police called the accused robbers in for questioning, one showed up clean-shaven – a little odd considering he had been sporting a beard for the past five years, and outright suspicious given a witness of the murders remembered seeing a bearded man on the premises of the restaurant.
The second suspect called in also matched eyewitness accounts, which described the bearded man’s accomplice as “fair-haired.” While this particular suspect was eventually imprisoned for robbing fast-food establishments, he could not be tried for the Burger Chef murders because he refused to confess.
Neither did his bearded friend, who walked away from the ordeal scot-free in spite of the fact that his own neighbor had also been put behind bars for robberies of a similar sort.
In the years that followed, new information regarding the case popped up left & right, but unfortunately none of the revelations provided definitive answers to the questions families of the victims had been asking ever since that fateful night.
But arguably the biggest revelation of them all was revealed only in 1984. Donald Forrester, who was incarcerated for a different crime, maintained the Burger Chef affair was in fact a drug deal gone wrong which he’d supposedly been involved in. The unplanned murders supposedly occurred after a deadly fight broke out.
Given that Forrester only decided to come forward with these details when he was about to be transferred to an extremely violent state prison, however, the reliability of his account has been widely disputed. As such, Forrester’s claims failed to provide the basis for a renewed investigation.
At this moment, Indiana state police regard the case as unsolved. If the country’s best detectives failed to solve this mystery, then a motley film crew funded by some streaming service probably wouldn’t stand much of a chance, either. Even so, this story is just waiting to be served up as a true crime doc.