Murder Sheet

You Never Can Forget: The Confessions

December 15, 2020 Mystery Sheet Season 1 Episode 5
Murder Sheet
You Never Can Forget: The Confessions
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Murder Sheet
You Never Can Forget: The Confessions
Dec 15, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5
Mystery Sheet

Donald Forrester, a man with a long history of violence, confessed to the Burger Chef murders not once but twice — providing details that some investigators claimed had never before been publicly released.  Yet neither he nor the other men he implicated ever faced criminal charges for the crime.

Was this a failure of the criminal justice system? Or did the mistake lie elsewhere, with the investigators who devoted so much time and resources to pursuing a lead that left them doing little more than running in circles? 

Follow the Murder Sheet on social media for the latest on the Burger Chef murders and future episodes: 

And send tips to [email protected] 

Show Notes Transcript

Donald Forrester, a man with a long history of violence, confessed to the Burger Chef murders not once but twice — providing details that some investigators claimed had never before been publicly released.  Yet neither he nor the other men he implicated ever faced criminal charges for the crime.

Was this a failure of the criminal justice system? Or did the mistake lie elsewhere, with the investigators who devoted so much time and resources to pursuing a lead that left them doing little more than running in circles? 

Follow the Murder Sheet on social media for the latest on the Burger Chef murders and future episodes: 

And send tips to [email protected] 

Áine Cain: Content warning: This episode contains graphic descriptions of murder.

Last October, we visited a small, blue house in a rural area of Southern Indiana. It is the sort of place where  a half dozen or so chickens wander aimlessly through the yard and driveway. The squat blue house was flanked by a ramshackle chicken coop and a red shed spilling out lawnmower parts. Next door, a little boy romped with a yapping puppy. 

It seemed quiet out there. A small home in the country. 

But if you believe Donald Forrester, a murderer lives here. 

*Sounds of Áine and Kevin knocking on the door of Gary's home*

Kevin Greenlee: We told you about Forrester last week — he’s the convicted rapist who told police he was one of the Burger Chef killers. According to him, the murders were set in motion when the leader of a Speedway, Indiana, drug ring sent a crew to the restaurant to punish manager Jayne Friedt for not paying a drug debt. The alleged leader of that ring — let’s call him Gary, although that’s not his real name — lives in that blue house we mentioned, raising a clutch of chickens between physical therapy appointments. 

Gary was never arrested or even charged with those crimes. Some people say he got away with murder. Others insist he was a victim of one of Forrester’s tall tales.

Áine Cain: It seemed to us that the best way to figure out the truth would be to come out here, knock on Gary’s door and ask him. 

*Sounds of Áine and Kevin knocking on the door of Gary's home*

We couldn’t quite see him inside on any of our visits, but it certainly looked like someone was home during the few times we knocked on his glass-paned door. Big plastic jugs, ones that sort of looked like the kind you slot into an office water-cooler, sat on the floor in the front room. On our last call, which took place after nightfall, we saw the lights of a television flicker across the window furthest from the front door. But Gary never answered our knocking.

Kevin Greenlee: If we wanted to find out the truth about Forrester and his claims, we would have to look elsewhere.

*Eerie music plays*

Áine Cain: My name is Áine Cain.

Kevin Greenlee: And I’m Kevin Greenlee.

Áine Cain: And we’re the Murder Sheet. We’ll be taking a multi-part look into the Burger Chef murders. We’ll be presenting you with a new theory about what happened each week as part of our miniseries, You Never Can Forget.

On a weekly basis, you’re going to hear from figures you’ve never heard from before. You’re going to hear about facts that you’ve never heard before. And hopefully, you’ll walk away with a better understanding of the sheer complexity of this awful crime.

Kevin Greenlee: We don’t just rely on what we’ve been told or what we’ve read. We have worked this case ourselves. 

We decided to do this podcast so we can tell you what we’ve learned and even clear up a few misconceptions. In this miniseries, we will give you the top theories about the crime. After we’re finished covering the Burger Chef case, the Murder Sheet will continue to investigate different restaurant related homicides for the rest of season one. 

Áine Cain: Some of the information we are sharing with you this week about the Marion County investigation of Donald Forrester comes from the reporting Dan Luzadder did on the case back in the eighties for the Indianapolis Star. If you are interested in this angle of the case, Luzadder’s articles are well worth reading. 

Kevin Greenlee: We’re the Murder Sheet, and this is “You Never Can Forget: The Confessions.”

*Eerie music based on the Burger Chef jingle plays* 

Kevin Greenlee: Years ago, I went to a carnival — the 4H Fair in Columbus,  Indiana to be precise  — and decided to spend a few dollars to try my luck at a game of chance. In the game “Bowler Roller,” the player has to try to roll a bowling ball up a slightly inclined ramp. If you hurl the ball with too much force, it’ll speed over a bump in the ramp and you’ll lose. If you sling it too softly, it’ll roll back down the incline toward you, and you’ll lose. 

I lost — but just barely. It seemed to me that if I tried again I would surely do better and win the prize — a big stuffed animal and bragging rights. So I paid more money for another chance.

And I lost again. But I came so close to winning that I couldn’t resist trying yet again- and so I did. Over and over again. I never stopped to think that the game was designed not just to make people lose, but to also make them think they nearly beat it. This encouraged dupes like me to keep on playing, even though we were destined to lose.

I ended up going through quite a bit of money and — not surprisingly — came home empty handed. 

I remember that day often when I think about Donald Forrester. 

Áine Cain: Last week, we told you about how Forrester came on the radar of Mel Willsey of the Marion County Sheriff’s department around 1985. While serving a 95-year sentence for rape and kidnapping, Forrester told investigators that he had information on the Burger Chef murders. Over time, Willsey began to suspect that Forrester knew much more than he was saying — that he actually helped commit the murders. 

And more than once Willsey and his team thought they were close to proving Forrester’s guilt-- so close they couldn’t possibly give up. 

Kevin Greenlee: We discussed one of those occasions last week: the time when law enforcement went through Forrester’s septic tank, sifting for shell casings he claimed to have recovered from the crime scene. They found three — two of them were .22s — which did not match the caliber of the murder weapons. The third may have been a .38 — which was the correct caliber — but it was too degraded to match to any specific weapon. 

This wasn’t a win but it felt like it was close to one. The Marion County team never found anything to confirm the story Forrester told-- but they never found anything to categorically disprove it. 

Áine Cain: So they kept working the case.

There was even another dig after the septic tank episode. Forrester told the police that bloody clothes worn by the killers were buried in the yard of a house in Speedway, Indiana. After he identified the home, law enforcement excavated the yard---

And found nothing.

But the Marion County deputies told themselves that this failure didn’t truly mean much, that it certainly didn’t disprove his story. maybe, after Forrester helped bury the bloody clothes,  the other killers simply dug it up again and moved it elsewhere.

Kevin Greenlee: So they kept working the case. 

But as time went on some of the Marion County Sheriff’s Department’s methods began to seem less and less rigorous to other agencies. Here’s Marion County deputy Mel Willsey. 

Mel Willsey: WE WENT TO THE EXTENT OF GETTING A PSYCHIC AND HE RODE WITH US FOR A WEEK. WE GOT [THE PSYCHIC] IN THE BACK OF THE CAR AND HE TOLD US HE GAVE US SOME INFORMATION FROM TWO LITTLE DEAD INDIAN BOYS. 

Áine Cain: Apologies for the audio quality. When I interviewed Willsey in his office at the Marion County Sheriff’s Department a year ago, this podcast wasn’t even an idea yet. Also you heard that right — as of last year, at least, Willsey still hadn’t retired from the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. We’ve included full transcriptions of all our episodes at murdersheetpodcast.buzzsprout.com, for any listeners having trouble following any audio.

The Indiana State Police began to have increasingly serious concerns about the way Marion County was running the investigation. Here’s Tom Davidson, of the State Police, the man who busted Forrester on the rape charge. 

Tom Davidson: THIS MARION COUNTY DETECTIVE I HAVE NO USE FOR. HE MAY HAVE DONE A LOT OF WONDERFUL THINGS IN HIS LIFE. BUT THIS ONE. HE FED FORRESTER.

Kevin Greenlee: When law enforcement officers talk about “feeding” a suspect in this context they mean someone has supplied the prisoner with bits of information he can use in order to make his statements appear to be more credible. In some cases, this happens deliberately but in others it occurs because someone innocently messed up. 

Áine Cain: Let’s give an example of how this sort of thing can happen. 

Kevin Greenlee: Imagine that Áine is a detective interrogating me about a confession I’ve made in a murder case, trying to determine if I actually know the details of the crime.

Áine Cain: Did you shoot her?

Kevin Greenlee: Yes.

Áine Cain: How many times?

Kevin Greenlee: Once.

Áine Cain: Who shot her the second time?

Kevin Greenlee: She has now told me that the victim was shot twice, a detail I can possibly use to concoct a more credible confession. 

Áine Cain: The transcripts of the Forrester interrogations are said to contain instances of this sort of thing, And there’s more.

Tom Davidson: THEY WERE IN A ROOM AND THEY WOULD HAVE MAPS AND PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE CRIME SCENE AND I SAY YOU NEVER DO THAT.

Áine Cain: The fact that Forrester knew details about where the crime happened and the nature of the wounds suffered by the victims is often cited as evidence that he was telling the truth. But it seems much less persuasive once you learn he spent time in a room where crime scene photos and maps were displayed. 

Kevin Greenlee: These sorts of errors make it difficult to evaluate the veracity of any of Forrester’s claims. Even when he supplied details that might otherwise have seemed compelling, a skeptical observer would have to wonder if those tidbits came from Forrester’s memory or if they were just something that had been fed to him.

We can reveal, for instance, that one of the people Forrester implicated in the murders was Jeff Reed — the same man Allen Pruitt said he saw outside the restaurant on the night of the abduction. Was this independent confirmation of Reed’s guilt? Or was Forrester just parroting back information Marion County fed him?

Áine Cain: To people like Jim Cramer of the Indiana State Police, the answer was obvious.

Jim Cramer: HE HAD BITS AND PIECES OF SEVERAL OF OUR MAIN LEADS. THAT'S WHY I SAY HE WAS FED SOME INFORMATION. BUT IF WE BELIEVED WHAT HE TOLD US YOU’D HAVE TO HAVE A BUS TO PUT ALL THE PEOPLE WHO WERE INVOLVED IN THIS. 

Áine Cain: The Indiana State Police grew more and more concerned with how Marion County handled the investigation — and tensions between the agencies rose. Don Lindsay of the ISP was working with the deputies and it was not going well. 

Jim Cramer: THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE STATE CALLED ME. SAID, "I KNOW YOU’RE NOT DAY TO DAY ON THIS BUT CAN YOU GO." THERE WAS SOME FRICTION BETWEEN DON AND THESE INVESTIGATORS. HE SAID, "CAN YOU GO OVER THERE AND KIND OF SMOOTH THIS OUT AND MAKE SURE IT DOESN’T GET OUT OF HAND?" AND THE FRICTION REALLY BOILED DOWN TO THE INVESTIGATORS WERE SAYING, "A, B, AND C HAD HAPPENED." AND DON WOULD TELL THEM: "NO." I CAN TELL YOU A SIMPLE THING. THE KEY TO JAYNE’S CAR — THEY WERE ALLEGING THAT SOMEONE HAD DRIVEN HER CAR FROM THE SCENE OF THE MURDER BACK TO SPEEDWAY AND HAD DUMPED IT. WELL, HER CAR KEY WAS IN THE POCKET OF THE JACKET SHE WAS WEARING. 

 IT APPEARED TO ME AND IT IS JUST A HAZARD OF BEING INVOLVED IN THESE TYPES OF THINGS. LIKE THEY WERE TRYING TO MAKE THE FACTS FIT THE SCENARIO THEY HAD DECIDED.  

Kevin Greenlee: But despite all the problems and all the different opinions and evaluations of Forrester and his stories, there was nothing that categorically disproved what he had to say. 

Áine Cain: So they kept working the case.

Forrester implicated another man to police — a man named Otto Deering. That’s a name that we’re publicly revealing for the first time on this show.

Kevin Greenlee: Deering had connections to the Outlaws, a motorcycle gang with a strong presence in Indianapolis at the time. He had previously been convicted of various weapons charges and even manslaughter. He seemed to be a plausible candidate to be involved in the Burger Chef murders. 

Forrester told the deputies he had direct personal knowledge of Deering’s guilt.  

Jim Cramer: HE SAID HE WITNESSED THIS PERSON STAB JAYNE FRIEDT. BUT UNBEKNOWNST TO HIM, WE FOUND OUT THE PERSON HE WAS TALKING ABOUT WAS SITTING IN FEDERAL PRISON IN MINNESOTA ON THE NIGHT BURGER CHEF HAPPENED. 

Áine Cain: Since Deering was in prison, he clearly could not have been one of the killers. Police had finally caught Forrester in an out-and-out lie. 

The investigators confronted him, telling him he had made up the entire story. The only question was why? Was it a piece of fiction designed to keep him from being sent to the notoriously rough Indiana State Prison at Michigan City? Or was he only lying about some details because he was actually one of the killers and wished to protect himself?

Kevin Greenlee: He told them the truth was that he was one of the killers, and he gave them a long, detailed statement implicating himself. 

A couple of days later he told them that on second thought he had actually made the whole thing up. Forrester’s 1986 confession had sprung up and fallen apart in a matter of days.

The Marion County prosecutor — Stephen Goldsmith — declined to bring Forrester or the men he named to trial.

Áine Cain: Meanwhile, Cramer saw Forrester one last time. 

Jim Cramer: I GAVE HIM EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO CONFESS. TO BE A MAN AND EITHER TELL US HE MADE ALL THIS STUFF UP OR THAT HE WAS INVOLVED. I TOLD HIM, "YOU DON’T HAVE THE INTESTINAL FORTITUDE TO COME FORWARD WITH THE INFORMATION." HE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANT. I TOLD HIM I THOUGHT HE WAS A COWARD. HE IMMEDIATELY — YOU COULD SEE HIM SORT OF SWELL UP. HE SAID, "I’LL TELL YOU ONE THING. IF YOU SEND ME BACK TO PRISON YOU’LL NEVER SOLVE THIS CASE.." WELL HE WENT BACK TO PRISON. BECAUSE THAT WAS THE ONLY RIGHT THING TO HAPPEN. THAT WAS WHERE HE BELONGED.

Áine Cain: But that was not the end of the story.

*Podcast promo*

Áine Cain: Let’s take a quick break from The Murder Sheet Presents: "You Never Can Forget” to tell you about a podcast investigating yet another unforgettable crime. 

The Orange Tree is a seven-part series about a 2005 homicide that happened near the University of Texas at Austin. The murder of 21-year-old Jennifer Cave, who was shot, dismembered, and left in a bathtub at her friend Colton Pitonyak’s apartment, continues to haunt the area to this day.

Kevin Greenlee: Like the Burger Chef murders, this case features plenty of twists and turns, including Colton’s flight to Mexico with another UT student Laura Hall. Both were later convicted in connection with the crime, although Colton has continued to appeal his verdict and claim innocence. The business student-turned-convicted-murderer now says that he doesn’t remember much about the night Jennifer died. 

Áine Cain: The Orange Tree is reported on and produced by Haley Butler and Tinu Thomas, who were both seniors at the University of Texas when they started the project.

Together, Haley and Tinu strive to piece together this tragic story in an in-depth podcast that features audio from courtroom scenes and interrogation rooms, prison phone calls, and exclusive interviews with both perpetrators and the victim’s family.

You can binge all seven episodes of The Orange Tree today on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. And now, back to the Murder Sheet.

And now, back to the Murder Sheet.

*End of podcast promo*

Áine Cain: A couple of years after being taken to the prison at Michigan City, Forrester reached out to Willsey once more.

Mel Willsey: HE USED THE PHONE TO CALL ME AND WANTED ME TO COME UP AND SEE HIM. HE SAID HE WANTED TO TELL EVERYTHING AND GET IT OFF HIS CHEST.  I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT. I THOUGHT WHY IS HE DOING THIS NOW?

Áine Cain:  YEAH.

Mel Willsey: SO MAXEY AND I AND ANOTHER DETECTIVE WENT UP THERE WITH A CAMERA AND A VCR TO RECORD AND THE STATEMENT WAS PROBABLY AN HOUR AND A HALF AND WE VIDEOED IT. HE WENT THROUGH EVERYTHING IN DETAIL. 

Kevin Greenlee: A few years ago I was part of a team that obtained a copy of the statement Forrester gave to police in 1989. We shared that material with a local podcaster who assured us he would keep it confidential. But he broke his word and included it on his podcast.

Thanks to my error in trusting this man, the Forrester statement is now effectively public and so we include portions of it here — along with our analysis of it. 

Áine Cain: The audio from the tapes is pretty quiet, so we apologize if anyone has trouble listening. Remember that you can follow along with our transcripts at murdersheetpodcast.buzzsprout.com.

Mel Willsey in 1989: YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU WANTED TO ADMIT YOUR GUILT IN KILLING TWO PEOPLE AT THE BURGER CHEF. WHICH BURGER CHEF DO YOU REFER TO?

Donald Forrester in 1989: THE BURGER CHEF IN SPEEDWAY.  CRAWFORDSVILLE ROAD. 

Mel Willsey in 1989:  WHEN WAS THIS?

Donald Forrester in 1989: NOVEMBER 27, 1978.

Mel Willsey in 1989:  NOVEMBER WHAT?

Donald Forrester in 1989: 17, 1978 ... WITNESSES SEEN PEOPLES FACES AFTER ONE PERSON WAS GOING TO BE ABDUCTED AND KILLED FOR NOT PAYING FOR THE DRUGS SHE HAD GOTTEN. 

Mel Willsey in 1989: HOW MANY OF YOU WENT TO THE BURGER CHEF IN SPEEDWAY, INDIANA?

Donald Forrester in 1989: FOUR. TWO IN A CAR AND TWO IN A BLUE VAN.

Mel Willsey in 1989: WHICH WERE YOU RIDING IN?

Donald Forrester in 1989: BLUE VAN.

Mel Willsey in 1989: CAN YOU TELL ME WHO WAS WITH YOU IN THE VAN?

Donald Forrester in 1989: NO.

Áine Cain: In this statement, for reasons of his own, Forrester refused to provide the names of his alleged accomplices. But he had given that information in his earlier interactions with Willsey.

Mel Willsey in 1989:  APPROXIMATELY, IF YOU REMEMBER, WHAT TIME DID YOU GO TO THE BURGER CHEF… DAY OR NIGHT?

Donald Forrester in 1989: NIGHTTIME. IT WAS BETWEEN 7:30 AND 9:30. I MAKE IT THAT LARGE BECAUSE I WAS SO HIGH AT THE TIME. AND IT’S BEEN 10 YEARS AGO.

Kevin Greenlee: The earliest the abductions could have occurred was around 11:15 P.M. so Forrester’s estimate is off by several hours. 

Mel Willsey in 1989:  WHAT PART DID YOU PLAY AT THE BURGER CHEF? WHAT DID YOU DO?

Donald Forrester in 1989: HELP HUSTLE THEM INTO THE VAN. THERE WAS ANOTHER CAR THAT CAME LATER. A SMALLER CAR. A RED CAR. 

Mel Willsey in 1989:  WERE YOU ARMED THAT NIGHT? WHAT WERE YOU ARMED WITH?

Donald Forrester in 1989: A .25, A .38 AND A KNIFE.

Mel Willsey in 1989:  WHAT WENT WRONG AT THE BURGER CHEF THAT YOU HAD TO DO WHAT YOU HAD TO DO THERE?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  A GUY CAME OUT THE BACK DOOR WITH SOME TRASH. THEY HAD ALREADY SET IT UP TO GET INSIDE BECAUSE HE ALREADY KNEW WE WERE THERE. BECAUSE TWO HAD ALREADY GONE IN. I GUESS HE WAS JUST TRYING TO PLAY HERO. HE GOT BEAT PRETTY BAD SO THERE WAS NO WAY TO JUST GET JAYNE FRIEDT OUT OF THERE. 

Mel Willsey in 1989:  WHY DID YOU WANT JAYNE FRIEDT?

Donald Forrester in 1989: SHE OWED FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.

Mel Willsey in 1989:  SO SHE OWED FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS IN WHAT? DRUGS? AND YOU WENT THERE THAT NIGHT TO COLLECT? WHAT DID YOU GO THERE THAT NIGHT FOR? TO COLLECT MONEY OR TO DO SOMETHING ELSE?

FORRESTER: TO KILL HER.

Áine Cain: If the plan all along was to murder Jayne, why do it at the restaurant when she had other people around her? Couldn’t they have ambushed her in the parking lot or on some other occasion when she was alone and more vulnerable? 

Mel Willsey in 1989:  AND SHE OWED YOU FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS? SHE OWED YOUR GROUP FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS? COCAINE?

Donald Forrester in 1989: STARTED OUT FIVE THOUSAND… NO I WASN’T EXACTLY FAMILIAR WITH WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN UNTIL WE GOT THERE. I KNEW IT WAS SERIOUS BECAUSE SHE COULDN’T MEET THE DEBT. I KNEW HER BROTHER — HE DIDN’T WANT TO ACCEPT ANY OF IT. HE TALKED HIS WAY OUT OF THAT. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HIS SISTER HAPPENED TO HIS SISTER.  

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989: HOW LONG PRIOR TO THAT HAD THIS BEEN PLANNED?

Donald Forrester in 1989: I KNEW THEY WAS GOING TO DO SOMETHING TO JAYNE FRIEDT ... ORIGINALLY I WAS JUST SUPPOSED TO BE SOMEONE WHO LOOKS OUT. 

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989:  HOW DID YOU KNOW WHEN YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO GO?

Donald Forrester in 1989: WHEN THEY FLASHED THEIR HEADLIGHTS, THAT WAS WHEN WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GO UP.

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989:  EVERYONE WAS WAITING THERE UNTIL THE BLACK KID CAME OUT?

Donald Forrester in 1989: SEE HIM WITH JAYNE FRIEDT. SEEN HOW HE WAS WHEN HE WENT TO GET A COKE AND SOMETHING TO EAT. HE KNEW WHEN HE COME BACK OUT SHE WAS LOCKING THE DOORS. AND THAT’S WHEN WE WENT AROUND BACK OF THE PLACE AND WERE SITTING IN THE VAN UNTIL FOR SOME MINUTES BEFORE IT FINALLY OPENED.

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989:  TELL US THE SITUATION FROM WHEN YOU’RE IN THE TRUCK AND HE OPENS THE DOOR. WHAT HAPPENS THEN?

Donald Forrester in 1989: HE WAS SURPRISED. HE WOULD HAVE LIKED TO MAKE AN AGGRESSIVE MOOD BUT HE DIDN’T HAVE A CHANCE. IF YOU’RE INCARCERATED, YOU HAVE THE UPS ON PEOPLE WHO AREN’T INCARCERATED BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE NOTHING TO DO. YOU’VE GOT THE BOXING TEAMS TO JOIN. YOU GUYS OUT THERE DON’T KNOW WHAT A LEFT HAND HOOK IS OR A ROCKING CHAIR IS. PEOPLE OUT THERE ARE WORKING AND DON’T HAVE TIME TO LIFT WEIGHTS. AND THE MAJORITY OF THE PRISONERS DO, SO WHEN THEY GET RELEASED THE MAJORITY OF THE TIME THEY HAVE THE UP ON SOMEONE WHO IS A STREET FIGHTER, OR WHATEVER. HE TRIED TO BLOCK THE DOOR AND THAT WAS IT.

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989:  WHAT WAS THE SITUATION THERE?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  NO, IT WAS INSIDE. INSIDE THE DOOR AT THE TIME. HE GOT WHUPPED GOOD. HE GOT WHUPPED BOTH PLACES. AT ONE TIME ,HE WAS EVEN OUTSIDE AND GETTING HIT IN HIS FACE. GETTING BEAT.

Kevin Greenlee: Crime scene pictures of Mark Flemmonds, the African American victim Forrester describes here, do not show any evidence he suffered the sort of beating Forrester indicates here. 

Donald Forrester in 1989: AT THE SAME TIME, HE WASN’T EVEN IN THE VAN YET — HE WAS UNCONSCIOUS. HE WAS OUT. I THOUGHT HE WAS BEAT TO DEATH. I THOUGHT HE WAS ALREADY DEAD. 

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989: WHAT HAPPENED THEN?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  CRYING AND BEGGING.

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989: WHO WAS BEGGING?

Donald Forrester in 1989: THE YOUNG TEENAGE  GIRL. SHE WAS BEGGING TO JUST LET HER GO HOME. DON’T KILL HER, LET HER GO HOME. LET HER STAY ALIVE. LET HER GO HOME. 

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989: DID THEY HAVE ANY IDEA WHY YOU WERE THERE?

Donald Forrester in 1989: I FIGURED THEY DID BECAUSE THEIR MANAGER SELLING DRUGS OUT OF THAT BURGER CHEF. AND KNOWING THAT ONE OF THE GUYS WHO WAS THERE THAT NIGHT HAD COME IN ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS AND SOMETIMES SHE WOULD TAKE A BREAK AND GO OUT TO THE CAR WITH HIM AND STUFF LIKE THAT AND PICK IT UP AND COME BACK AND BE SELLING .I FELT THEY KNEW WHAT WAS GOING ON, THERE WAS NO WAY SOMEONE COULD BE DOING THAT AND THE REST OF THEM WORKING THERE COULDN’T FIND OUT.

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989:  WHAT WAS THE NEXT THING THAT HAPPENED AFTER THIS BLACK PERSON WAS LOADED UP? AND YOU SAID YOU WENT INSIDE AND HEARD THE KIDS BEGGING? THEY JUST WANTED TO GO HOME AND STUFF?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  THEY WAS TIED AND PUT IN THERE. USED WIRE. I KNOW BECAUSE I SEEN ONE OF THE GUYS USE WIRE. ONE OF THE GUYS HANDS WAS BOUND WITH WIRE. I DON’T KNOW IF THEY PUT WIRE ON ALL THREE OF THEIR HANDS. BUT I KNOW ONE OF THEM WAS BOUND WITH WIRE. BECAUSE I WENT TO THE CAR AND GOT SOME WIRE AND BROUGHT IT BACK. 

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989: WHAT KIND OF WIRE WAS IT?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  IT WAS AS THICK AS A COAT HANGER. YOU KNOW THE KIND OF WIRE THAT’S USED ON BALERS. THAT KIND OF WIRE. 

Áine Cain: It is unclear why city dwellers like Forrester and his associates would have a ready supply of baling wire in their vehicle. In any case, our understanding is that there were no marks or abrasions on the skin of the victims to indicate they had been bound with baling wire or anything else. 

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989: WHAT WAS THE NEXT STEP?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  GETTING THEM OUT OF THERE.

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989: AND HOW DID YOU DO THAT?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  ALL FOUR VAN BUT THEN THERE WAS ANOTHER CAR. CARAVAN. AT ONE TIME THERE WAS A GREEN PONTIAC THERE. I SEEN IT SITTING THERE. I DON’T KNOW WHOSE IT WAS. I DON’T KNOW IF IT WAS ONE OF THE WORKERS. 

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989: WAS JAYNE SAYING ANYTHING WHEN ALL OF THIS WAS BEING DONE?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  I ASKED HER — I DIDN’T ASK HER BUT SHE ASKED ONE PERSON WHO SHE FELT HAD CONTROL OF THE WHOLE SITUATION IF THEY’D LET HER GO AND GIVE HER MORE TIME. BEGGING AND CRYING. 

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989: WHAT WAS THE ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  NO. CALLED HER NAMES. SMACKED HER. SHE’D BEEN FOREWARNED THAT WHEN THEY CAME BACK SHE BETTER HAVE SOME OF THE MONEY, IF NOT ALL OF IT. SHE WAS FOREWARNED. SHE WAS THE ONE WHO MADE THE PROMISES ALL ALONG. THAT’S THE REASON I SAW HER BEFORE. SHE GOT BEHIND. SHE ALWAYS HAD A STORY. I HAD WALKED INTO A HOUSE ONCE THAT SHE WAS COMING OUT. I PULLED UP TO THE YARD ONE TIME SHE WAS TALKING TO THE GUY OUTSIDE BY THE CAR, SO I SEEN HER TWICE BEFORE. THAT ONE DAY SHE WAS CRYING, SHE WAS COMING OUT THE DOOR WHEN I WAS COMING IN AND SHE WAS CRYING. A FEW DAYS LATER HER BROTHER WAS OVER THERE.  HE WAS TRYING TO COVER HIS OWN ASS. THEY WERE THROWING DEBTS TOGETHER: HERS AND HIS. AND HE’S MAKING SURE — HE’S THROWING IT ALL ON HER. AND SHE’S SAYING SHE’D GET IT. 

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989: YOU SAID AFTER YOU LOADED EVERYONE UP ANOTHER CAR PULLED IN, WHAT WAS THEIR ACTUAL PART IN IT. WHAT WOULD THEY HAVE TO DO.

Donald Forrester in 1989:  THEY JUST FOLLOWED US LIKE A CARAVAN. SO NO ONE ELSE COULD GET BEHIND AND GET A LICENSE PLATE NUMBER. OR SEE WHAT MIGHT BE GOING ON IN THE VAN... SOMEONE MIGHT SEE ONE OF THEIR FACES OR SOMETHING. 

Mel Willsey in 1989: ANYONE TAKE ANY MONEY FROM THE BURGER CHEF?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  NO. IF THEY DID I DON’T REMEMBER... SH*T TORE THE WHOLE PLACE UP. THEY HAVE STUCK SOME IN — EMPTIED THE CASH REGISTER. 

Mel Willsey in 1989:  IF THERE WAS ANY MONEY TAKEN DID YOU GET ANY MONEY?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  I GOT SOME MONEY BUT IT WASN’T FROM THERE. IT WAS JUST FOR BEING WITH THEM… I’D ALREADY BEEN TOLD I’D GET THAT MONEY. 

Mel Willsey in 1989: HOW MUCH?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS.

Kevin Greenlee: About $500 was stolen from the Burger Chef that night. Apparently it was all given to Forrester in order to compensate him for his work. What about the other people involved? How were they compensated? 

Mel Willsey in 1989:  ANYTHING HAPPEN TO JAYNE FRIEDT’S CAR? DO YOU KNOW WHAT KIND OF A CAR SHE GOT?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  NO, I KNOW THAT IT LOOKED LIKE IT WAS KIND OF GREEN. BUT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT — IT WAS NIGHT TIME. AND I’M NOT REALLY WORRIED ABOUT ANY CARS. I JUST WANT TO GET OUT OF THERE. 

Áine Cain: Jayne drove a white Vega.

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989: DID THE VAN HAVE SEATS IN IT?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  YEAH, IT HAD SEATS IN THE FRONT. IT WAS CUSTOM MADE. IF THEY FOUND THE BLUE VAN AT THE TIME, THEY DEFINITELY WOULD HAVE GOTTEN BLOOD SAMPLES.

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989:  WHERE WERE THE KIDS SITTING AT?

Donald Forrester in 1989: THEY WERE LAYING DOWN, JUST PUSHED TOGETHER LAYING DOWN. 

Kevin Greenlee: They drove the victims to a wooded area in Johnson County. You will recall from last week that Willsey had been impressed that Forrester had been able to direct them to the spot where the murders happened. 

Áine. Cain: But, in fact, the location of the murder site had been widely publicized. 

In the weeks after the murders, photos of the area had been printed in newspapers and the names of neighbors were published. The area was described in the sort of detail that would make it easy for a former resident like Forrester to find it. The Indianapolis Star, for instance, said it was on private property two miles west of Center Grove High School and one mile east of Indiana 37. The paper reported the spot was adjacent to a private driveway in a hilly wooded area about a half mile south of County road 700North. In December 1978, the Franklin Daily Journal actually printed the last name of the property owners who discovered the bodies.

Kevin Greenlee: Even Marion County Deputy Paul Simons admitted in a 1993 news article that Forrester could have figured out the location of the murder by reading newspaper stories. 

Mel Willsey in 1989: WHAT HAPPENED WHEN YOU GOT DOWN THERE?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  THEY TOOK JAYNE FRIEDT OUT FIRST. 

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989:  WHAT WAS SHE SAYING?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  SHE WAS BEGGING FOR HER LIFE.

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989:   WHAT HAPPENED THEN?

Donald Forrester in 1989: I TOOK TWO DEMEROLS AFTER WE GOT THERE. I TOOK A LEAK OFF TO ONE SIDE OF THE VAN. 

Marion County investigator G. Maxey in 1989:  AS YOU WERE GOING TO THE BATHROOM ON THE SIDE OF THE VAN, THEY ALSO UNLOADED THE REST OF THE KIDS TOO?

Donald Forrester in 1989: UH HUH… THIS ONE THING HADN’T BEEN DISCUSSED. BECAUSE NO ONE FIGURED ON HAVING TO TAKE CARE OF FOUR. IT WAS MEANT TO GET HER AND HER ALONE. THERE WAS NO WAY TO GET HER WITHOUT GETTING THEM. 

Mel Willsey in 1989: WHO KILLED JAYNE FRIEDT — DID YOU KNOW? DID YOU DO IT?

Donald Forrester in 1989:  I STABBED HER.

Mel Willsey in 1989: YOU STABBED JAYNE FRIEDT? DID YOU STAB HER? OR SHOOT HER?

FORRESTER: I SHOT ONE IN THE FACE.

Kevin Greenlee: Two of the Burger Chef victims were shot in the back of the head; neither of them were shot in the face. 

FORRESTER I STABBED ONE AND I SHOT ONE….. I STABBED ONE AND THE HANDLE COME LOOSE. 

Mel Willsey in 1989: HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU STAB JAYNE FRIEDT?

Donald Forrester in 1989: I STABBED JUST ONE TIME.

Mel Willsey in 1989: WHERE DID YOU STAB HER AT?

Donald Forrester in 1989: LOW. DOWN LOW. I JUST STABBED. SHE KICKED HER LEGS BECAUSE SHE WAS TRYING TO KICK THE KNIFE I HAD IN MY HAND. AND THAT’S WHY I STABBED HER LOW. ACROSS THE LEGS

Kevin Greenlee: Jayne was not stabbed “down low” or anywhere near her legs.  She was stabbed twice, both times in the heart.  

Now Forrester describes the location of victims Ruth Shelton and Danny Davis.

Donald Forrester in 1989: YEAH  —THEY WERE TWO TOGETHERm BUT NOT CLOSE. A COUPLE OF FEET APART.

Kevin Greenlee: Actually Danny and Ruth lay so close together they were nearly touching.

Forrester insisted that this was never intended to be a quadruple homicide.

Donald Forrester in 1989: IT JUST WENT TOO FAR. THERE WAS NO WAY TO BACK OUT OF IT. I MEAN IF YOU JUST KIDNAP SOMEBODY AND JUST TAKE THEM SOMEWHERE THAT’S A PRETTY BIG CHARGE. YOU GET YEARS OUT OF THAT ESPECIALLY IF YOU ALREADY HARMED — ONE GUY’S ALREADY BEEN BEAT PRETTY BAD. YOU’RE LOOKING AT SEVERAL YEARS ANYWAY SO.. SOMETIMES IF YOU KILL A PERSON YOU GET LESS TIME.

Kevin Greenlee: Willsey shared this 1989 Forrester recording with the legal community in hopes that they would choose to pursue charges against Forrester. 

Mel Willsey in 1989: WE HAD A MEETING WITH GOLDSMITH WHO WAS THE PROSECUTOR DAVE COOK WHO WAS PROBABLY GOING TO BE THE NEXT PROSECUTOR HERE, SHERIFF MACATEE, JOHNSON COUNTY PROSECUTOR, JOHNSON COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENT. WE TOOK THIS VIDEO AND WE PLAYED IT FOR EVERYBODY. AND THEY ALL FELT HE WAS THE GUY.  SOME TIME FRAME AFTER THAT, THEY CALLED ME INTO THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE WITH GOLDSMITH AND SAID THEY WERE CONCERNED HE WAS GOING TO RECANT AGAIN AND THEY WEREN’T GOING TO PROSECUTE BECAUSE HE WAS ALREADY DOING 95 OR 99 YEARS. I SAID, "WHAT ABOUT THE FAMILY?"

Áine Cain: The press accounts at the time don’t quite line up with Willsey’s recollection. According to the Indianapolis News, Sheriff Mcatee said that none of Forrester’s story matched up with the physical evidence at the crime scene. He said as far as he was concerned the Forrester matter was closed for good. The Franklin Daily Journal quoted Detective Bill Smith of the State Police as saying that Forrester was just lying again. 

Mel Willsey: SO THAT’S HOW IT ENDED.

Kevin Greenlee: Willsey always said that Forrester never asked for anything in return for his stories-- but the convicted rapist did also vow in 1986 that he would only talk to investigators if he was taken to Marion County Jail. Forrester bought himself a year and a half away from the state prison in Michigan City by dragging out his first confession. 

Forrester is rumored to have been the victim of sexual assaults while incarcerated at the state prison. The longer he told stories that kept the interest of the Marion County Sheriff’s Dept, the longer he could stay in the much safer confines of the Marion County jail. 

Áine Cain: In the run-up to his 1989 confession, sources tell us that Forrester’s mental health was unraveling in Michigan City — he claimed to hear voices in his head. He claimed prison officials had implanted a device in his brain to control his thoughts. He was sent to the Westville Correctional Facility for several weeks, until he agreed to take medication voluntarily. 

Kevin Greenlee: Forrester may have even had a more calculated reason to lie. After his final confession fell apart, the convict told investigators that he had been attempting to gain attention so that his rape conviction could be overturned. 

Áine Cain: For Forrester, the confessions had represented a temporary respite — or even a chance to escape, at least on some level.

Kevin Greenlee: But after his 1989 confession fell apart, Forrester went on to spend the rest of his life in the prison at Michigan City. In 2006, he testified against former state trooper David Camm, who had been charged with murdering his family. Bizarrely, prosecutors and defense attorneys alike didn’t seem to note who Forrester was, and why he might have a vendetta against the ISP, law enforcement, or telling the truth in general. 

Áine Cain: That same year, months before he died of cancer, Forrester sent out a meandering letter to Gary, the man we mentioned in the opening. Forrester, a convicted rapist who had twice confessed and recanted about an unsolved homicide, wrote that he believed Gary had informed the police that he was “the guy who killed those people at the Burger Chef.” 

He confessed to Gary that he’d tried to pin the case on him, and apologized, writing: “I have asked God to forgive for putting you through all that.”

Kevin Greenlee: Even after Forrester’s double-confession went nowhere, the investigation into the murders continued. 

Áine Cain: Next week, a special agent of the ATF makes a breakthrough.

DWIGHT RAPP: I WAS THINKING, "MAN WE’VE GOT THE MURDERERS." I REMEMBER SITTING WITH HIM IN THE MARSHALL’S OFFICE, TALKING TO HIM ABOUT CHARGING HIM WITH MURDER AND HIS JUGULAR VEIN I LOOKED AT IT AND IT WAS ABOUT READY TO JUMP OUT OF HIS NECK.

Kevin Greenlee:  Thanks for listening to this episode of the Murder Sheet Presents: "You Never Can Forget." Special thanks to Kevin Tyler Greenlee, who composed the music for the Murder Sheet, and who you can find on the web at kevintg.com.  

Áine Cain:
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And please stay tuned for word from our friend Nina at the podcast Already Gone — a great podcast you should be listening to. She actually introduced me to the Burger Chef case with her 2016 episode on the crime. 

*Melancholy music plays*

Nina Innsted from “Already Gone”: Murder, missing persons, unsolved mysteries — ”Already Gone” explores lesser-known cases from Michigan and the Great Lakes region. I’m Nina Innsted, the voice behind the “Already Gone” podcast. Join me for a look at stories that will have you looking over your shoulder and locking the doors at night. Listen to “Already Gone” on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or your favorite podcatcher.