Murder Sheet

You Never Can Forget: The Brother

January 05, 2021 Mystery Sheet Season 1 Episode 8
Murder Sheet
You Never Can Forget: The Brother
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Murder Sheet
You Never Can Forget: The Brother
Jan 05, 2021 Season 1 Episode 8
Mystery Sheet

When investigators realized that two of the victims in the Burger Chef murder case had brothers with troubling connections to the Indiana underworld, they began to wonder if the ultimate answer to the crime might be found much closer to home than anyone previously suspected.

On this episode of the Murder Sheet, we take a close look at Kevin Flemmonds-- who pled guilty in a drug related homicide-- and Jimmy Friedt-- who was convicted of drug related charges. Is it possible that the shadowy activities of either of these men played a role in the deaths of their siblings?

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

When investigators realized that two of the victims in the Burger Chef murder case had brothers with troubling connections to the Indiana underworld, they began to wonder if the ultimate answer to the crime might be found much closer to home than anyone previously suspected.

On this episode of the Murder Sheet, we take a close look at Kevin Flemmonds-- who pled guilty in a drug related homicide-- and Jimmy Friedt-- who was convicted of drug related charges. Is it possible that the shadowy activities of either of these men played a role in the deaths of their siblings?

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: Someone was clearly inside the small house, that much was clear. Last year, as Kevin and I approached the residence in a rundown part of Indianapolis, we heard loud music blaring from within. It didn’t sound like the person inside was expecting any callers.

We went there, of course, because of the Burger Chef case.

The Speedway Police mishandled the crime scene, destroying priceless physical evidence that could have linked specific suspects to the murders. But some physical evidence survived — and it could potentially be crucial.

Law enforcement found a palm print on the car of Burger Chef manager Jayne Friedt. After decades of work, they identified who it belonged to: a man we will call “Peters.” That’s not his real name.

We decided we wanted to talk to Peters, to ask him what he was doing hanging around Jayne’s car around the night of the murders. So we visited his house and knocked on his door.

*Knocking*

We had no luck talking to Peters but we do understand he was a friend of Kevin Flemmonds, the brother of one of the victims of the slayings. Kevin Flemmonds himself later served time in prison for his role in a drug related murder. 

And he was not the only relative of a Burger Chef victim who had troubling ties to the underworld of Indianapolis. In this episode of the Murder Sheet Presents: “You Never Can Forget,” we’ll discuss how the brothers of not one but two of the Burger Chef victims came under suspicion from police. 

*Eerie music plays* 

Áine Cain: My name is Aine 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: We’re the Murder Sheet, and this is “You Never Can Forget: The Brother.”

*Eerie music based on the Burger Chef jingle plays* 

Kevin Greenlee: Adrian Brown was supposed to spend Christmas Eve with his girlfriend. She even sent a cab over to his house at 8 p.m. to pick him and bring him over to her place.

But he never showed up.

Maybe at first she felt annoyed and even angry but as the hours passed she grew more and more worried. Eventually she decided to go over to his place and see what was going on. 

She got there around 3 a.m. The lights in his apartment were burning bright. If she knocked on the door, he didn’t answer. She tried to open it and found it unlocked. She went inside. 

At first she didn’t see anything unusual or out of place — there weren’t any signs of a struggle or a commotion. Everything looked normal, except for the fact that Adrian was not there.

Then she went into his bedroom. Things looked alright there too, but only until she noticed the open closet door. 

That’s when she found him.

He was lying face down, his body jammed into a crawl space beneath the closet. Standing over him, looking down in the hole, the only things all she could see were his legs and feet. 

She called the police. Officers found Adrian had died from gunshots to the abdomen. His wallet was still on his body, which made robbery seem like an unlikely motive.

So what happened? And how was this possibly connected to the Burger Chef murders?

Áine Cain: To answer that question we need to go back a few hours on Christmas Eve 1981. That’s when four men — James Bryant, Stanley Bryant, Wilbert Harrison and Kevin Flemmonds — went on a crime spree.

If that last name sounded familiar, it is because Kevin Flemmonds was the older brother of Mark Flemmonds, one of the four victims in the Burger Chef murders. Mark was the youngest victim, and also the only victim who was a person of color.

Kevin Greenlee: The first thing the four men did on their holiday was hold up a gas station. About 15 minutes later they robbed a man they encountered on the street. And then they got an idea.

They knew Adrian was a drug dealer, that he sold marijuana. They decided to steal his supply. 

There was a complication, though. Adrian knew three of the four men and so surely would not hesitate to identify them to police. But that was a problem easily solved — all they would have to do was kill him.

Áine Cain: One of the four contacted Adrian and made arrangements to buy some marijuana. Adrian let him into his place, and then went to fetch the drugs. While he was gone, two more members of the group snuck in. 

Kevin Greenlee: They surprised Adrian while he was in the crawlspace beneath his closet — that’s where he hid his drugs. And they started shooting him. Adrian was hit by bullets fired from three different guns.

The robbers grabbed the drugs and fled, but it didn’t take long for them to get caught. Kevin got arrested on another robbery charge a few days later, when police tested the gun he had on him when they picked him up. They learned it was one of the weapons that had been used to kill Adrian. After that, it was only a matter of time before everything that happened came out in the open.

Áine Cain: The murder of Adrian Brown attracted the attention of investigators and reporters interested in the Burger Chef case. The killing was drug related and one of the killers was a relative of a Burger Chef victim. If Kevin Flemmonds was part of the violent drug culture in Indianapolis, wasn’t it possible he could somehow be linked to the tragedy that befell his brother?

Kevin Greenlee: And, in fact, there was a more direct link between Kevin Flemmonds and what happened at the Burger Chef. When investigators found manager Jayne Friedt’s car abandoned near the police station, they dusted it for prints, and they found one.

A palm print.

Áine Cain: It would take decades but eventually they would discover who it belonged to — a friend of Kevin Flemmonds that we’re calling “Peters.” Could this mean that Peters was one of the killers — and had somehow been acting in concert with Kevin Flemmonds?

When an investigator from the state police talked with Peters, the man could not provide an explanation for how his print got on the car. But he did not have much of a criminal record — mainly just things like disorderly conduct. He agreed to take a lie detector test, and he passed it.

Kevin Greenlee: While it remains possible that Peters’ palm print got on the car while he was herding Jayne or the other victims into the vehicle on the night of the killings, that is far from the only explanation. Jayne’s car was in the Burger Chef lot every night she worked. It seems more likely that he may have just allowed his palm to brush against it some evening as he walked by on his way into the restaurant. 

Áine Cain: When considering whether or not the Burger Chef killers were people of color, we should remember how racist Indiana could be in 1978. In Speedway, people of color were frequently pulled over and harassed by law enforcement. Would a person of color commit a crime in an area like that, where he could attract the attention of police just for being Black? And would he take the risk of transporting white victims through the area, knowing he could be randomly stopped by the police at any time?

Kevin Greenlee: And, of course, the victims were transported to Johnson County, which at this time had a reputation for being unwelcoming to people of color. Is this the sort of place a Black man, or a group of Black men, would choose to commit quadruple homicide? Not to mention, there’s also the matter of George Nichols and his girlfriend spotting two white men — a bearded man and a clean-shaven man — outside the restaurant on the night of the kidnappings.

Áine Cain: Still, the fact of Kevin Flemmonds’ crime remained. And Adrian’s murder wasn’t his first brush with the law.

In November 1980, he was one of 110 people arrested on stolen car charges in a massive sting operation. Prosecutor Stephen Goldsmith noted in the press that many of those arrested were “substantial drug users.” 

Kevin Greenlee: In Indiana at that time there seemed to be a great deal of overlap between those involved in the drug trade and those stealing cars. In fact, there was a major drug-slash-car theft ring said to be operating in Speedway at the time of the Burger Chef murders. The ring allegedly enjoyed police protection, and was reported to have done some of its business inside the restaurant itself. 

Most of what we know about this ring and its operation comes from the reporting of Paul Bird and Skip Hess, two well-respected journalists who worked at the Indianapolis News. We have not been able to independently confirm their work, and when I briefly spoke with Hess a while back, he did not recall many details about it. 

Áine Cain: The reporters wrote about how major cocaine operations in the state of Indiana were financed by prominent businessmen, and that these drug operations were connected to several murders.

Some of the drug operations, as we’ve said, were linked to Speedway. A drug and vehicle theft ring was said to operate out of a home in Speedway, and a Speedway police officer was alleged to spend several nights a week at the home. The officer, for some reason, developed the habit of removing his hat and placing it in the back seat of his car before entering the home.

Kevin Greenlee: The News had reporters surveil the home and copy down names and identifying information of the people who visited there. The reporters supplied all of this information, including the name of the Speedway police officer, to the police. 

A follow up article about a year later added a troubling piece to the puzzle. This drug ring distributed its wares by making use of several so called “drop points.” In short, after you paid for your drugs, you would pick them up at one of a few possible locations. One of these drop points, for instance, was at a real estate development where associates of people involved in the drug trade often stayed for free.

Áine Cain: Another one of these drop points was at the Speedway Burger Chef.

Drugs were said to be left in hiding places in the bathroom there, to be picked up by customers who had already paid for their wares. 

Word of this arrangement reached the police before the murders. They even conducted some surveillance of the restaurant in hopes of catching the drug ring in action, but nothing came of it. 

If this information is accurate, it could suggest another motive for what happened at the restaurant. Perhaps the perpetrators were there to retrieve some drugs from the restroom — and discovered the stash missing. Perhaps the four victims were kidnapped in the hopes they could be forced to reveal the whereabouts of the missing drugs. That is just speculation but it is something that is often whispered as a possibility, especially since this drug ring was explicitly said to be connected to several murders. 

Kevin Greenlee: But, of course, not every drug ring in the area resorted to violence. One so prided itself on sticking to basic business principles that it called itself the “Company.” And the press carried speculation that Jimmy Friedt, the brother of victim Jayne Friedt, could actually have been connected to that organization.

*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*

Kevin Greenlee: People have speculated for decades that Jimmy Friedt — the brother of victim Jayne Friedt — could have played a role in the Burger Chef murders. Even his friends have posted comments on social media airing their suspicions of the man. But no one seems to have ever offered hard evidence that he actually bore any responsibility for the deaths. 

We’ve heard plenty of wild stories and rumors about Jimmy Friedt over the years. Donald Forrester even flatly said that the man was involved in the murders, but I decided that I should try to go as close to the source as I could. 

So, back in 2018, I wrote a letter and mailed it off to a prison in Minnesota. I was trying to reach to Dutch Friedt, Jimmy’s son, who was at the time incarcerated on drug and weapons charges. I thought that he could help me better understand his father’s possible role in the case.  

Dutch sent me a postcard back. He wrote: “I would like to have an interview with you. I know too much.”

So of course, I drove up to Minnesota to meet with Dutch. We met in an office room in the prison. It looked a bit like a guidance counselor’s office, and I later learned that the prison had once been a school. Dutch is a bigger guy who seemed determined to learn from his mistakes and improve his life. 

He shared his memory of visiting the Speedway Burger Chef on the night of the murders. Dutch and his dad looked for Jayne. Dutch recalled that his aunt always went out of her way to make him feel special. As the assistant manager of the restaurant, she’d allow her nephew to visit the fast food kitchen, giving him a behind-the-scenes glance into how they cooked the burgers and fries. But Jimmy Friedt and his son Dutch didn’t see Jayne when they visited around 5 p.m., so they ate their meals and left. We mentioned in episode one, “The Night,” that Dutch does remember seeing Mark practicing karate moves in the restaurant that night.

Dutch seemed like a truly genuine person who loved his father- and the rest of his family. 

He said his aunt Jayne was allergic to pot, and wasn’t involved in the drug trade. 

Dutch spoke of how his late grandparents never recovered from losing Jayne, how they held out hope the crime would be solved for decades. He expressed the feeling that his dad wouldn’t have hurt anyone, let alone his own sister Jayne. But Jimmy Friedt’s legal troubles dredged up a good deal of suspicion about the man over the years.

Áine Cain: James Friedt, who went by “Jimmy,” was the oldest of four children born to George and Carolyn Friedt. He had a brother and two sisters, including Jayne. Friedt may have attended Purdue University and IUPUI at one point, but he seemingly never graduated. At the time of the murders, he was working at Peerless Pump on the Westside of Indianapolis. Jayne’s obituary listed him as living in Morgantown, a town 40 minutes to the south of Indy. 

Kevin Greenlee: We know from Dutch, and from Jimmy Friedt’s own statements to the Indianapolis Star, that the father-and-son pair visited the Speedway Burger Chef on the night of the disappearances. We’ve also heard unverified reports that Jimmy Friedt may have been at the Galaxy — the under-21 club across the street from the restaurant — that night, but we’re not sure if we can believe the source. 

Áine Cain: Starting the year after his sister’s murder, Jimmy Friedt began appearing in the local papers — namely, the The Brown County Democrat and the the Martinsville Reporter-Times — over his financial woes. He was getting hit over back taxes and unpaid electric bills. By 1981, he’d lost his job at Peerless Pump.

But his money troubles weren’t the only problem he was dealing with.

Kevin Greenlee: On March 5, 1981, Jimmy Friedt and two other men were arrested on cocaine-dealing charges. The Drug Enforcement Administration had teamed up with Indianapolis police as part of a five-week undercover investigation into a large cocaine ring based on the city’s Eastside. The trap snapped closed after the then 29-year-old Jimmy Friedt, his room mate Rodger Pearson, and Daniel Ray sold two ounces of cocaine to an undercover agent for $4,600. 

Áine Cain: In the ensuing raid, police confiscated cocaine, cannabis, and Quaaludes from the residence Jimmy Friedt and Pearson shared. The crew of dealers were said to sell their illicit wares in Eastside bars. Investigators looking into the Burger Chef murders said they were open to the possibility the dealers may have also sold on the Westside or even Speedway.  

The Indianapolis Star ran Jimmy Friedt’s mugshot. The image shows a man with dark, wild hair and a thick beard, eyes glancing to the side. Despite his scruffy appearance, he bears a resemblance to Jayne, especially around his nose. Some have also argued that he’s also the image of the “Bearded Man” sketch  — although Kevin and I posit that so are most white guys with a beard in 1978. 

Kevin Greenlee: Sources who knew the Friedt family have told us that the siblings were all close. But those family ties didn’t stop investigators from wondering whether or not Jimmy Friedt knew more than he was saying about the 1978 Burger Chef murders. After all, police had long suspected that narcotics could have factored into the motive for the slayings. 

Áine Cain: On March 12, 1981, Bird and Hess published a story in the Indianapolis News noting that investigators were considering the angle that Jimmy Friedt knew more about the Burger Chef murders than he was letting on. Police sources told the reporter that the arrest cemented a “direct link” between the murder victims and a serious group of drug dealers. 

The article also linked Friedt and his fellow dealers to “The Company.” To find out more about this mysterious organization, we spoke last year with a retired Indianapolis police officer who investigated the Company. He invited us into his home and we chatted about this intricate drug ring for hours. 

Kevin Greenlee: The retired officer felt that it was unlikely the Company would’ve been involved in a homicide like Burger Chef, as their mode of operation tended to reflect their professional-sounding moniker. The Company ran like a business. And you don’t murder people over business disputes. 

I also drove up to the National Archives in Chicago and spent hours digging through federal court records related to the Company indictment files. He didn’t find much mention of violence in the pages he reviewed. And there was no word of running drugs out of a restaurant. 

Áine Cain: For his part, Jimmy Friedt denied having any knowledge of the Company. He also pushed back against speculation that he’d had a hand in — or at least guilty knowledge regarding — his sister’s murder. On March 18, Jimmy Friedt told Scott L. Miley of the Star that he was in “complete shock” that he was being looked at in the Burger Chef case. He complained that a week after his arrest, he still hadn’t been questioned about his connection to the murders— he wanted to have it out with investigators. 

Kevin Greenlee: According to the arrested man, neighbors had begun harassing his family over his arrest. He also said his mother had cut off contact with him-- which might suggest she had her own doubts over her son’s possible guilt in the death of his sister.

Áine Cain: While Jimmy Friedt was still being held in jail, he encountered Allen Pruitt, whose story we recounted in the episodes “The Creek” and “The Backbone.” It’s unclear what exactly transpired between the two inmates, but allegedly Pruitt made a comment offering condolences about Jayne-- which somehow sparked a confrontation between the two men. That snarling match brought Pruitt onto the radar of jail counselors, and later, the state police, after he indicated he had information on the Burger Chef case. 

Kevin Greenlee: And we’ll note again that Donald Forrester also brought up Jimmy Friedt. In his recounting of the murders, Forrester claimed — with no evidence — that the Friedt siblings racked up a cocaine debt they couldn’t pay, which ultimately triggered the murders. If you need a refresher, we covered the Forrester angle in our episodes “The Tank” and “The Confessions.”

Áine Cain: Nowadays, Pruitt often expresses suspicion about Jimmy Friedt. His recounted memories don’t offer much by way of facts though. For example, he’s told us about Jimmy Friedt and Tim Willoughby roving the halls of Avon High School together. But Jimmy Friedt never attended that school. Mostly, he speculates about the man’s possible involvement, and tells us that Jimmy Friedt was a “crazy” fellow, with Manson Family eyes and a tangled mane of hair. And that he looked a lot like Kevin.

Kevin Greenlee: Back in March of 1981, after a week or so of speculation about Jimmy Friedt’s potential connection to the unsolved Burger Chef case, state police told Miley that there was no connection after all. State police lieutenant Larry Carmichael told reporters that he positively eliminated Jimmy Friedt after interviewing him, although his assertion directly conflicts with Jimmy Friedt’s complaint that he’d gone without a Burger Chef-related interview. 

Áine Cain: Carmichael went on to claim that he had taken over the case from Cramer. Kevin and I know from studying this case that the investigation was plagued by police officers clambering all over one another in a bid to solve the mystery. And the local news media knew that back in 1981, too. The Indianapolis News ran a blind item criticizing the state police for their rendition of “cops and robbers,” saying, “It’s the same old game the state boys have been playing since the murders and getting nowhere on the investigation.” It’s unclear what — if anything — Carmichael learned that caused him to drop the Jimmy Friedt lead so quickly. 

Kevin Greenlee: Jimmy Friedt’s cocaine-dealing trial began in January 1982. He was convicted and given a six year suspended sentence. His room mate Pearson received 20 years, although Ray also got a suspended sentence. It’s unclear why Jimmy Friedt and Ray got off so easy compared to their fellow dealer. 

Áine Cain: After the cocaine bust, it appears that Jimmy Friedt lived a pretty quiet life, at least on the surface. The last time he appeared in the Indiana papers, it was for a driving fine he racked up in 2004. He died in 2013.

Kevin Greenlee: Despite that, Jimmy Friedt has remained an enigmatic figure in the Burger Chef case. Could the brother of one of the victims have known more about the crime, or even participated in the killings? Friedt’s cocaine dealing also prompted whispers about victim Jayne Friedt potentially being involved in the drug trade herself. People who knew her growing up say that she was simply too focused on her career at Burger Chef to get involved with something like that. Many tell us that she may have occasionally smoked a joint, but others say she hated even the smell of weed. 

Áine Cain: We do feel that there was a lot of sadness in Jayne’s life in the weeks leading up until the murders. She and her once-close boyfriend had drifted. She was living alone for the first time in a while. It’s possible that a young person — remember, she was only 20-years-old — could’ve gotten caught up in something. But there’s no evidence of that, either way.  

Kevin Greenlee: Jimmy Friedt’s son Dutch did share one chilling detail that made us wonder about his father’s protective instincts, or lack thereof. He said that his dad’s room mate — Pearson, the cocaine ring leader who was sentenced to 20 years — once “jokingly” held a knife to his throat when he was just a kid. Jimmy Friedt watched while that happened. He did nothing to protect his son. Would a man like that intervene to stop others from harming his younger sister and her coworkers? Or was Jimmy Friedt just a man who made a few mistakes and who ended up being a convenient scapegoat? 

Áine Cain: When we look at the crimes of Kevin Flemmonds and Jimmy Friedt, we feel torn. Sometimes it seems like casting suspicion on the relatives’ of murder victims is just a less-direct form of victim-blaming. We can imagine the deep pain this would inflict on the Flemmonds and Friedt families. It’s also possible that the trauma of losing a sibling to violence could have helped to push these two young men down dark paths.

Kevin Greenlee: But on the other hand, it’s foolish to rule out the possibility that someone close to one of the victims may have been involved. It seems possible that the Burger Chef murders were an instance of targeted violence. And someone close to the victims didn’t necessarily have to directly participate in the murders — they simply could have guilty knowledge that they never shared with police. 

Áine Cain: Unfortunately, answers are not forthcoming on this angle. Jimmy Friedt is dead. And Kevin Flemmonds appears to be incarcerated on probationary issues pertaining to a sexual offense. When we called on his address last autumn, he did not come to the door.

Join us next week, where we’ll wrap up our dive into the Burger Chef murders, for now, and share our conclusions on this horrifying cold case. 

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: To keep up with the latest on the Murder Sheet, make sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @murdersheet and on Facebook @msheetpodcast or by searching Murder Sheet. For exclusive content like bonus episodes and case files, become a patron of the Murder Sheet on Patreon.

If you enjoyed listening to the Murder Sheet, please leave us a five star review to help us gain more exposure. And send tips, suggestions, and feedback to [email protected] Thanks so much for listening. 

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.