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Top Ten Brutal Restaurant Murders

by Jennifer Saralino
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

For many people, going out to eat at a restaurant is a treat. Whether it’s to meet up with friends over a burger and fries or enjoy a quiet romantic meal with your significant other, it’s generally a positive experience. So the last thing one would think to find in a restaurant is a bunch of dead bodies. However, that was precisely the case in these ten restaurant massacres.

Related: 10 Incredibly Tragic Unsolved Child Murders

10 Brown’s Chicken & Pasta

How Did Chicken BONES Solves 10 year Cold Case?! | Brown’s Chicken Massacre | True Crime

On a cold January evening 28 years ago in Palatine, Illinois, gunshots rang out, and the lives of seven innocent people were snuffed out. The owners of the restaurant, Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt, and five of their employees: Guadalupe Maldonado, Michael C. Castro, Rico L. Solis, Thomas Mennes, and Marcus Neilsen. They were closing the restaurant on January 8, 1993, when two men entered and ordered a four-piece meal. The men ate most of it before tossing the remains in the trash. This would ultimately lead to their capture—but not before nine years had passed.

In 2002, an ex-girlfriend of one of the killers came forward and told police that her ex-boyfriend, James Degorski, and his friend Juan Luna had committed the murders. The chicken the pair had thrown away nearly 10 years earlier had been collected and frozen by investigators; it was now thawed, and saliva samples matched Juan Luna. Though it took nearly a decade, the families of the victims received justice for the loss of their loved ones when both Luna and Degorski were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in 2007 and 2009, respectively.[1]

9 Burger Chef Restaurant

Brutal True Story of What They Didn’t Tell You About the Burger Chef Massacre

On November 17, 1978, four employees working at Burger Chef in Speedway, Indiana, suddenly disappeared from the establishment. The foursome included Jayne Friedt, Ruth Ellen Shelton, Daniel Davis, and Mark Flemmonds. In a cruel twist of fate, Flemmonds wasn’t even supposed to be working that night. After the group was reported missing, police saw that the restaurant’s safe was empty and quickly theorized that the employees had robbed the restaurant and were on a drug-induced joyride.

However, the bodies of all four employees were found two days later. Police were baffled by the different ways the killers had executed the teens. While Shelton and Davis were shot multiple times by a .38 caliber revolver, Flemmonds was beaten to death by a chain, ultimately dying from choking on his own blood. Perhaps it was Friedt who met the most gruesome end, however, as she was stabbed so viciously that the knife’s blade broke off inside of her chest. Sadly, more than 40 years have passed since the Burger Chef murders and there is still no answer as to who committed the heinous crimes.[2]

8 Taco Bell, Irving, Texas

File:Taco Bell, Camilla (cropped).JPG

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

In another January robbery gone terribly wrong, two gunmen lay in wait outside a Taco Bell in Irving, Texas, on January 26, 1991, intending to rob it. Waiting until an employee opened the door to take out the trash, the two men forced their way in. Teenagers Jessy San Miguel (19) and Jerome Green (17) forced Theresa Fraga, her cousin Frank Fraga, Michael J. Phelan, and Son Trang Nyguen into the restaurant’s walk-in freezer. San Miguel admitted to the police that he initially left the employees alive but changed his mind.

He returned to the freezer, where he allegedly asked the four victims to “give him a good reason why he shouldn’t kill them” before shooting each one at close range, with three being shot multiple times in the head. After being pulled over hours after the murders with Taco Bell bags filled with cash, San Miguel was tried and received the death penalty for his crimes; he was subsequently executed by lethal injection on June 29, 2000. Green—who worked part-time at the restaurant—was sentenced to 50 years in prison and was eligible for parole in 2004. While San Miguel’s official victim count was four, many consider it five, as Theresa Fraga was pregnant at the time of her death.[3]

7 El Memo, Jalisco, Mexico

File:Don Perico Mexican Restaurant - March 2022 - Sarah Stierch 01.jpg

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

On May 10, 2021, a clan of armed gunmen ruthlessly shot up a small restaurant in Jalisco, Mexico, with no apparent motive. The victims—three adults and two children—were gunned down in the early afternoon as they sat at tables in front of El Memo’s large bay window. Sadly, because the killings came on the heels of a kidnapping and triple homicide of three siblings from a prominent Jalisco family, the shooting went largely unreported.

In addition to the El Memo murders and the murders of the González siblings, two others were murdered in Jalisco in one weekend. While authorities have stated that the El Memo murders were cartel-related, as of this writing, no one has been charged in the deaths of the unnamed five. Photos of the crime scene exist online, but viewer discretion is heavily advised.[4]

6 Wendy’s, Flushing, Queens

The Story of the Wendy’s Massacre – On location in Flushing,Queens NYC.

In the second set of restaurant murders occurring in the month of May comes the Wendy’s murders of May 24, 2000, in Flushing, Queens. Just before the restaurant closed, employees were surprised to hear their manager order them to her office. However, when they entered their manager Jean Auguste’s office, she was accompanied by former employee John Taylor (36) and his friend Craig Godineaux (30), and Taylor had a gun.

The two robbers bound and gagged all seven employees and, reminiscent of the Taco Bell murders, forced the workers into the restaurant’s walk-in freezer before shooting each one execution style. Of the seven employees, five were killed. Ramon Nazario, Ali Ibadat, Anita Smith, Jeremy Mele, and Jean Auguste. The other two employees were severely injured, but one, who had just started working at the restaurant two weeks earlier, was able to grab his fellow survivor and get them both out of the freezer before calling for help. While Taylor was initially sentenced to death, his sentence was commuted to life in prison in 2007. Godineaux, who had mental disabilities, was sentenced to life in prison.[5]

5 Pizza Hut, Mount Pleasant, Texas

File:Pizza Hut 8177.jpg

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

This next entry also occurred in the month of May. On May 10, 1982, three Pizza Hut employees were brutally murdered for a measly sum of $100. Howard McClaflin, Shirley Thompson, and George Dwayne Landrum were cleaning the restaurant after closing when two brothers, Calvin Lloyd Padgett and Max Baer Daughtry, entered the restaurant demanding money.

The men shot McClaflin, shot and beat Landrum, and shot, beat, and stabbed Thompson, all to their deaths. Their bodies were later found in the restaurant’s storage area after Thompson’s husband called police after arriving at the restaurant and seeing the cash register empty. While it in no way brings back the deceased, both brothers were charged and convicted of the murders. Daughtry was sentenced to 30 years in prison for Landrum’s murder, and Padgett received two life sentences.[6]

4 I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt!

The Austin Yogurt Shop Murders

Nicknamed “The Yogurt Shop Murders,” the murders of four girls in Austin, Texas, continue to haunt the community. After the store closed on December 6, 1991, unknown attackers murdered the four girls inside: Eliza Thomas, Amy Ayers, and sisters Jennifer and Sarah Harbison. Eliza and Jennifer had just finished a shift when Jennifer’s sister Sarah and her friend Amy met them at the shop so they could hang out later that night.

Instead, shortly after the last sale was made, two men entered the shop and forced the girls into the back of the restaurant, where they were bound and gagged with their own clothes before being shot in the head and set on fire. Sadly, because the initial 911 call was for a reported fire, the material used to extinguish the fire destroyed most of the evidence before the girls’ bodies were found. Over 30 years have passed with no convictions in the case of The Yogurt Shop Murders. [7]

3 Eight Immortals Restaurant

The Pork Bun Murders: The infamous Macau murders of a family at The Eight Immortals

On August 4, 1985, ten members of the Zheng family were murdered in Macau—a Portuguese colony until 1999 and now a special administrative region of China. Patriarch Zheng Lin was a gambler who owned the Eight Immortals Restaurant. The soon-to-be killer, Huang Zhiheng, had won 180,000 Yuan from Zheng, and because Zheng knew he could not afford to pay it, the two agreed that if Zheng had not paid off his debt in one year, Zheng had to relinquish his restaurant.

After a year with no money or title from Zheng, an enraged Zhiheng went to the Eight Immortals Restaurant and demanded money and the restaurant from Zheng. At the time, nine members of the Zheng family were inside cleaning. What happened next was nothing short of a horror movie. Zhiheng broke a bottle, held the jagged edge to Zheng’s son’s throat, and forced the remaining eight people to bind and gag each other. When one of them began to scream and ran for the door, Zhiheng sunk the broken bottle into her neck and began an all-out massacre.

Zhiheng stabbed or strangled the remaining family members. He then lured a tenth family member into the restaurant, where he killed her. Zhiheng spent eight hours dismembering the bodies of the Zheng family, subsequently disposing of the remains in the ocean or dumpsters. Shockingly, Zhiheng was able to not only get away with the murders for over a year, but he also spent that year operating Zheng’s restaurant. However, Zhiheng’s “perfect crime” quickly fell apart after body parts began to wash ashore, and he subsequently confessed to killing all ten members of the Zheng family. Zhiheng was convicted in 1986 and quickly committed suicide.[8]

2 San Ysidro McDonald’s

James Huberty : San Ysidro McDonalds Massacre

On July 18, 1984, a man named James Huberty took the lives of 21 people during a 77-minute long rampage in a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, California. In the days leading up to the massacre, Huberty had exhibited increasingly erratic behavior, telling his wife moments before opening fire that he was “going hunting… hunting for humans.” The McDonald’s Huberty chose was located very close to the border of Mexico, and that July day saw 45 patrons from both countries stopping at McDonald’s for Big Macs and a refreshing coke.

What these people could not have known, however, is that an unhinged maniac with three different firearms was soon going to enter the establishment and shoot at them for almost an hour and a half. Huberty entered the restaurant and immediately shot and killed the 22-year-old manager before he began to systematically shoot and kill customers who were cowering under tables, desperately trying to push themselves as far as they could underneath.

The details of the massacre are almost unfathomable, with Huberty showing a shocking disregard for human life. Even worse was the fact that after a 911 dispatch of shots fired was put out, police responded to the wrong McDonald’s, allowing Huberty to continue his rampage for an even longer amount of time. In the end, Huberty lost his own life after taking the lives of 21 victims aged eight months to 74 years old.[9]

1 Luby’s Cafeteria

Robert Riggs Reports Luby’s Cafeteria Mass Shooting Oct 16, 1991 Killeen, Texas

This list would not be complete without including the October 16, 1991, shooting at Luby’s Cafeteria in Kileen, Texas. That day, around 150 patrons were eating in the restaurant when a man named George Hennard drove his truck through the front window of the store. Hennard then exited the truck armed with two handguns and began to systematically shoot and kill patrons. Hennard reportedly went up to one victim while trying to hide from him and shot her point blank. Hennard was reported to have ranted and raved as he shot over ten people directly in the head and was said to have been making snide comments to his victims before killing them.

Oddly, Hennard allowed a woman and her baby to flee the restaurant before he continued his rampage. By the time police had arrived, 23 people were dead, and 27 were wounded. In true cowardly fashion, Hennard refused to surrender and proclaimed that he would kill as many people as he could before being shot three times by the police, though only wounding him. However, Hennard died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound before police could apprehend him. Hennard’s victims ranged in age from 29 to 75. [10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen