Ken Rex McElroy was born in 1934, and he lived in the Missouri town of Skidmore. He was known as the town bully by the people who lived in the small town.
When Ken McElroy quit school in the eighth grade, it didn’t take him long to start living a life of c*rime. What started out as raccoon hunting turned into small cr*imes, which led to McElroy becoming a full-fledged criminal.
People knew that McElroy had stolen grain, alcohol, gas, antiques, and even animals. Assault and setting fires were some of the worst cr*imes. McElroy was charged with child molestation and statutory rape, which are some of the worst charges. McElroy was charged with cri*mes 21 times, but he was never convicted of any of them.
In Broad Daylight is a book by Harry MacLean that tells McElroy’s story. MacLean couldn’t figure out how McElroy was so smart when he talked about him.
“He had no bank account, no Social Security number, and couldn’t read. How has this person with no education been able to fool the criminal justice system for 20 years?” MacLean said.
McElroy was a big, cold-eyed man who always had a gun on him. He would scare away anyone who stood in his way, usually by bothering them over and over or threatening to shoot them. Richard McFadin, who was Ken McElroy’s lawyer, said that he usually defended him in three or four felony cases a year.
“Best client I’ve ever had,” McFadin said in an interview. “He always said he didn’t do it, paid in cash, and kept coming back.”
On the other hand, the town didn’t like him at all. He had been terrorizing Skidmore for years and he kept getting away with it.
Things reached a boiling point in 1980 when Ken McElroy got into a confrontation with the town’s elderly grocer, Ernest “Bo” Bowenkamp. In the end, McElroy shot Bowenkamp in the neck, which almost killed him.
Soon after, McElroy was taken into custody and charged with trying to kill someone. A trial took place the following year and for the first time ever, Ken McElroy was convicted.
Sadly, the victory didn’t last long. McElroy appealed the case and was released on bond. Once freed, McElroy didn’t just quietly celebrate his victory. Instead, he continued to harass Bowenkamp. He showed up to the town’s local bar, armed with a rifle and bayonet, threatening to kill the elderly grocer.
“We were so bitter and so angry at the law letting us down that it came to somebody taking matters in their own hands,” said Bowenkamp’s daughter, Cheryl Huston.
So the townspeople held a meeting. In what could only be described as vigilante justice, they conspired to kill Ken McElroy. Allegedly, even the mayor was in on it.
The murder took place on July 10, 1981, the day after McElroy had threatened Bowenkamp at the tavern.
It was a sunny, clear summer day. McElroy was getting into his pickup truck with his wife Trena on the main street of Skidmore where there was a crowd of 30 to 50 people. As Ken McElroy sat in his truck, he was shot at several times. He was hit twice and died in his truck. Nobody called an ambulance.
Except for Trena, none of the other 30 or so possible witnesses could say who shot the people. Everyone said they didn’t see who was shooting. The DA chose not to press charges, and the investigation that followed was a waste of time. No one could take the stand because there were no witnesses.
McElroy was laid to rest in St. Joseph, Missouri, at the Memorial Park Cemetery. On July 9, 1984, Trena McElroy filed a $5 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Town of Skidmore, County of Nodaway, Sheriff Danny Estes, Steve Peters (Mayor of Skidmore), and Del Clement (whom Trena said was the shooter but was never charged). Later, the case was settled out of court for $17,600, and no one admitted guilt. This was done so that the parties wouldn’t have to pay expensive legal fees if the case went to court.
More than 40 years have passed. McElroy’s death has not led to anyone being charged with a cri*me.
Richard McFadin said it best: “The town got away with m*urder.” He was the one who kept Ken McElroy out of jail 21 times.