February 25, 2018

Ken McElroy: Killed in Broad Daylight

McElroy. Town bully and general POS

From the beginning of his life, on June 1, 1934, Ken Rex McElroy seemed destined for a troubled, cruel life.  He was the fifteenth of sixteen children born to a poor, migrant tenant farming family that moved between Kansas and the Ozarks before settling outside of Skidmore, Missouri.  His formal education ended when he was fifteen and in the eighth grade. Ken dropped out, at which time he already had a reputation as a raccoon hunter, castle rustler, thief and a womanizer.

Over the next two decades, McElroy would be suspected of the thefts of grain, gasoline, alcohol, antiques and livestock, arson, assault, child molestation, and statutory rape, resulting in charges being brought against him twenty-one times.  Amazingly, he was never convicted, mostly because the witnesses were afraid.  McElroy was known to have intimidated witnesses, mainly by parking outside their homes and stalking them.

In between his many felonies and intimidation tactics, McElroy fathered ten children with different women and married four times.  He met his fourth wife, Trena, when she was twelve years old.  By the age of fourteen, Trena was pregnant and had dropped out of school.  McElroy divorced wife number three and married Trena in order to escape statutory rape charges.  Before the divorce and marriage, he moved the pregnant teenager into his marital home with wife number three.  Yeah, this guy had zero boundaries.

Two weeks after Trena gave birth, she and wife number three fled to Trena's parents' home. McElroy tracked both down and brought them back to his home.  He wasn't done; he returned to Trena's parents' home while they were away, shot their family dog and burned down the house.

This led to McElroy being indicted in June of 1973 for arson, assault and statutory rape. He was arrested but then released on $2,500 bail.  Trena and her baby, meanwhile, were put into foster care. After getting bail, McElroy located where his child wife and baby were and committed his usual M.O. - - parking in front of the home and telling the foster parents that he would abduct their daughter and then "exchange" her for Trena. He strengthened his threat by telling the parents that he knew what school their daughter went to and her schoolbus route home.

No surprise that additional charges were filed against McElroy.  As per usual, though, he got away with it.

On July 27, 1976, McElroy shot a Skidmore farmer by the name of Henry twice after McElroy was challenged for firing weapons on Henry's property.  Henry survived and McElroy was charged (again) with assault with intent to kill.  He denied he was on the property or fired shots.  Henry would state that during the case, McElroy parked outside the Henry residence 100 times, in an attempt to intimidate.  Boy, this guy never changed, did he?

During the trial, McElroy had two fellow raccoon hunters testify that he was with them during the time Henry was shot.  While on the stand, Henry was forced to admit that he had neglected mentioning his own petty criminal record from thirty years earlier.  McElroy was acquitted.

Bo Bowenkamp
Fast forward to 1980.  One of McElroy's children gets into an argument with a grocery store clerk, after the child was accused of stealing candy.  Imagine that -  a McElroy child is a chip off the old (cell) block.  The child denied it (of course) and McElroy likely took the child's side.  Stealing does run in the family, after all.  McElroy began stalking the Bowenkamp family  - the owners of the grocery store. He would eventually confront Ernest "Bo" Bowenkamp in the back of the store, resulting in Bo being shot in the neck.

Bowenkamp survived his wound and McElroy was arrested once again and charged with attempted murder.  He would be found guilty of assault at trial but was out on bail pending an appeal.   Once out, McElroy headed to a local bar, the D&G Tavern, armed with an M1 Garland rifle.   He made violent threats about what he was gong to do to Bowenkamp once he found him, terrifying bar patrons.  The patrons, it seemed, had begun to have enough of McElroy and asked a county sheriff how to handle the matter of McElroy.  The sheriff advised them to form a neighborhood watch.

McElroy's appeal hearing was delayed.  What was it with the court system in this place?

On July 10, 1981, the townspeople of Skidmore met in the center of town with the local sheriff to discuss how to protect themselves from their town bully. During the meeting, McElroy showed once again at the D&G Tavern, with Trena, and began to drink.  Word got out that he was once again in town. The sheriff warned his citizens not to get into any type of confrontation with McElroy but, inexplicably, left town.  The citizens decided there might be safety in numbers and headed to the D&G, filling the bar.  McElroy finished his drink, bought a six pack and left with Trena.  He climbed into his pickup truck and was shot at several times, being hit twice.  Trena escaped unharmed.

None of the some sixty witnesses, including Trena, bothered to call for an ambulance or help.  McElroy, 47, was dead at the scene.  Only Trena claimed to have been able to identify a trigger man.  The other witnesses claimed an inability to know who did what.  The DA would wisely decline to press charges.

In 1984, Trena filed a wrongful death suit against the town of Skidmore, Nodaway County, the sheriff of Nodaway County, the mayor of Skidmore and Del Clement, seeking $6 million in restitution. Trena accused Clement of being the actual shooter.  The case would be settled out of court for $17,600 with no party admitting guilt.  Trena would remarry and move out of the Skidmore area.  She died on her 55th birthday in 2012 of cancer.

Murder is never acceptable but if anyone had it coming, it was Ken McElroy.  This man held the town of Skidmore hostage for years. He bullied and intimidated, took what he wanted, whether it was property, money or sex. The authorities seemed incapable or unmotivated to prevent him from intimidating and bullying witnesses, allowing him to continue his felonies. What the townspeople did was a crime but after years of being abused by McElroy and disappointed by authorities, they were victims themselves. These folks must have lived in fear of what McElroy might do.  In my opinion, they were given no choice but to take matters into their own hands. It was only a matter of time before McElroy killed someone.  The townspeople of Skidmore did everyone a favor by putting Ken McElroy down, the way you would a rabid animal.

No charges were ever filed against Del Clement, nor anyone else for the murder, despite three grand jury investigations and an FBI probe.  Clement died in 2009.  Interestingly, Clement, along with his brother Greg, was owner of the D&G (for Del and Greg) Tavern.  McElroy had supposedly scared customers away over the years, as well as threatened to shoot Del's horses (he was a rancher) and it was these facts that allegedly led Clement to shoot and kill McElroy.

Since McElroy's death,  a story surfaced that he placed a man on railroad tracks in order to watch him be killed.  The murder allegedly occurred in St. Joe but has not been proven.

On February 3, 1991, a miniseries titled "In Broad Daylight," inspired by the McElroy case, was shown on tv.  It starred Brian Dennehy (who also portrayed serial killer John Wayne Gacy) and was based on a book of the same name .

Skidmore residents inspect the crime scene


  1. Remember that as clear as if was yesterday! Atlast justice!

    1. I don't recall when this happened, David. I do absolutely agree that justice was finally served.

      Thanks for posting!