Unspeakable Crimes

An Entire Community Made A Vigilante Pact To Kill The Town Bully And Kept It Quiet For 30 Years  

Jodi Smith
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Ranker Video Ken McElroy: How This Abusive Bully Met His Demise

Ken Rex McElroy was murdered on July 10, 1981, in one of the most bizarre cases authorities had ever encountered. It should have been open and shut - there were dozens of witnesses, and the shooting occurred in broad daylight - but it wound up being anything but. Despite the facts, the residents of Skidmore, MO, weren't so eager to talk and point fingers; in the end, no one came forward.

It sounds like the end of Road House, but it's no Hollywood fantasy. An entire town enacted vigilante justice on the man who terrorized them for years. Even though there were more than 30 witnesses to the small town murder, police still don't know who exactly ended McElroy's life. An entire community sick of being let down by the justice system took the law into their own hands and got away with it.

McElroy Was Struck Down In His Truck In The Middle Of The Day
McElroy Was Struck Down In His... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list An Entire Community Made A Vigilante Pact To Kill The Town Bully And Kept It Quiet For 30 Years
Photo:  In Broad Daylight (1988) - Harry MacLean/Harper and Row/Fair Use

On the day of McElroy's passing, he was in his pickup truck with his wife, Trena. They were parked on the main street in Skidmore in broad daylight when they were surrounded by a disgruntled group of over 30 town residents. As McElroy nonchalantly reached to light a cigarette from the pack he had just bought, several shots were fired into the truck.

He was struck in his head and neck while Trena screamed in horror. No one attempted to assist McElroy, and no one called an ambulance - the townsfolk had no intention of letting McElroy survive.

There Were At Least Two Shooters In The Crowd Of Over 30 Residents
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There was more than one shooter present at the time of the murder, no doubt as part of an effort to make it difficult to ascertain who was responsible. One shot came from behind the truck, and another from a block away. Shell casings were found at the scene from a .22-caliber Magnum and an 8 mm Mauser - the latter of which has long-range capabilities.

None of the witnesses would divulge any information. McElroy's wife, Trena, eventually accused Del Clement, a rancher and business owner in the town. Clement never confessed and was never charged. A coroner's jury didn't think there was evidence for an arrest warrant, and no one ever corroborated Trena's accusation. 

The FBI, Grand Juries, And County Prosecutors Couldn't Make Residents Talk

County prosecutor David Baird put forth a grand jury, confident a suspect would be detained with so many witnesses in attendance. Despite this, no arrests were ever made or any suspects named. The FBI held over 100 interviews but was unable to find one shred of evidence to tie a single person to McElroy's sudden passing.

The people of Skidmore refused to talk, so no indictments could be made.

McElroy's Final Foul Act Was Assaulting The Town Grocer
McElroy's Final Foul Act Was A... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list An Entire Community Made A Vigilante Pact To Kill The Town Bully And Kept It Quiet For 30 Years
Photo:  In Broad Daylight (1988) - Harry MacLean/Harper and Row/Fair Use

In 1980, McElroy's daughter was accused of taking candy from the Skidmore town grocery, owned by 70-year-old Ernest "Bo" Bowenkamp. When McElroy was confronted over the matter, his response was to offer money to Mrs. Bowenkamp to fight his wife, Trena.

McElroy then began spending time outside of the grocery in his pickup truck with his gun on hand. In July of that year, McElroy caught Bowenkamp on the store's dock waiting on a repairman. Bowenkamp told McElroy to leave, as he was trespassing. McElroy gave money to two young boys to go buy soda so that there would be no witnesses. Then, McElroy shot Bowenkamp in the neck.