ken mcelroy

Ken McElroy (June 1, 1934 – July 10, 1981) was an American criminal and convicted attempted m*rderer residing in Skidmore, Missouri. Infamously known as “the town bully,” McElroy’s unsolved k*lling garnered international attention. Throughout his life, he faced numerous accusations, including as*ault, child m0lestation, statutory r*pe, arson, animal cruelty, hog and cattle rustling, and burglary.

Despite being indicted 21 times, McElroy managed to evade conviction in all but one case. In 1981, he was found guilty of attempted m*rder in the shooting of the town’s 70-year-old grocer, Ernest “Bo” Bowenkamp. Following a successful appeal, McElroy was released on bond and proceeded to carry out a relentless harassment campaign against Bowenkamp and those sympathetic to him, including the local Church of Christ minister. Armed with an M1 Garand rifle and bayonet, McElroy threatened Bowenkamp in a bar, the D&G Tavern.

The following day, in broad daylight on Skidmore’s main street, McElroy was fatally sh0t while seated with his wife Trena in his pickup truck. Struck by bullets from at least two different firearms, the incident occurred in front of a crowd estimated between 30 and 46 people. As of now, no one has been charged in connection with McElroy’s d*ath, leaving it an unsolved mystery.

Events prior to his k*lling

According to Trena’s account, in June 1973, Ken Rex McElroy was indicted for arson, as*ault, and statutory r*pe. Subsequently, he was arrested, booked, arraigned, and released on $2,500 bail. Trena and her baby were placed in foster care at a home in Maryville, Missouri. McElroy, exhibiting concerning behavior, would spend hours outside the foster home, staring at it. He approached the foster family, suggesting a “girl for girl” exchange to regain custody of his child. McElroy had acquired information about the foster family’s biological daughter, knowing where she attended school and her bus route. These actions led to additional charges against him.

On July 27, 1976, Skidmore farmer Romaine Henry reported that McElroy sh0t him twice with a shotgun after Henry confronted him for firing weapons on Henry’s property. McElroy was charged with a*sault with intent to k*ll. Despite McElroy’s denial of being present at the scene, the case faced delays without a scheduled court date. Allegedly, McElroy had parked outside Henry’s home over 100 times during this period. At the trial, two raccoon hunters testified that they were with McElroy on the day of the sh00ting, away from Henry’s property. Under questioning by McElroy’s attorney, Richard Gene McFadin, Henry admitted in court that he had concealed a petty criminal conviction from over 30 years prior. Consequently, McElroy was acquitted of the charges.

1981 K*lling

In 1980, a dispute arose between one of Ken Rex McElroy’s children and clerk Evelyn Sumy in a local grocery store owned by 70-year-old Ernest “Bo” Bowenkamp and his wife Lois. Allegedly, the argument stemmed from the young McElroy child attempting to steal candy. This incident marked the beginning of McElroy’s stalking of the Bowenkamp family, culminating in a threatening encounter at the back of the store. Armed with a shotgun, McElroy shot Bowenkamp in the neck during the confrontation. Although Bowenkamp survived, McElroy was arrested and charged with attempted m*rder. While McElroy was convicted of as*ault at trial, he was released on bail pending an appeal.

Shortly after his release at a post-trial hearing, McElroy visited the D&G Tavern, a local bar, equipped with an M1 Garand rifle with a bayonet attached. There, he made graphic threats about what he intended to do to Bo Bowenkamp. This alarmed several patrons, prompting them to explore legal avenues to prevent McElroy from causing further harm.

McElroy’s appeal hearing faced further delays. On the morning of July 10, 1981, concerned townspeople gathered at the Legion Hall in the town center to meet with Nodaway County sheriff Dan Estes and discuss strategies for protection. During the meeting, McElroy arrived at the D&G Tavern with his wife Trena. As news spread that he was in town, Sheriff Estes advised the assembled group not to directly confront McElroy but to consider forming a neighborhood watch program. After conveying this message, Estes left town in his police cruiser.

The citizens at the meeting decided to go to the tavern en masse, and the bar quickly filled up. Following the consumption of his drinks, McElroy purchased a six-pack of beer, left the bar, and entered his pickup truck.

D*ath and aftermath

While seated in his truck, Ken Rex McElroy was targeted in a shooting, sustaining two hits—once from a centerfire rifle and once from a .22 rimfire rifle. Although there were 46 potential witnesses, including Trena McElroy in the truck during the incident, nobody called for an ambulance. Trena was the sole person to claim to identify a gunman; all other witnesses either couldn’t name an assailant or asserted not having seen who fired the fatal shots. The District Attorney opted not to press charges, and despite an extensive federal investigation, no charges were filed. Some townspeople, as described by journalist Steve Booher, held an attitude that McElroy “needed k*lling.”

Following his d*ath, McElroy was laid to rest at Memorial Park Cemetery in St. Joseph, Missouri. On July 9, 1984, Trena McElroy filed a $5 million wrongful d*ath lawsuit against the Town of Skidmore, County of Nodaway, Sheriff Danny Estes, Steve Peters (Mayor of Skidmore), and Del Clement (whom Trena accused of being the shooter, though he was never charged). The case was later settled out of court by all parties for $17,600, with no admission of guilt, to avoid potentially expensive legal fees. Trena subsequently remarried and relocated to Lebanon, Missouri. Unfortunately, she passed away from cancer on her 55th birthday on January 24, 2012.

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