Ken Rex McElroy and the town of Skidmore Missouri

I have always found this story to be interesting, even over 30 years later.  The truth is there are very few things that are known as fact....

It is a fact that Ken Rex McElroy was arrested and indicted on at least 20 occasions for crimes ranging from theft, statutory rape and assault.  Each time charges were either dropped or he was acquitted in trial.  That is until the last time when he was finally convicted for the stabbing assault of the local grocer, Ernest Bowenkamp.  However, he immediately filed an appeal and was granted bond, and was released.

It is also a fact that on July 10, 1981 Ken McElroy and his wife Trena were sitting in his truck outside the local tavern in Skidmore Missouri when they were ambushed with gunfire to which Ken was killed.

It has been over 30 years since the death of Ken McElroy and while there were many people present at the shooting no one has ever been charged or even arrested for his murder.  There have been varying reports that between 30-60 people were either on the main street in Skidmore or in nearby businesses, some have even admitted to be looking out the windows of the businesses but yet no one admits to seeing anything.  Everyone professed they were either ducking out of the way of fire, thought the bullets were coming from a distance that would exonerate all those immediately present, while others just simply could not say from what direction the bullets were coming from or how many guns they heard.

Ken's wife Trena did file a civil suit against several people, including the sheriff, the town and those she claims she saw shooting and there was an out of court settlement and yet there still were never any indictments, let alone convictions. And, to this day, no one is talking.  

The overwhelming story that was put out to and by the media, who swarmed this very small town in Missouri, was basically that Ken Rex terrorized and stole from the town, the businesses and the residents for close to two decades and yet nothing was ever done to him.  It is widely believed that this was with the help of his lawyer who between them had figured out that when you change witness testimony or talk people out of testifying (whether it be through guilt, fear or bribes) then nothing can be done and the cases go away.  In fact, he had been brought up on charges for stabbing a man at one time but an eye witness changed his mind and despite the victim knowing Ken Rex and knowing it was he who stabbed him Ken was acquitted.  He had also previously been indicted on charges ranging from theft (of farm animals and equipment) and even what would be now child seduction. But as usual, charges were dropped when witnesses refused to testify.

In 1980 two of Ken's children had entered the grocery store owned by Ernest and Lois Bowenkamp.  When they left the store they told Ken, who was sitting outside that the cashier had accused them of attempting to steal some candy.  Ken went into the store and confronted Ernest, Lois and the cashier.  After this he began to stalk the Bowenkamps, both at their store and at their home.  He would sit outside their home, pretending to break down for hours.  Oftentimes he would in essence have a convoy with him as he would have one vehicle, his wife would drive another and he would have one of his many children drive yet a third.  They would circle the home or as said just stop and sit.  The Bowenkamps of course called the authorities but were often told there was nothing they could do.  From time to time the town sheriff would come by and have Ken leave or check on things but then Ken began doing much of the same to him.  The main police station was several miles from Skidmore in another town so often it was a challenge to get them to come, or get there in a timely manner.  Eventually Ken confronted Ernest at the back of his store and in the midst of the conversation Ernest was shot in the neck but survived.  Per McElroy's ways he attempted to get people who had information about what had happened including people inside businesses, the Bowenkamps, and even three boys that he gave money to ensuring they were in a business while this happened, to change their testimony or scare them into not testifying.  The general mentality of things was Ken was not bothering them and they did not want to get involved because they did not want to give him a reason to bother them.

Ken was convicted for the shooting of Ernest Bowenkamp but immediately filed an appeal and was released on bail without serving a night in jail.  At this point the town was appalled   How could someone convicted of assault (down from attempted murder).  The sheriff suggested that the town form a neighborhood watch.  They had all but done this already in essence.  Every time that Ken slipped through the fingers of justice he would come to town making sure everyone saw him and the guns that he had in his truck.  One person would call another and before he even reached town everyone knew he was on the way.  Still this did nothing to ease the neighbors or their fears.

On July 10, 1981 Ken was to be in court for his appeal and the townspeople believed this may be the end of things.  However, once again there was a delay in the proceedings.  During this time the town was conducting a meeting in which the Sheriff attending discussing what they could do to protect themselves.  It s said that someone alerted Ken that the meeting was going on and he decided, as was his nature, to not be intimidated and went into town himself.  While most of the townspeople were at the meeting Ken and Trena went into the local tavern.  Soon, the townspeople were alerted that Ken was in town at the tavern and the meeting was disbanded and everyone headed in that direction.  By this time the sheriff had been long gone, at least that is the story, and was no longer there.  The townspeople went into the tavern filling it up.  The supposed goal was to intimidate Ken and show unity.  They were hoping they would project the image that they were fed up.  Soon Ken and Trena got up to leave and as they did most of the townspeople followed them out the door.  Once inside of their truck shots began to be fired.  Trena was removed from the truck for her safety but absolutely no one tried to save Ken.  

For all my research I have been able to learn very little beyond a few things that happened after this.  It is said that Trena and her children (as well as most of Ken's other children with other women) all but left the area.  Before leaving (or maybe after) Trena filed a 6 Million dollar lawsuit against the town, the county, the sheriff, the mayor and one person in which she claimed to be the shooter (although it is denied nor has another witness confirmed).  The lawsuit was settled for 17,600 divided between the defendants.  It is said it was settled for legal reasons.  After she moved she remarried.  She died in January 2012 at the age of 55. Some of Ken's siblings still live in the area and is said to have made peace with the townspeople.  I never found anything that indicated that anyone else in the McElroy family was not respected.  

Skidmore residents have kept their mouths shut for 30 years.  It is unlikely that the true story will ever come out, or at least by anyone who physically witnessed the shooting.  The town of Skidmore did not like the invasion from the media nor have they liked the idea of being known as the town who took the law in their own hands to rid themselves of the "town bully."  It is not as if that has completely been a negative on the town as there are many who believe since the law would not help them, they did what they had to do.


  1. Interesting..never knew.

  2. why didnt somebody kick his ass must be a town full of pussys

    1. You can take that to the bank, the small towns of NW Missouri are full of pussies, cowards, and bullies. I would not at all be surprised that he was bullied by the town.

  3. What happened to the kids?

  4. What took them so long to kill this Idiot !! Another thing the Law Enforcement Officers were Cowards !!

  5. I will say this, having lived in two small towns in the same region. The bullying and harassment tends to come from a town itself, and inflicted upon an individual. A favorite tactic is to financially ruin someone by charging them with crimes. Twenty indictments, yet no convictions, reads more to me that he was harassed with spurious charges. I would indeed love to hear his side of events, but they took care of that.


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