Ken Rex McElroy’s Lost Son

Photo Of Ken Rex McElroy

Ken Rex McElroy

Ken Rex McElroy’s Lost Son

The figure sitting across from me at the small table only barely resembled the young man I had met almost twenty years ago. That fellow had blonde hair and was buffed out. This guy had dark hair, and a small paunch. As we spoke, he dropped his chin and looked at me. I was startled.  How many times had I heard that look described by the residents of Skidmore? “Cold.” “Hard.” “Scary.”  The face beneath the eyes was smiling and friendly.

This was Jeffrey.  The lost son of Ken Rex McElroy. Now 47, he is the same age McELroy was when he was shot to death on the main street of Skidmore Missouri. Jeffrey was 22 and a college graduate when he discovered who his father was. Before then he just knew he had been adopted.

In 1990 he read my recently released book “In Broad Daylight,” about the killing of Ken Rex McElroy, and certain things began to click in place. The book told the story of  “Sally,” who at fourteen began having children by Ken.  She finally gave all four of them up for adoption. I noted that one of the boys had had a hernia. Jeff had had a hernia. Jeffrey and his sister found a pile of magazines with stories about the 1981 killing of Ken Rex McElroy in a drawer in their adoptive parents house. The few legal papers they located mentioned McElroy’s name.

Now intrigued, Jeffrey managed to locate the medical papers from a surgery he had had as child to repair the hernia. There, in black and white, were the names of his parents: Ken Rex McElroy and Sally. . . .His father was indeed the legendary terrorist of Nodaway County, the man who raped and shot and assaulted and stole and burned almost at will for over twenty years, and who, until the very end, was never prosecuted. The man law enforcement was scared of, who could clear out the bar in Skidmore just by sitting at the counter. Jeffrey knew the story. He had read the book. Now he had to deal with the truth.

A few weeks after Jeffrey called me, I had received a phone call in the middle of the night from “Sally,” Jeffrey’s biological mother. She was drunk and angry. She insisted that I hadn’t told the whole story about McElroy: he was much worse than portrayed, than anybody could imagine, and it had been harder than people would ever realize for her to give up her four children. She had been just a girl, and McElroy was a monster. She had missed her children every day of her life. I told her I had spoken with her son a few days earlier. She begged to talk to him. I told her I would check with Jeffrey.
Jeffrey traveled to California to meet his mother.  Eventually, he moved to her town and lived there for two years in an attempt to help her overcome her severe alcohol problems. He threw in the towel sixteen years ago, and hasn’t spoken to her since.

Ken McElroy was a functional illiterate. He had no social security number and never filed a tax return. He had no use for the successful or the educated. He had no respect for the law or those who enforced it.  He picked on the weak. He was an outlaw. One can only wonder what he would think if he knew that one of his sons not only made it through high school and graduated from college, but had a successful career working with special education children. In the nature versus nurture debate, this story fits on the nurture side of the spectrum.

Jeffrey is a softspoken man. He has not the slightest feel of violence about him. His friends say he is kind and gentle and wouldn’t hurt a fly. Working with kids with emotional disabilities requires limitless patience and understanding. One can’t imagine a man more the opposite of Ken McElroy.

Jeffrey thinks a lot about what it means to be Ken McElroy’s son. He hasn’t married or had any children, and he wonders if one of the reasons might be that he might be worried about passing along McElroy’s genes. When I met him 22 years ago, we toured the Skidmore area, and I showed him his father’s house and where he had been sitting when he was shot. Jeffrey seemed curious, but was not interested in meeting any of many siblings living in the area.

During our conversation at the airport, I become unnerved by the resemblance between Jeffrey and his father. I, of course, never met McElroy, but I’ve heard the descriptions and I’ve seen the pictures.  In one, he is holding his daughter in his lap and looking into the camera.  When Jeffrey turns his head that way, in his eyes is a streak of coldness that is remarkable in its intensity. I find myself momentarily intimidated, in spite of what he’s saying, in spite of all the good I know about him.

Jeffrey hopes that some good will come out of all this, but he’s not sure what it might be. Neither am I. It certainly must be a burden knowing your father was Ken McElroy, but he’s certainly entitled to be proud of what he’s done with his life.

46 thoughts on “Ken Rex McElroy’s Lost Son

  1. I have known Mr. Dalsing since 1999. I have spoken to him in the past about this situation and he allowed me to borrow the book ” In Broad Daylight ” It was an amazing book, and more interesting because I know Jeff.
    I worked with him at a school for Behavior problem children.
    He is an absolute amazing man!! he is smart, attractive, sweet, caring, and has a bigger heart than anyone I have ever known. He is patient, kind and very loving.
    He taught me a lot about life and how being true to yourself makes a difference in your life and the lives of others.
    I will never forget him and all the heart to heart conversations we had.
    He is a positive man with a great personality and has a charming demeanor about himself.
    It makes me realize that no matter who your biological parents are, you choose to be the person you want to be. Jeff proved that to me!

  2. Harry,
    You know what would be really interesting would be both you and him meeting in July like we talked about.

    That would add a significant twist to the story.

    • It would be interesting. I’ll talk to him as time goes along. I’ve been amazed at the messages I’ve gotten since the post. Jeffrey has a lot of friends who think he’s an amazing guy. Some of them have posted here; others have responded on my web site. I would be interested in hearing from Jeffrey about what he thinks about the reaction.

  3. Hi Harry,

    Just read your latest blog, in which you talked about your meeting with Jeffrey. As the mother of a son with special needs, I applaud those like Jeffrey who choose to work in this difficult field. I noticed that in your book, In Broad Daylight, you mentioned that Sally had borne Ken three children – Ken Jr, Lisa, and Jeffrey. In your blog, you mention four children. What was his/her name, and have you had any contact with him/her?
    Thanks for writing such a terrific book. I’m a true crime buff, and your book is one of my favourites.

    • I believe that the blog is right and the book wrong. In researching the book, I learned of only three kids. But Jeffrey, once he found his mother, learned of a fourth, I believe. Jeffrey can straighten this out, hopefully.
      Everyone owes a huge debt of gratitude to special education teachers, the unsung heroes of the schools.

  4. Sorry Harry……just to clarify, when I asked “what was his/her name”, I was referring to the fourth child of Sally, not mentioned in your book. Thanks!

  5. I previously wrote you on your website about the professional relationship I have the privilege of having with Jeffery. I currently work with him in a Behavioral/Learning Disorders School in Kansas City. For those not familiar with the environment in which we work I can only add that a person who lacks confidence and empathy is short lived in this career field. Jeffery has done some amazing things in the 6+ years I have known him. He has resolved some of the most embattled conflicts students have engaged in while maintaining a never ending sense of humor. He has guided troubled students through angry and self destructive feelings, assisting them gain composure and self control. I truely believe Jeffery has found his calling in helping others and, although I will not speculate, feel that his history plays an important role in what he does. It is my pleasure to interact with Jeffery on a daily basis and I truely feel he helps keep me grounded.

  6. In reference to Tammy Hilton’s question, the fourth child… Ken Jr., Lisa and myself were Sally’s and Ken’s biological children. Sally gave birth to a fourth child in 1965. Ken Jr. and Lisa remained together in foster care and I was moved to a different foster home due to my hernia. When Lori was born she was placed with me. Ken Jr. and Lisa were adopted together and were raised in a western state. Lori and myself were adopted together and were raised in MO.

  7. Lori, the sister who was raised with me knew. I flew Sally into our town before I moved to her town. Lori met her and they have corresponded off and on over the years. Lisa, found Sally in a very similiar fashion as I had and she too moved to Sally’s town about a year before I did. I met her but we had a falling out. Ken Jr. was the oldest of Sally’s children and knew of the story but he had no desire to re-connect with Sally, myself or Lori according to Lisa.

  8. Ken McElroy, A man better known as a coward a rapest a bully. A man who could only get his way through force and violenceThat was my first impression when I resd about the Skidmore Murder. From what I have learned about this man, he was a person without morals. And a man who had such a powerful negetive effect on others in this town that it became a town of fear for many people in this town.One can see how this part of history would never die.But now the blog talks about ( The lost son of Ken) Which the two names should not be mentioned in the same sentence.See with Jeff I am beyound first impressions. I have known Jeff for over 15 years.The best way to describe him is , ( soft spoken, kind hearted, One who never seems to get upset. Mr Dalsing is a man who puts others needs before his own. He never rasises his voice. ( unlike myself) And to look into his eyes one can see alot of innocence in a grown mans eyes, For he has a gentle soul.So Harrys first impression at the airport, was not a clear picture of the man he really is. I closing, I would like to say that ( The lost son, of Ken) was never lost at all. He has been alive and living. Working with children who need the gift of a great teacher. Goodbye Ken. And Hey, world Mr Dalsing is alive and well making a difference in this world for the better.. Live your life well Jeff!

    • The more notes I get about what a tremendous fellow Jeffrey is, the more fascinated I become with theories of the origin of the personality. He surely argues for the nurture theory. Ken McElroy would flip in his grave if he knew one of his children graduated from college and is a successful teacher of special ed kids. All of McElroy’s kids that I talked to liked the guy, but I suspect that was because he was gone from so much terrorizing other folks.

  9. I met Jeff in the fall of 1984. He has been a best friend of mine ever since. We were teens when we met and became best friends while attending UMKC. Jeff and I both shared a huge interest in bodybuilding and worked out together for years and years. We shared summers and girls and lots of laughs, some of the best years I spent with Jeff. He is exceptional and a real person and special friend. He did not pick his father and thank god his father did not raise him. He is all the things his father was not, god bless him! Love ya Bud, Bobby

  10. I just recently read the story and I have to say how sad the whole thing is.
    Ken obviously was mentally ill and never got help.
    The towns people were being bullied and never got the help they needed.
    These poor women were left uneducated, a lot of children and no support. The were abused not only by Ken but also by the townspeople that your book shows so much sympathy to. People that burned a house for no reason other than to intimidate a woman and children in need and intimidated anyone that would have come foreward about the killing.
    I think the children are who I feel the worst for. They were innocent of all of this. Even today if you google any of the names of the children you will find hateful things written by people. No matter how many years go by and how well things seem to be going for these children, I have to wonder how all this has really scarred them. No matter what we see on the outside, I’m sure the wounds still remain and run very deep.

    • Just a comment on the burning of the house: Trena, Alice and their children were all long gone by the time McElroy’s house burned down. They left the night McElroy was shot. Also, the entire town didn’t burn the house, just like the entire town didn’t shoot Ken. I share your sympathy toward the children.

  11. we have an individual in our farming community…the same exact behavior…the problem with these bullies they are protected ..we know who protects our town bully…he is the cousin of the states attorney…this bully steals,terrorizes,intimidates everyone including the cops…works as an informant & gets double protection..now who besides this guys attorney also was on the “take” I want to hear the whole story….bags of money ..follow the money and you will find the real culprits/gangsters

  12. I recently have seen the tv show called city confidential. It told the story of Ken Rex, since abot 2 weeks ago i have been reading non-stop about this man and feel almost sick to hear about the children, is there any word on any other children other than Jeff and his sister? btw will be reading the book soon

    • City Confidential is a rip off of the book, and it annoys me to hear it cited for anything. One McElroy kid followed in his father’s footsteps, getting arrested and imprisoned for shooting a man in a bar, allegedly the same bar that his dad shot some one. He was defended by Gene McFadin, who defended Ken. The other kids are staying well below the limelight, as far as I know.

  13. I read a few blogs last night , it looks like alot of people just quote your book, does anyone live on his property now? I guess I should wait to read but just so fascinated by this story, I at one point felt sad because he caught the shots from behind , not down playing anything he did but my human emotions just got the best of me I guess…keep up the good work,

    • No one lives where his house used to be, but his brother Tim lives in house not far away. You can make the case that shooting McElroy in the back was a cowardly act.

    • No one lives on the property, although is brother Tim, the youngest in the family, lives a little ways down the road. It’s an old saying, but one can argue that his children are also victims in this case.

  14. I agree that the kids are the victims here, I am interested to know about them, I read a few blogs and a few posing as his children posted, Tony and Ken Jr posted on one blog, but I dont know for sure if it was them. I only know of Juarez, Ken Jr, tony and Jeff , such an amazing story

  15. I am Juarez McElroys son Damien and i think your storys a lil….well…..i guess not fully informed on the whole lifestyle of my Grandpa

    • Damien, you may well be right. I researched every aspect of the family as thoroughly as I could and tried to be as fair as possible. Many family members would not speak to me. It would be very informative to hear what you have to say about your Grandpa, and I will certainly post whatever you write.

        • Trena did get remarried, about five years after Ken’s death. Then divorced, and I think remarried again. I’ve tried to leave her pretty much alone the last few years, let her see if she can find a normal life to live.
          Harry

    • Damien,
      I am interested to know, do u live in skidmore? and after the debacle died down, did any of his kids get treated fair? This is amazing, Just when you think theres nothing new a young man like Damien has the heart to come forward, Damien you are a strong person to admit this, after all that has happened, I commend you,

      • this is not new to us here, it hppeans all the time but a town bully? Not here my friends .any way I hope they catch the kidnappers and find Branson, also did anyone think for a sec that K.R had mental issues and if it was taken care of like they do nowadays this wouldnt have happened? I dont know just guessing. Btw Who do they think kidnapped Branson? were the guys fixing the car and the girl in the house in on it? was it revenger against his father? lots of unanswered questions, just like KR no one will talk, here they have shirts that say stop snitchin, but I say if u know something tell it. I wonder if del clement and kr made peace in hell, because I know they are both there.

        • I haven’t followed the Branson case that closely, but I know the crime hasn’t been solved. To many people, Del Clement was a hero. I think, after a few beers, he just snapped.

  16. I knew 3 of Ken Rex’s kids when they lived in St. Joseph, MO in the late eighties/early nineties. Juarez was a menace. He would come to a bar called Blue’s Brew Town carrying a gun and the bar would empty out. Mouse was a good looking teenager but he had a violent streak. His girlfriend lived in my apt building and he knocked her around quite a bit. He had to have been only about 15 or 16 at the time. I also hung out with Tonya and her boyfriend Chris as they started having babies. Tonya was very sweet and loving and although I’ve lost track of her in the last 20 years, I hope she has succeeded in life. I grew up in Oregon, MO which is a small town not too far from Skidmore. We all heard the stories about Ken Rex’s rein of terror which started before my family moved to Oregon, MO in 1978 and ended with his shooting. Hate to say it but of course his family members will defend him and claim he was the best grandpa/whatever but even if he wasn’t convicted of anything, his activities are well known and well documented.

    • Thanks for the post. It’s interesting to learn more about the kids and how they grew up. Juarez, I know has been in and out of jail, but I hadn’t heard anything about Mouse or Tonya. Who knows, they might be following this blog?

      • This is a compelling story whether you knew or had any connection to the McElroy’s or not. I believe your book is one of the better true crime books I have read.
        I also knew Faye Copeland of Ray and Faye Copeland fame, was the very next tenant in an apartment in St. Joe from which a young woman had disappeared and was later found murdered, and know a woman named Angela (Angie) who was kidnapped by the same guy suspected of killing Crystal Kipper-John Williams.
        All of these things have combined to make me a true crime fanatic.
        Thanks for writing the book about Ken Rex. Glad I could add a bit more info.

        • I’m always glad to hear about true crime fanatics. I never felt I got the whole story on McElroy, but at some point I had to stop researching and begin writing.

  17. I’m sorry, in my comment above I mean to say the bar was called Brew’s Blue Town. It’s located on 9th st by Patee House. Sorry, I haven’t lived in St. Joe in 20 years and didn’t realize I had reversed that until I re-read my post just now.

  18. Hi Harry, I read your book In Broad Daylight 4 years ago.I want to say it was an excellent book, Thanks for all your hard work!!
    I would also like to ask, When did Alice Wood passed away? And where are her adult children she & Ken had together now ? Are they aware of their father and the history about him?

    • I don’t remember exactly when Alice passed away, but it was at least 5 years, from cancer. Of her three kids, only Juarez has had difficulties with the law; assault, possession of marijuana, possession of a shotgun, violation of probation, etc. You can google him and see his record. All of them are aware of who their father was. Two appeared on Oprah Winfrey with me, Alice, Cheryl Brown and McFadin.

  19. How old was Ken’s daughter Tammy when she participated in the harassment along with her father and Treena? Was Treena her mother?

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