No Death Bed Confession

September 15, 2009

NO DEATH BED CONFESSION

Trena McElroy was sitting next to her husband, Ken Rex, in his Chevy Silverado when rifle shots shattered the rear window and exploded her husband’s head onto the dashboard. That was July 9, 1981, and Trena claimed that just before the shots were fired she looked over her shoulder and saw a local cowboy pull a rifle from her pickup and take aim at Ken. She swore to the law and three grand juries that the man on the 30.30 was Del Clement, a member of a prominent ranching family.

When I first traveled to Skidmore in 1982, the first name I heard as the shooter was Del Clement. Over the years I spent there researching “In Broad Daylight” I never heard another name seriously mentioned as the rifleman. Del, a short man with a chip on his shoulder and a hot temper, wore a cowboy hat and drank heavily. It wasn’t hard to imagine him jerking the gun from his pickup in a burst of anger and opening up on the large black head on the other side of the rear window of the pickup. He and his brother owned the D & G Tavern, in front of which McElroy was parked when he died and which had recently begun closing whenever he came to town.

A few years after the book came out, I encountered Del one evening in a bar in nearby Maryville. He was drunk and became outright hostile to me. He pointed out all the untrue facts in the book—such as that he was short—and seemed on the verge of throwing a punch, until a friend stepped in.

There has been no prosecution in the death of Ken Rex McElroy. Some of the witnesses to the crime left town, and as time wore on a few of them died. The only hope for solving the crime seemed to be that one of the witnesses, or maybe one of the killers, would confess on his deathbed in order to clear his conscience. Such evidence is allowed into courts of law as an exception to the hearsay rule on the theory that someone on his deathbed would have no reason to lie.

Del Clement died of liver disease this last spring. He always denied any role in the killing. Dying of sclerosis of the liver is a slow process; it allows the person time to reflect on his life, to prepare to meet his maker. Del Clement died without a word about who shot Ken McElroy.

Ken Rex McElroy

101 thoughts on “No Death Bed Confession

  1. If in fact Del Clement was the shooter, I was curious as to why he would have shot McElroy. Was McElroy harassing him or something? I don’t remember any stories about him harassing the Clements in the book.

    • McElroy was supposedly harassing the Clements at their ranch, threatening to shoot their horses, parking alongside the pasture, draping a rifle out the window. Del and his brother Greg also owned the only tavern in town, the D and G, for Del and Greg, and McElroy was famous for driving away customers. People would leave when they heard McElroy was in town. It was somehow fitting, therefor, that McElroy was shot sitting in his pickup in front of the D & G.

  2. Interesting. What is also fascinating to me is how McElroy was able to defy the men who were actually hired to kill him. Weren’t there a couple of men who were offered a lot of money to blow him away?

    • I heard stories over the years that a couple of men had been offered a sum of money to kill McElroy. Trena, McElroy’s wife, even told the story that a man showed up at the McElroy farm outside Skidmore to kill McElroy for money, but that McElroy talked him out of it. I never verified any of these facts, but I really didn’t spend a lot of time trying either. The likelihood that a serious offer was made and accepted seems highly unlikely, given McElroy’s reputation and his many friends in the area.

    • Alice died a few years ago. She was always a heavy smoker, and I heard that it was from lung cancer, although I don’t knwo for sure. Trena divorced her husband, and I’ve been told lives in Columbia.

  3. I heard that Lois also died a few years ago, and I am sure that Bo Bowenkamp died back in the late 80′s or so; but didn’t they have a couple of daughters? Are thye still in the area?

    I drove through Skidmore a few years ago…..you could have fired a shotgun and not hit a thing…..that town is like dried up and gone…..

    • Yes, Bo died before the book was published. Slowly, the cast of characters is passing on, but there are still plenty of people alive who witnessed what happened on the mainstreet of Skidmore that morning in July 1981.

    • Cheryl I believe has returned to live in Skidmore. The town is not in great shape, with very few businesses remaining open, and some fellow buying lots of properties and storing junk in the yards. Looking pretty rundown.

  4. I was through there last fall bird hutning and it sure seemed as though there was nothing left. The day I stopped through even the bar was closed…..do you know if the bar is even open anymore?

    • Most things are closed down. Skidmore’s best days are behind it, sad to say, unless Cheryl Brown decides to get involved again. I was there a few years ago, and the bar was open, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was closed now, or maybe just open for parties. Maybe a reenactment of the shooting would put Skidmore back on the map.

  5. Did McElroy ever actually kill anyone that you heard of? The book Judgment Day (which seemed to be grossly inaccurate on a lot of things) said that he was suspected of killing someone in St. Joe?

    • The most well known but never verified incident involved a time supposedly in the seventies when he stretched a guy over the railroad tracks around St. Joe and watched as the train ran over him. There are more facts, but I’d have to dig into my research for them. The book Judgment Day was a joke, luckily for me or I’d never have gotten a contract to write the story.

  6. A guy I know used to go to school at NWMSU in Maryville, and a friend of his who was a deputy sheriff told him to stay the hell out of skidmore, because Ken Rex didn’t like college kids too well.

  7. I made the mistake once of asking about it a few years ago, needless to say I was told in no uncertain terms to mind my own business.

    What did you think of the frontier justice piece? Seemed like they made up a few facts as they went along. Also didn’t Cheryl marry the town mayor or sheriff?

    • None of those last two incidents is surprising. It was sometimes difficult to distinguish myth from reality when it came to Ken Rex McElroy. Things got repeated and repeated until he became almost larger than life. He was a boaster and a bully, but he carried through on just enough of his threats to scare the hell out of people.
      A year or so after the book was published, I met one of Ken’s kids who had been adopted out as a child. He read the book and realized that he and his sister were the children of Ken and Sharon. This was verified. When I met him, he was a sophomore in college, which amused me greatly, to think of one of Ken’s kids being a college graduate. He was a nice, smart kid, but he had blue eyes and a compelling stare.
      Cheryl has been married a few times, but never as far as I know to the mayor or sheriff.

      • I went to high school with his 3 daughters (from Sharon). Tina, Teresa and Tammy. They were the nicest people and in no way reflected their father. And his ex wife Sharon is also a very kind woman. She’s still alive and well living in Helena mo.

  8. In your first edition on page 293 you refer to three men with guns – a shotgun, 30-30, and a .22; Were you referring to specific individuals or taking poetic license?

    It is assumed that Del was one of the shooters but are you at liberty to name the other two?

    • I won’t name them directly. But if you read the 2007 version of In Broad Daylight, which contains an epilogue bringing the case up to date, you’ll get some interesting information on who were on the other two guns.

  9. OK, I did as you requested and I picked up a copy of the 2007 edition and read the epilogue. Which now, has me asking a ton of additional questions, thoughts, etc.

    Do you believe that Baird agreed to allow you access tot he files because he already knew they were gone? Or is it possible, that was merely a shell game, and they had no intentions of showing them to you from the start?

    I have to wonder also if the town had turned in the killers, if it would have fared better than it has?

    I am planning a trip back to the area for some hunting next month and I will make the drive through Skidmore just to see how things have changed.

    I know you have a lot of loyalty to the town, but how do you balance that with the law? Do you have any sense how the town might have fared had they done the right thing?

  10. Two additional questions Harry, I have heard that the post office in Skidmore has been closed and the high school was also closed and tore down.

    Is there any school left in Skidmore?

  11. Wow, that’s a lot of questions. I haven’t been back to Skidmore in a couple of years, so I’m not sure about whether the post office is still open or not. I know there were plans to combine school districts, but I’m not sure if that;s happened.
    I think David Baird believed that the sheriff had the files when he offered to open them to me. The sheriff was chagrined to admit that the official files were not in his office. There’s much speculation about where the files are, who took them, but speculation only.
    I am loyal to the town. I truly believe that any community put under the sort of pressure McElroy put it under, and with the law failing to protect it, might well have done the same thing.
    Although, as I found early on, this was not a community or even a group decision to kill McElroy. Three guys lost it, and left the town to deal with the results.
    The silence of the town since is truly amazing. If an eyewitness had turned in the killers in, it would have been a spectacular trial, likely ending in an acquittal. The story would have gone on forever, regardless.

  12. Harry I appreciate the time you have taken to answer my many questions, although it seems as though for each answer ten new questions are raised.

    I need to ponder a few things before I attempt to ask any more, and I will let you know how the trip fares.

  13. The plans are set, I am going back the weekend of the 5th.

    I will obviously drive through the town, and more than likely take some pictures along the way, and of course stop by the bar, if it is open.

    Although the trip is for a weekend of bird hunting, it will be interesting to see how things how changed, and yet remained the same.

  14. I noticed earlier today while doing some reading that both Q. Goslee and Lois BowenKamp have passed away.

    I assume that the Goslee is the same gentleman who you stayed with while you were researching the book.

    If so, I am sorry to hear that, from all indications he was a gentleman and I would have loved to have met him.

  15. Btw,
    Thought I would pass on that they Punkin show is no more, have not had one since 2003 and the Freedom Fest has seen its last days this year.

    The town cannot seem to catch a break it seems.

    • Thanks for your update on Skidmore. I had planned to get back there this past summer, but didn’t make it. Unfortunately the town does seem to be a long downhill slide, with people leaving and places closing. Cheryl Brown was always the force behind the Punkin’ Show and the Festival, and I guess she finally had enough. The junk man owns the gas station across from Sumy’s, and he’s letting it fall into disrepair, along with several other places. It would take a heavy zoning push to straighten the guy up, and my guess is nobody in own cares to undertake the chore.
      I know how you feel about Skidmore. I have a great affection for the place, have from the first day I walked into the coffee shop almost 25 years ago. If it were a person I’m sure it would wonder what it had done to bring all this grief down on its head.
      Thanks again for sharing you trip there with us.

  16. I’m back and have a few pictues that I will post to my site once I have gone through them all.

    The bar was open, a gal named Pam owns and operates it now. She just finished installing a new wood burning stove on Friday. The town has not changed much, a few places have really gone to hell; I have pics of the junk place – that man needs to be strung up.

    The masonic building is gone, as best as I can tell. The city hall has moved into the old bank and B & B is shuttered and closed.

    The gas station across from Sumy’s is falling down, the roof has caved in.

    One thing I wanted to do and did not was park my truck in the same spot as McElroy’s and then take a photo from the vantage point of the shooter, but after having everyone in town wave to me and be overly nice I just could not bring myself to do that.

    Although I have my own personal opinions on this, I really did not want to cause anyone trouble. So I had my coffee, a burger, tipped Pam a $5.00 spot and quietly left.

  17. Harry,
    I will post a link once I have all the pictures posted. I am still working through a few.

    Btw, the school was also torn down, all is left is the field where the Punkin Show was held, and the baseball diamond.

    The gas station across from Sumy’s a rat infested mess. I have pictures of that mess as well.

  18. Harry do you think McElroy would have been proud to have a movie made about him and played by none other than the ultimate bad-guy actor Brian Dennehy?

    • I think McElroy would have loved Denehey portraying him in the movie. Denehey had the McElroy stare down perfectly, and I think Ken reveled in being able to scare people just by looking at them. Denehey was so good on the set, walking around with a shotgun in his arm, that people stayed away from him. He stopped in Skidmore driving from New York to California, prior to making the movie, to check the town out. No one recognized him, even though he stopped in several places. What McElroy would say about his portrayal in the book is another subject, and one which I would hesitate to hazard a guess on. Anyone else care to?

  19. In the book you wrote that nobody ever saw McElroy in an actual physical confontation, e.g. fist fight. However, in his book, former professional Harley Race (who is from Quitman, MO) says that he had a confrontation with McElroy. Specifically, he says that McElroy showed up at a bar to bully some retirees out of their pension checks, and Harley was there, confronted McElroy, and knocked him on his butt with a right hook. Did you ever hear this story?

  20. Ken McElroy got what was coming to him. I have watched the show about it and each time I have seen it, I myself have been frustrated at the situation and I didn’t even live there. He would have done well to learn that if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. If I had been there, I would have been under the pool table with the rest of the town. I don’t really like murder but there are times I understand it. And I wouldn’t have said a word about who did it myself. When you keep pushing people around, eventually they get fed up. Well, Skidmore was fed up.

  21. For your information. Del did not die the way you described. Why dont you get your facts strait. Another thing I was thier the night in the bar when you were asking all the questions and I dont remember Del being hostile. I remember him saying he didnt want to talk to you anymore and you would quiteasking questions. You are full of shit. I would not write anything else about Del if I were you.

    • Trucker:
      That sounds like a threat at the end of your comment. I hope that’s not true, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was. It shows a mentality very close to Del’s. And you need to learn how to spell: strait is straight. And their is there. In the incident in the bar, I was not asking Del questions. He waited, like a coward, until the people I was with left the bar, and then came up to me and started doing his drunken short man routine, which everyone in the area is quite familiar with. Perhaps you were drunk, too

  22. Del Clement died suddenly of a massive coronary event in January of 2009. He did not die in the spring, he did not die slowly. He died quite suddenly and for those of us who loved him too soon. I will stress again that his death was very unexpected. I would be very interested to find out your source of information.

    I can not put into words how painful it is to read these untruths on the internet. Especially when the truth of his death is available with easy and proper research.

    I am sure that CC was not meaning a threat, I do not know who CC is but I thank him for standing up for Del, when Del has passed from this life. Mr. MaClean, as a writer, you should check your facts before writing such gross untruths. The too soon death of Del left a large whole in the heart of many. Mine included, reading your untrue account of his life and death does not offer any peace in our mourning. Not to mention the event, which I will remind you he was never found guilty of, occurred a lifetime ago. Please move on with your life. I can assure you Skidmore has moved on.

    As far as the short man comments, that just seems like frat-boy rhetoric, not something a mature man, who writes for a living should use as a defense. Not to mention that Del was of average height. I understand you are a tall man, so relatively he would be shorter than you, but he was not a “short man with a chip on his shoulder”.

    Another note about Del, he was not a fighter, he wouldn’t have started a fight. He also had a slow temper. I would love to find someone in the area who would describe this drunken short man routine you speak of. You wouldn’t find one, it didn’t exist.

    Please think before you write, you are talking about someone very dear to me and many others. Someone who has passed on from this life. Someone who was loved.

    • I know how hard it is for loved ones to take an honest look at a member of their family. I spent three years in Skidmore, and all I ever heard was that Clement was a mean drunk and had a bad temper. I’m sure his wife at one time loved him, although I understand she divorced him because of his uncontrollable drinking. I also understand that he lost his job as an auctioneer in St. Joe because of this problem. The few times I saw him he was drunk, once so badly he could barely stand. As for his height, he was probably normal height if you included the cowboy hat he always wore.
      As for his role in the killing, there was never any doubt expressed to me by law enforcement or anyone else in the area that Del was the primary shooter. Certainly Trena identified him, and another person did as well. Del Clement, in my view, was also a coward. Who else would shoot a man in the back of the head as he sat in his truck?
      As for how he died, if you will submit the autopsy report confirming the massive heart attack, I will correct the record. A family member’s say so alone is definitely not persuasive.

    • Del was a weasel. He had no courage if his target was taller , younger or stronger than him. A mean drunk if you could not defend yourself — a backpedalling coward if you could.

    • There were a few. I got a copy of one of the pictures taken during the autopsy, but chose not to use it. It was pretty gruesome. In this day and age we would have a ream of cell phone photos of the funeral, which I would definitely have run.
      If anyone know where Trena is, I would love to know. Last i heard she was in Columbia.

  23. Why didn’t you used them? Is it out of respect for the familiy. I search the internet and couldn’t find a link to them. Would love to see the picture you have.

  24. Harry, what is your opinion on what happened to the killing files in the Sheriff’s office? Sheriff Estes certainly would have had a reason to dispose of them, wouldn’t he?

    • I would assume, although I don’t know, that Sheriff Estes took then when he left office. Estes certainly did not come off well in the whole McElroy story.

  25. Harry,

    In an earlier post you stated “Del Clement, in my view, was also a coward. Who else would shoot a man in the back of the head as he sat in his truck?” It would appear that you are using the connotation for ‘coward’, (i.e. the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard) as opposed to the denotation; a person who lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.; a timid or easily intimidated person. If the action against McElroy was spontaneous, wouldn’t Clement expect to be held accountable for his actions? Does this not imply a certain degree of courage? Whether in the back of the head, between the eyes or in the heart, dead is dead. The real question is: What would drive an entire town, filled with good people, to this desperate act?

    McElroy was a narcissistic despot. Little more than a manipulative bully, who exploited weaknesses in our legal system. If anything, our legal system became his enabler.

    We all seek to find our constraints. This normally occurs when we are children, from our parents. If this process is circumvented, it becomes more difficult (to establish these constraints) with each passing year. Is this not what happened with McElroy? Over the years he learned a well spoken threat, a well placed punch or ‘the look’, was enough to quail opposition, in most instances. And if not, a few dollars to the right lawyer would suffice.

    I’m not looking to cause a row, but my quandary is this; What should a person do when ‘the system’ has failed them? When one feels all hope of finding justice is gone. I’m not condoning ‘vigilante justice’, but shouldn’t i have a reasonable expectation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And if this right was challenged? Should i not expect that the legislative and judicial branches would then come to my defense? What if these also failed me? What then?

    As the old proverb says; ‘Desperate times call for desperate measures.’

    What are your thoughts?

    • I really have no quarrel with what happened to McELroy. The law had utterly failed to protect Skidmore or the surrounding communities. I had law officers tell me that the word was out among the cops that if you found McELroy out on the roads at night along and with a gun you should shoot him.
      In the book, I tried to present the town’s side of the killing and to question those who said it is always wrong to take a life outside of the law.
      Several people in town said to me of the shooters: They should be given a medal for what they did and strung up for the way they did it. I’ve seen diagrams of plans to shoot McElroy on the backroads of Nodaway County; Intersections where he would have to stop on his way home, with a gunman or gunmen in the trees or behind the bushes. If that had happened, I doubt there would have been much of an outcry, and surely no book entitled In Broad Daylight.
      Actually, I think Del Clement’s act was totally impulsive. I don’t think it was planned beyond a few moments before it took place. I think he had a few beers in the tavern and, hothead that he was, went out the back door with mayhem on his mind. Standing at his truck, watching McElroy sit calmly in this truck with his wife, as if he owned the street, the twon, someone shouted “Shoot the sonofabithch!” and he grabbed his rifle. My point on his courage was, that I doubt he would have done it if he had been face to face with McElroy.

  26. It’s easy to sit in judgment of these people when you’re not the one who has to live in constant fear of this evil bastd. I’m sure the people of the town didn’t care how it happened, only that it happened. How many more people had to be shot and live in abject heck before the law did anything about this evil SOB?

  27. I believe that Ken McLeroy got what he deserved. I don’t understand why Trena would stand up for a man who had raped her, beat her, and burned down her own parents house?

    • Remember how young she was when he got a hold of her. Her parents abandoned her to his clutches. There is also a bit of the Stockholm Syndrome, where the captive begins to identify with captor, liked Patty Hearst.

  28. My first encounter with the Skidmore story began when I first saw the TV episode of City Confidential some years ago. This sparked my interest, but did not pursue any additional information until I recently viewed the movie “In Broad Daylight”. My interest was once again renewed, so I purchased and read your book which I enjoyed very much. It not only provided additional information on the people, places and events that lead to the “showdown on main street” but the also with the aftermath of investigations, reflections and conclusions.
    I think anyone who has been on the receiving end of a bully’s wrath or the injustices of the legal system to deal with criminals can put themselves in the plight of the towns people of Skidmore. I can certainly relate to both. I also believe that the residents of Skidmore simply got tired of the legal system trying and failing to deal with Ken Rex McElroy. So, on July 10, 1981, they reached their “point of no return”, reacted to an impulsive decision to take the law into their hands, and that’s exactly what they did. We should not judge them for their action, after all, they had to live and deal with this atmosphere of intimidation and fear on a daily basis.

    • Thanks for taking the time to share our thoughts. I agree with you that we need to be careful about judging the town of Skidmore. When I was on the Larry King Show, he was very sympathetic during the show, and when it was over he muttered to me, “I don’t think it’s every all right to take another person’s life,” or something to that effect. I tried to give the town’s point of view, but to also be fair to the other people and institutions involved.

  29. I knew Del in his later years and enjoyed his company. I worked for his brother in Hot Springs Ar. and actually spent time there with Del when he visited, as well as traveled to his ranch outside of Skidmore over a three and a half year span. I never saw a time when he was anything but pleasant to be around.

  30. Thanks for your reply and comments. I would appreciate if you would please address a couple of questions. Was it the standard blub “the names were changed to protect the innocent” or another reason for not using the real names/places in your movie? I just finished the book “Judgement Day” and although not as detailed as yours I also enjoyed it. Are there any other in print material available that you would recommend? A more recent movie “Without Mercy” is available but am always concerned about Hollywood’s “artistic license” production option when it comes to “making it more appealing” (even though I did not notice it in your movie) and was wondering if you have viewed it? If you have, would you recommend it and/or share your thoughts? Thanks again for your time and have to admit I am fast becoming a Skidmore junkie. Fascinating stuff!

    • The movie people couldn’t get releases from many of those involved, so they just decided to change all of the names. The movie was shot in Elgin, Texas, which you’ll note bears no resemblance to Skidmore. I thought Judgment Day was pretty much of a joke, but you could understand my bias. The authors were in and out of there in a couple of weeks. I spent years in Skidmore. I’ve heard and seen trailers of “Without Mercy,” but have not seen it. I hear it’s a cheap knockoff of the real story. If you can find them, Oprah did a full show on the book, as did Larry King. I”m sure they’re out there somewhere in cyberspace. Rolling Stone and Playboy both did long, overblown pieces on the story. Thanks for writing.

  31. I have a question and a statement. 1st I am so drawn to this story as my grandparents are from skidmore my grandpa has past and my grandma still lives there. Del and my grandpa has hauled cattle together. My first question is have you ever heard the name jay law mentioned if so what was said. My grandpa has always maintained that he was at the Albany court house awaiting ken Rex for his trial.

  32. Just a note of interest. I used to trade rides to NWMSU with one of McElroy’s relatives. She was getting a teaching degree and came from a very well liked, respectable family in our community. We are within an hours drive from Skidmore. During our many trips this subject came up and she gave an entirely different perspective on the story. She is a person of great personal integrity and not prone to exaggeration or gossip. She related that while McElroy had his problems he was also being harassed. She told of one incident in particular where her family was present when his property was being buzzed repeatedly by a low flying plane. There were other incidents as well but my memory of them has faded. On the other hand i used to work with a gal who told me that her ex-husband had been a bartender in Skidmore. During the time that I worked with her they had reconciled and were going to get married again. I believe they had a little boy. It was at this time that he died in what appeared to be a freak accident. He had closed up the bar and was coming home when he ran off the road. He died of electricution when he made contact with a high voltage line while stepping out of the car. I later heard that there were suspicions that he had been driven off of the road. The only thing you can say for sure is that law enforcement in that part of the country was as worthless as t*ts on a boar!

    • I heard some similar stories about McElroy being harassed by the locals, but not from a family member herself. There might be some truth to it, but, frankly, most of the people I knew were scared to death of the man and wouldn’t have done anything to draw attention to themselves. Still, thanks for writing — there are two sides to every story.
      By the way, In Broad Daylight goes up as a Kindle on Tuesday.
      Harry MacLean

  33. It seemed as if an entire town was held hostage by a lunatic. I first heard of this story in a special edition of People Magazine (True Crime Stories; 2005). I also did a Google Street View of the town (last updated in 2009) and it looks really sad. Almost ghost-like in the downtown area. I used to visit a town (Ransom, Illinois) which is very similar in size and population and it is experiencing a similar decline which I believe is more due to economics and changing times than anything else. It’s extremely difficult nowadays to operate any kind of small business in such sparsely populated areas like these having to rely on the locals to keep it afloat whether it’s a local bar, gas station, or corner grocery.

    • Once the grocery store goes, then goes the bank, and the gas station, and there’s little left. The big blow was when Wal-Mart opened in Maryville.The story of so many small towns in America.

  34. I found Trena in an Obituary this year. I do not see that you wrote of this in your comments. Just after the killing two of the Mcelroy children moved into our nieghboorhood in St Joe. A whole new book could start here.

  35. I found Trena in an Obituary this year. I do not see that you wrote of this in your comments. Just after the killing two of the

  36. Enjoyed your book, its a fascinating case. But I can’t help but notice that this comment thread is over two years old and still running, on a 25 year old book. Ding dong, the witch is dead. Let it rest, people.

  37. Its an interesting story you have made a career out of. Your characterization of the man who seems to have shot him as a coward is interesting. You care for the sheep but hate the sheepdog. Looked at your bio. Defense lawyer. Figures.

  38. This is the second time i have read In Broad Daylight. I read it when it was first published. Fantastic book! I keep going back to the though of if he knew it was the end for him. My feeling is that he did, but he could not show fear. What are your thoughts on this?

    • I think he probably knew it was the end for him, and I think he might have welcome it, at some level. He was not looking forward to going to prison for a couple of years, and his best days as a coon hunter and seducer of girls were long behind him.

  39. Mr. MaClean, excellent book!!! Didn’t want to put it down!! Is it possible you will be doing an updated story, anytime soon? I would really love to find out what happened to all of his children, and women, as well as if you or the authorities have any new “leads” to speak of. Again, GREAT BOOK!!

  40. Mr. MaClean, great book!! Didn’t want to put it down! Was wondering if you’ll ever do a “follow up” to your book? Would love to know what has happened to Ken’s women & children, as well as the major people associated with this story. I can’t seem to find much information on the Internet. Again, awesome book!!

    • Chris: We just published an e-book entitled “The Story Behind In Broad Daylight.” Available on Amazon. It tells in some detail the process of writing and researching the book, particularly the difficulty when the town was closed up around the killers. It also tells the story of “The Lost Son” of Ken Rex McELroy. It brings the story and characters up to date. In a few weeks we will have a new POD paperback which will contain both In Broad Daylight and The Story Behind In Broad Daylight.

  41. I went to school at NWMSU at the time of Ken Rex. I live about an hour away from this area still. I know some of the people involved. Years ago I met one of the gunmen, he was a polite gentleman. I never considered the gunmen as cowards. Most of the guys in NW MO can take care of themselves and would not be afraid of Ken if they had a gun in their hands. What they were afraid of was prosecution. This was not a planned shooting so the idea was to shoot quick and avoid as many witnesses as possible. I read your book and think it is great. I also read “Judgement Day”, it was worth reading although you can tell it’s not as accurate. I read the Playboy version, wasn’t real impressed with it. I look forward to getting your new POD paperback. Thanks for the great book and your comments.

    • I agree with almost everything you said. I never actually thought Del Clement and the other shooters were cowards. I raised it as a topic of discussion, since they shot McElroy in the back. I don’t think Del knew he was actually going to shoot McElroy until an instant before he reached inside the truck and grabbed his rifle. The locals had a lot of fun with the Playboy author, feeding him all sorts of bullshit, then seeing him run it down or put it in his article. Quick hits for stories like this are a joke. The classic print edition is now available at: http://tiny.cc/KeepsakeEdition
      Thanks for writing.

      • I just ordered the new edition from Amazon and it is on the way. I look forward to receiving it. I should have stated that years ago I was introduced to one of the “alleged” gunmen. The person I met was a prominent person in the town. I never met or knew Del Clement so I can’t comment on him. Thank you for the reply.

        • Please let me know what you think of the new version. I put it together mainly because the book was out of print — other than on Kindle–and I felt that a “real book” should always be available. I won’t speculate as to who it was you met.
          Harry

          • I just finished the book in the new version and really enjoyed it. This book is still very important because of this unique situation which involved the people of northwest Missouri. These are good people who did what they had to to remedy a nightmare. We hope something like this never happens again but if it is necessary then so be it. This book will still be important 100 years from now not only for the decendants from this area but for the entire midwest and beyond. Thank you Harry for your good work.

          • Thanks for the comment and the complement. I hear now and then from others that I should just let the story die, that there is no reason to keep talking about it, etc. In my view, the story is a story that will stand in the annals of crime in America, whether I wrote it or someone else did. Although I do understand why some of the locals wish it would just go away.

  42. Mr. McClean, no disrespect intended, I understand this is a best seller for you and become a part of your life and your research entitles you to some first hand accuracy, but it seems that you have spent some time on Mr. McElroy and what made him tick and his character makeup. I’ve read these posts and seems you have taken inventory of the participants but given the protagonist a bit more recognition. I understand you need to sell books but if it humbles you, I learned about this out of a true crime and and aberrant behavior book so your book is well versed but not hardly the only source. Let sleeping dogs lay in this tragedy. Write a new book become current find similarities that parallel life but quit riding the wind out of this. You are very talented and a brilliant writer, your story is in line with the tales told but maybe you can do better

  43. I remember when this crime occurred. Every few years I will once again wonder if the culprits have finally been outted and search to find out. Not that it really matters, I suppose. I seem to have the feeling that only two people had guns in their hands that day but the whole town had their fingers on the triggers. (Much the same way I press a phantom brake when I am in the passenger seat)

    I have a few questions. Was Ken armed at the time that he was killed? Either on his person or in the vehicle? Or in his wife’s purse? Were the cops afraid of him? Was he mentally disturbed? (I seem to recall he “wasn’t quite right”) I understand one weapon used that day was an 8mm. Obviously a rifle. The other weapon was a .22 mag, but was it identified as a rifle as well? Or could it have been a semi-auto pistol? How many rounds were fired in total?

    As to Del, if I may…I understand why you may feel he was a short, hot-headed drunk. But I also understand why a man who’d done (did? err sorry my grammar’s for crap) what he had done might be exactly that way. Especially while drinking in the presence of overly curious people. I’d imagine I’d be sick of it myself. Just saying. On another note, as to shooting him in the back and attaching the coward label. I do not see it that way. Whether it was in the heat of the moment or putting him down like a mad dog, I cannot say. But when it comes to killing, there are very few fair fights.

    As to Ken’s last moments. I doubt he really was afraid for his life. I bet he actually felt the large numbers would inhibit action against him. I think he was trying a stare down and lost. Hell, he might have actually been loving the anger he was generating. Pausing to milk it a little too long.

    Finally, a rumor. I worked with a guy in the 80s that said he had met Ken a couple at times and that he come across as a real a-hole. A misanthrope that even treated his dogs, that he apparently loved, badly.

    Sorry for the overlong post.

  44. It is an event that is HISTORICAL, and of course sensational so somebody is always going to talk about it. You know, there are a lot of places out there like “Skidmore”. They are all over. I think, though I do not have any data, this is not my “field” but in Urban areas of high crime it is very common for people to be killed and “nobody sees a thing”. It has happened forever.

    It seems more sensational in a “Rural Setting”. I have seen similar areas in my youth. Over time lawlessness usually kills a community whether it is Rural or Urban. You should check out the history of FALLS COUNTY TEXAS sometime. Check out Sheriff Brady Pamplin and his son Brady Pamplin Jr. who became Sheriff as well. The “Good Ole Boy” rural thug culture killed that whole county pretty much. This is the Home County of Kenneth McDuff, you have heard of him I’m sure. But there are a lot of these places, the killing in “public” and a rural town’s “solidarity” which I am sure is based somewhat on Loyalty and for others FEAR. But the system did not work, and throughout history when that happens, when it gets BAD enough, people will act. People will quit talking about this about the same time they quit talking about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, so the request to “Let it die” is futile. But I MUST SAY, though I have seen many inconsistencies in the reporting of this event, add it all up, the guy got what he deserved. Whether the people that shot him are cowards or NOT, they simply did what the SYSTEM would NOT DO. Pushed in a CORNER people will ACT, coward or NOT. Being shot in the back of the head means nothing, anywhere to take him down was what was necessary.. He didn’t deserve any better. One problem solved, but obviously from the tremendous amount of crime in that county, not the ONLY problem. BB

  45. I have read all the comments, here are some comments that I am sure most won’t like, but hey, to each their own right?

    1. Ken Rex was an alpha male, much like myself. You see, there are the kind of bullies that go away once confronted, then there are others like us that come back – and that scares the bejesus out of you. We do what we want, when we want, and how we want. Screw the law and the rest of you people who have no back bone to do anything about it. While you all are shakin’ in your boots your women will be coming to me, women love a real man, and so will your property. You dont like it? Well then grow a pair and do something about it. Us types know that when we live by the sword we will die by the sword and that’s what’s scares the crap out of you common folk. Ken Rex was a hero to some and was running the area with the back of his hand and had a great run. He stared death in the face and took it like a real man. I bet a lot f the boys around those parts were jealous of him but are not man enough to admit it.

    2. It is very obvious the whole thing was planned. If it was spontaneous there would have been at least one person who wouldn’t have known to keep their mouth shut. C’mon people use your head…

    3. Its obvious that Del was the main shooter. Trena sad she saw him clear as day, what more do you need? These small man syndrome types are quick to jump on the bandwagon and try to out do everyone by being first to the punch due to their own perceived difficiencies. I wonderwonder for how long he wished he could be big and strong like Ken Rex coupled with Ken Rex imasculating him he jumped on the opportunity to get even for everything. He probably thought it would make him a bigger man in the eyes of the townfolk – something he always wanted. He took it to the grave with him simply because his personality type thinks that this would put him one over on everyone, and, he was probably too scared to admit it due to reprocussions. – just like a true coward.

    4. The people that shot Ken Rex were cowards. I bet not one of them had the gnads to look him in the eye and do it, even with the crowd around let alone one on one, both with guns in hand. They probably had bad dreams over it and Ken Rex won because he still haunts them and the town of Skidmore.

    To all my haters: just be glad I don’t live around you because I’d be doin’ a helluva lot more then just parking outside your house! Don’t hate cuz even cops are corrupt. Us bad ass, rebel, alpha male types give the rest of you pansies something to look up to.

    Rest in Peace Ken Rex, you were all good in my book!

    • Interesting take on Ken and the town. I’d like to get the reaction of other readers. I agree that Ken McElroy haunts the town, and always will. To this day, locals are not welcoming to strangers. On Del, I’ve discussed the notion that he might have been a coward because he shot Ken in the back. More likely, it was an impulsive act. He had been drinking that morning, and had a helluva temper. Ken had been ruining business in town. I suspect we’ll never know the truth.

    • Reply to ROD REX.

      Small minded backwards,2 pack a day hillbillies like yourself are very easy to deal with so I will break down your 4 points real quick.
      1) There was nothing Alpha about Ken or you,look what happened to Ken. You on the other hand… Id just kick your ass in front of the whole town.

      2) Planned or not… a real man could have dealt with it..when your a bully you had better be ready…cause its always comin

      3) Del was the main shooter but he would have gladly been the ONLY shooter. Too many other people demanded to get a piece of Ken… too bad

      4) Ken was the coward..the town was defended what was rightfully theirs! and to your footnote… I was born close this town but have since move. But all I need is an address and I would gladly show up unarmed….pussy

  46. Gah, answered my own question, It’s Williams. I also found Ken’s son Reno. He seems like a pretty nice guy honestly…………go figure.

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