Trena McElroy Passed Away

I learned today that Trena McElroy, Ken McElroy’s former wife, died on January 28, 2012. She lived in Conway, Missouri, and apparently died of cancer. Although Trena rode with McElroy at the end, she was victimized by him at age 12. I always felt very sorry for her. She remarried in 1983, and, from what I know, lived a fairly happy life. I will find a picture of her and post.

88 thoughts on “Trena McElroy Passed Away

    • They’re scattered about. Some in Nodaway County, some in southwestern Missouri, and others in faraway places like Pennsylvania.

      • hi, Harry.
        Shocked that trena passed on, her updated pic shows ahappy woman, you mentioned some of the kids are in Pa? Do you know where abouts? I live in Pa in Philadelphia..
        Thank you for updating this story…

        • Trena was my grandmother, she died on January 24th, her 55th birthday, not the 28th…. I saw this while browsing and just couldn’t not comment. She was a wonderful, amazing, caring woman. She did not let her past define her. As for the question on where her children live, esp the one in Pennsylvania? Why?? This is something my family especially my Grandma and the 3 children she had with that monster don’t want to remember or think about. She moved on to have a wonderful life, A man who worshiped the ground she walked on for nearly 30 years, 5 more girls who called her Mom and so many grandchildren and great grandchildren than I can even rack up in my brain. She finally got the life she always deserved!!! It saddens me though that you only know(write about) the GIRL she was, not the WOMAN she became, she was loved by so many and left this world much much to early!!!!!

          • I really love this post. I completely believe that Trena was the wonderful woman that you say she was. I was having sex at 11 with grown men, so I can relate to what I’m sure she must have went through. I’m not sure if Ken physically abused her but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to learn that he did. I was brutally beaten by a 24 year old boyfriend when I was 14. My point is that now I am a very happily married wife and mother of two and nothing at all like the girl I was. I know this is from an old thread but I am very sorry to hear about your grandmother. I wish I could have met her.

          • Trena was beaten and sexually abused terribly by McElroy. It’s a tribute to the human spirit that she was able to turn her life around and have another happy family.

          • Ken is my second cousin I think my parents were both adopted and I’m just learning about my family. But I am so pleased to hear that trena and her children were able to over come what he put them thru she must have been a amazing women

          • I knew your grandmother and her family and yes she was a beautiful normal girl that is until Ken decided she belong to him …I remember the last time I seen her …she was pregnant setting in the swing talking to my sister crying , I remember him stalking her as she was with her family visiting mine , I remember her families house being burned to the ground, 40 + years and I still remember the fear. I have always felt so bad for Treena, she was a child victim and there was nothing anyone could do to protect her.

      • I believe the engine in the truck seized up because Mr. McElroy’s foot was on the accelerator and no one moved his foot or even shut off the engine. It was probably held as evidence and then junked

          • Boyles motors towed the truck from the scene held that it during the investigation and fixed the truck so it could be sold again contact the owner of boyles motors in maryville bud can tell you of that day it came in

    • this link is broken. I just re-read In Broad Daylight and would like to visit Skidmore (I live in KCMO), and also would like to see a pic of Trena that wasn’t with Ken.

    • Red died several years ago, and Steve Peters and his wife divorced and Steve moved to St. Joe, where he is working for an engineering company.

  1. I read the first book, In Broad Daylight. I also believe someone knew the killer/killers, but as long as it’s bin since the killing, I kind of doubt anyone will ever come forward as to ever get a conviction in the case. It will probably remain unsolved.

  2. But Ken may have done wrong, but he was a human being too, & looks like someone who knew something would have had the heart to come forward to help out in the matter. For the kids sake anyway.

    • Ken may have done wrong is quite an understatement. You have to remember people were terrorized and held captive in their own town. Law enforcement and the legal system failed. The fact that 45+ people didn’t see anything tells me that there was no choice in the matter. I don’t believe any of those people are murderers or bad people, they truly felt that was their only choice. You’d protect your family same as they had to protect theirs. I’m sure the only regret those 45+ people have is that they didn’t do it sooner. On paper, a crime was committed, but justice was nonetheless served.

    • The fact that she was victimized and obviously traumatized at a very early age was truly heinous. However, she had her opportunities to disappear or move on on numerous occasions and she didn’t take it. Instead, she contributed to Ken’s thievery, bullying, harassment, and assaults. At a certain point, she has to be held responsible for those actions. It was amazing the town folk found the restraint not to grant her Ken’s fate.

      • I think the shooters, or the man who pulled her out of the truck anyway, had a sense that killing a woman would do them no good, in fact would lose them the moral high ground. I think the Stockholm syndrome applies in her case.

        • I understand that was probably the case. The more I think about it, the more I believe the shooters/townspeople believed Trena wasn’t the problem. While she contributed to whatever Ken did, she posed no threat individually. Killing her wouldn’t have made anyone safer, but would’ve made the townspeople murderers in their own eyes. Killing Ken was justified and was a necessity.

          I don’t have any sympathy for Trena, however. She was a girl who became corrupted and was abused, no doubt. She doesn’t get a free pass because of it.

          • You have never been an abused woman!!! being physically abused takes numerous tolls. do not judge until you have walked in her shoes.

          • This woman had her childhood ripped away from her. She was young and he probably brainwashed her impressionable young mind until she without a doubt thought this was how life was supposed to be. It happens. Kids are easily misled by the adults who say “trust me” or “I can give you this and that” and they don’t have the maturity to turn it down, much less defend themselves. Give the lady a break. I’m glad she got away from him and found a better life for herself. I know she helped with the bullying, but she was substantially influenced and “groomed” by this child molester. People can change, and she proved this.

          • He raped her , beat her, burned her folks house to the ground, told her he would kill her little brothers and sister…This girl was a old beat woman at 16. She did what she had to do to survive……….the law sure didn’t help her . She tried to get away from him more then once …

      • Mp? I get what you’re saying. This man had such a shameful history of crime to his name that he was definitely no saint. However, Trena McElroy got rewarded settlement money for a wrongful death lawsuit she filed against three of the townspeople for his death.>>>>Click onto http://www.talkguests.com/mcelroy.htm

        By then, he was dead and could no longer harm her. Therefore, it was as though she were sending out the wrong message about her involvement with him by filing that lawsuit. If she had just moved on and let the issue with his “wrongful death” go, I would have felt more pity for her in terms of how she first became involved with him. The only explanation I can think of that would have justified her filing that lawsuit was because of his kids.

          • Trena had her young children to think about, and probably no job skills at the time Ken was killed, so I really don’t fault her seeking a settlement and I doubt seriously anyone in that town would help her out. she probably had to start all over elsewhere. I agree the lawyer may have encouraged this.

        • I understand people may frown on Trena for the lawsuit, but she suddenly lost her only means of support, had all those children to care for and finish raising, plus after that I’m sure she didn’t have one friend in that town who would have helped her with anything and probably had to pack up and leave. I know she had some responsiblity in this, but I truly believe she was doing the best she could do in such bad circumstances. This girl was trapped in hell and as I see it had absolutely no way out.

  3. Is Richard Stratton still living & living in Kansas City, & how bout Dave Dunbar? What did they ever do with the lot were Ken’s house was? And is Timmy McElroy still around? How’s Kriss Goslee?

    • Richard Stratton is still alive and kicking. He was elected sheriff in a neighboring country for several terms after retiring from the state patrol, and I heard recently that he was head of the state fair, although I didn’t verify this. Dunbar lives in Marvyille with his girl friend Bobbie. They operate a gourmet traveling food stand. The lot where Ken’s house once was still stands empty, although there is a trailer in the woods behind it. Tim McElroy still lives down the road and still works in a pizza parlor in a town not far away. Kriss lives in Skidmore.

  4. You know Harry, some day I would really like to meet you, shake your hand & get your autograph. You seem to be a good guy. But I live in eastern NC & kind of doubt I’ll ever get out to Colorado. I wish I was able to go to Skidmore & to Ken’sgrave to visit

    • I agree. My mom bought the book back in the 80’s when I was a kid, and I read it for the first time in high school. It’s so well written, or maybe since I’m from Missouri, I can totally see the scenes that are described in the book. It’s just fascinating.

  5. Oh- are we going to relegate Trena to Sainthood? She was cruel and her actions can not be disregarded. Obviously neither of them ever heard of the Golden Rule….

    • Not at all. She was bullied by this devious, evil, selfish man, completely dominated, and she made mistakes. Some I doubt she could help because she had him following her and ordering her around. I truly believe she learned from these mistakes, so forgiveness is in order, especially since she became a totally different person after he was out of her life. Give the lady a break.

  6. harry my name is sam lewis. i lived in mound city from 1978 to 1996. i heard about the story when i was old enough to understand. ken was shoot on my forth birthday. i knew some of his family and the people in the book. the odd thing is sence june of ’96 i have lived in lebanon mo. ive done alot of surching on the story lately and am sorry to hear that trena passed. i feel sorry for all the women he terrorized for all the years. i know that the town never had any intent in shooting trena. they knew what she had to deal with and she only did those things becouse she had to. i am happy that she did get to move on and live a happy life. im sorry that some people dont have sympathy for trena. only if you are from that area could you understand what happened.

    • Thanks for the comment. I agree your feelings toward Trena–she really was grabbed at a very young age, and no one really stuck up for her, certainly not her parents–but I know others in the area aren’t so forgiving.

  7. Hello Mr. MacLean. Last night I just watched the 1999 episode of City Confidential of the town bully which got me poking around the internet. Enjoyed your book greatly and so have others I have passed it on to who have no connection to the area which I do. Enjoy reading these comments as well. I was born and raised in St. Joseph and my Mother who has since passed had told me that my Father (who died when I was 2) who was a St. Joe Police Officer knew Officer Stratton. Coincidentally, many of my relatives are at rest in Memorial Gardens within a stones throw from Ken McElroy. I remember visiting the bar/diner in Skidmore back in 2000. It was uneventful but had a great tenderloin sandwich. I will keep abreast of any public speaking you may have in Colorado as I now reside in Littleton.

    Regards,
    Jerry

    • Jerry:
      Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the book. Stratton is still kicking up in Bethany. City Confidential pissed me off because all of the info in the show came from my book and they failed to credit it. But that’s television.

      Harry

  8. For some reason, the Ken McElroy shooting popped into my mind and I wondered what happened to Trena and Ken’s children. I had no idea Trena had passed. My condolences to her family. I’m happy she found happiness afterward.

    I’d read In Broad Daylight a long time ago. I’ve still got mixed feelings about the shooting. I’m not justifying what happened, but there were a lot of contributing factors and I believe people were legitimately scared and felt they had to do something since the law and the legal system failed them so abysmally. Maybe I’m forgetting that part of the book, but why was he ever released on bail during the appeal process? You can’t tell me the judge didn’t know Ken would react the way he did.

    • The judge, as you might remember, was from a different county. However, I’m sure that he knew who McElroy was. He could easily have kept McElroy in jail after his conviction, or set a bond so high he couldn’t meet it. Most people don’t get bail after conviction, pending appeal. Why he did it, we’ll never know. He refused several requests for an interview. I take him to task in the book.
      Thanks for writing.

  9. I just found out about the book “The Story Behind ‘In Broad Daylight'”, and I am reading it. Loved the original book, and would like to find the movie in DVD, but it doesn’t seem to be anywhere. Do you know where it can be found?

    • The movie was never released on DVD. You can find it on YouTube, or at least you could a few weeks ago. If not, it should be on my website. Many of the people in it have since gone on to some fame.

  10. I felt sorry for Trena to a certain extent. Perhaps she was plain and na├»ve but she was always aware of what Ken was doing; every day of it. Nobody twisted her arms to stay with the man. She made that choice of her own. It’s hard to feel sympathy for her when his bullying made her feel strong and secure. Without him around to protect her, she wilted back down to reality.

    • When you get into a situation that young it’s you really do NOT know what you’re getting into to. I truly know this because BELIEVE ME there should be a book about what I went through. Trena was a child who remained a child for years due to the stunt in emotional maturity that takes place when you are having sex etc. at the young of an age.

  11. I enjoyed first edition of In Broad Daylight and didn’t realize there was a second edition out. Ken McElroy got around a lot more than most people realize. I live in Lawrence, Kansas which is about 90 miles from Skidmore, Missouri. In late winter of 1981 I walked over to the local neighborhood beer bar one evening and encountered a tough looking guy who was intimidating everyone around him and just generally mouthing off. I took a seat close to him and he immediately started to pick a fight with me. Rather than put up with it, I just moved and finished my beer and left. The bar was called The Timeout and has since been torn down. I had never seen the guy before and I made a point of looking at the vehicles in the parking lot when I left. I remember seeing a Silverado with Missouri plates parked there. There was still a little packed ice and snow on the ground, so I think it was mid March of 1981. A few months later McElroy was killed and I saw his picture through various news outlets and realized who the guy in the Timeout was. I am absolutely sure it was Ken McElroy. I don’t remember seeing Trena with him and he was sitting alone. If she was there in the tavern she may have been playing a pinball machine or video game elsewhere. When I met him his demeanor was exactly like you described in your book.

    • Interesting story. I knew he covered a lot of territory, but I didn’t know he had made it to Lawrence. If he was out stealing that night, Trena was most likely not with him. Or she could have been waiting for him in the truck.

  12. This woman sued the town over Ken’s death. Congratulations should have been in order after they delivered her from his wicked grasp. In her defense, however, she may have been suffering from Stockholm Symdrome that caused her to love him so much…

  13. I just finished re-reading the 2nd version of the book. I had relatives in Fillmore, MO and found your comments of there a bit mean. When I visited often in the late 50’s, 60’s & early 70’s, it was a prettier & quiet little town. However, I was forbidden to go anywhere near the pool hall in town, and could only go to the post office near it with an adult. There have been 2 tornadoes & a fire hit the town in my grandmother’s memory. And yes, they all knew about McElroy & I didn’t hear of anyone saying that his death was a pity. A lot of people wanting to skirt the law are moving into small towns to have places to hide & lay low. That is why the current condition of Fillmore is so sorry now. And St Joseph, MO inherited some of the McElroy boys who seem to follow in their father’s footsteps. I will say that your descriptions in the book are amazingly accurate, as I knew exactly where the trailer with the hogs were left south of Fillmore to deter the deputy chasing him.

    • You may have a point on my description of Fillmore. I drove through there one day, slowed down, parked, and got a very unpleasant feeling. But perhaps I should have looked a little deeper into the place. Good comment.

  14. I’m going crazy, trying to find out the answer to this one question I have about this whole thing. I know there was a movie made about it in 1991 titled “In Broad Daylight” in which Brian Dennehy played the part of Ken Rex McElroy. However, I can also be sure that yet another movie was released back in the 1980s about these same events that took place in Skimore, Missouri. I know so, because I saw a description of this other movie in a book that Leonard Maltin had published back in 1989 in which he provided movie reviews. Could someone on this blog sheet tell me what the title of that other movie was? I think it came out in 1987 or 1988, but I’m not sure. I remember hearing about this story for the very first time on “60 Minutes” when I was in high school.

    • Also, it should be noted that the other movie that came out in the 1980s about this story was told from Trena McElroy’s point of view rather than that of the townspeople. It was about the FBI investigation that took place in Skidmore, Missouri after Ken Rex McElroy was shot to death. The FBI investigated to try to find out who actually shot and killed Ken Rex McElroy, but they had no success.

      • Everybody? No need to respond to my posts on this discussion thread. I found out the name of that other movie from the 1980s that is about this whole scenario. It is titled “The Town Bully” and it was released in 1988. The late David Graf played the part of Ken Rex McElroy. However, his part was given the fictional name of Raymond West. That’s just like in 1991 movie titled “In Broad Daylight,” the part of Ken Rex McElroy was given the fictional name of Len Rowan. I’m glad I was able to find out this information.

  15. The entire story is one big cluster of tragedies for everyone involved. Trena too young to know a better way and being unable to make her own judgements, plus being gaslighted by Ken to the point that she couldn’t think for herself and her parents not protecting her. The town was harmed by poor law enforcement, Ken McElroy’s behaviour and it’s own fear. And, whether one wishes to believe it Ken McElroy was in a paradoxical sense victimized by his lack of education, poverty stricken upbringing, a father who refused to punish him for his bad behaviour and his own seeming inability to improve his lot in life by trying to educate himself, work a legitimate job and learning to respect women and the townsfolk. As another poster stated, the Golden Rule could have been applied in this situation.
    Incidentally, I would be interested to know if “Charlie”, the friend who spoke to Ken about God and death and punishment has ever made any more interviews or statements regarding his present feelings? I respected his attempts to at least reach out to Ken McElroy in a spiritual/Christian sense. He did attempt to do the right thing. The book indicated that Ken was accepting of at least some of Charlie’s advice, and I hope that at least a part of Ken’s psyche and soul may have accepted Christ. Sounds naive I know, but I feel hope that perhaps Ken McElroy may well have found God, even if tangentially.

  16. The best part of this book is when the old acquaintance of Ken looked him up and decided to tell him about salvation through Jesus Christ. The way it was told, Ken understood that he needed to change his ways but “he just wasn’t ready”. How sad for him. That was a wonderful thing that guy did for Ken, too bad iKen rejected Jesus at that point. Thank you Harry for putting that in the book.

  17. I just finished the book of Ken McElroy’s life and death. Living in northeast Kansas, I found it compelling that this took place in my area of the world in a small town that doesn’t seem all that unfamiliar to me.
    Ken’s children, I feel sorry for. They really do not need their memories spoiled by the memories of the rest of the world. I am sure their memories are nothing like the book and I hope they hold onto the happy memories they have.
    The town of Skidmore or maybe I should say the people that witnessed or participated in the “execution”, I feel may not have had too many choices. There is a certain defense to “self defense” when it comes to terrorism.
    Honestly the person I have the biggest problem with is the defense attorney for McElroy. I feel he abused the legal system to the point, he should have been disbarred. The law is the law and no one should exploit loop holes in order to ensure someone does not pay for their crimes.
    Maybe an early trip to jail would have saved McElroys life in the long run.

  18. I’ve heard stories from the locals that on a moonless night the ghosts of Ken and Trena will come driving through Skidmore in the same Silverado he was killed in. They will be laughing hysterically and then flip the finger at the town as they drive off in a fire engulfed truck and disappear.

  19. As a novice writer myself, nowhere near the talent and expertise you display, I was told by a confidential source (Whom I shall not identify due to privacy). The person knew McElroy for many years and said that Ken neither had the guts nor the intestinal fortitude to face Bo in a face to face gun duel. He said that in Bo’s younger years he was known as the fastest gun in Northwest Missouri. However, when he and Mrs. Bowenkamp purchased the town grocery store he put away his custom made Mother of Pearl grip Colt .45’s and his special made Crocodile ammunition belt. He was quite content to labor behind the meat counter while his wife oversaw the daily needs of the store. It is said that he could shoot doves and quail in midflight with those .45’s and light matchsticks on a fence post at 25 yards away. McElroy knew this quite well and knew the only way he could duel with Bo was to shoot him while Bo was unarmed. To this day my source informs me the townsfolk still refer to Bo as the “Clint Eastwood” of Skidmore Missouri and all the surrounding area. May he rest in Peace.

  20. People reading the book “In Broad Daylight” need to understand how different the laws,courts, legal system, forensic evidence & DNA analysis have changed everything so much today from the way the laws & legal system was in 1981. Now, DNA evidence could have convicted McElroy of statutory rape when a 16 year old gave first gave birth, supporting her testimony. Social services would have been more able to protect her, as well as the courts. Cell phones taking photographs, calling police would have made a big difference back then. Laws on stalking & witness intimidation are much stronger & better enforced. He wouldn’t be able to park on the street now for hours to scare people. Motion detection lights & cameras would show him shooting in public. Small towns should pass laws to protect themselves from such harassment, and people stick together to prevent future problems. While it is sad the people of Skidmore had to resort to shooting, fear can be a very strong force.

    • From the impression I got, the law enforcement officers, with exception of Corporal Stratton of the State Patrol, seemed to back down to Ken out of fear the same as the townspeople did for a while. They should have gathered in force and worked together to do something about him and assist the people complaining before the situation got this far. I feel like the townspeople were just fed up and tired of being held hostage and terrorized in their own community. Their rights were ignored completely. They acted out of desperation as they were given absolutely no alternative.
      I agree that the laws are much better this day and time in regard to stalking, etc., but I still don’t feel law enforcement did enough in this situation. I am curious as to what hold McElroy had over them when he was so terrified of jail but was allowed to continue to operate as he did for so long.

      • My personal opinion is that DNA and modern surveillance (cell phones and the like) wouldn’t have allowed the cops to back down as easily as they did then. Back in 1981, it was “your word against mine”. Things are much different now.

        • Well, we all cannot forget that McElroy had a real shyster of a lawyer to keep him dancing one step ahead of the law. Unfortunately, those kinds of attorneys exist to this very day. Not that I don’t think that everyone deserves a fair defense at a criminal trial. However, it was more than obvious to the townspeople and the authorities that McElroy was no goodie-two-shoes. Even his own attorney had to know it. Vigilante justice ended up being the last resort for the townspeople. I would not doubt that situations like this one still happen in this day and age.

          • Oh yes, I’m quite sure his lawyer knew exactly what his client was about. But as long as McElroy kept paying him (in cash, no less!), he was going to defend him. DNA can and is irrefutable evidence though. Again, just my opinion, but if the technology back then had been what it is today, he’d have seen more jail time, simply based on the rapes. With all this said, my heart has always gone out to the people in Skidmore. They got rid of their bully, but things never got any better for them.

          • That lawyer should have been run out of town on a rail, or at least been reported to the bar. McElroy must have paid him dearly.

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