The Death of Ken Rex McElroy–35 year Anniversary

inbroaddaylight_justfront_cover-2McElroyPhoto Several readers have reminded me that tomorrow, July 9, will be the 35th anniversary of the killing of Ken McElroy on the streets of Skidmore, Missouri. “In Broad Daylight,” the story of the killing, was my first book. Although I’ve since moved on to fiction, in “The Joy of Killing,” I think my first book will always mark me as a writer. The story has an almost mythical quality to it, and I’m convinced it will never fade.
A few things are particularly notable: no one on the street that day, has yet to come forward publicly and identify the killers. Many of the people involved in the twenty-year drama are dead, including shooter Del Clement, accused shooter Gary Dowling, the victims of McElroy’s reign of terror, Bo and Lois Bowenkamp, and McElroy’s attorney, Gene McFadin. Many live on, however, including Trooper Richard Stratton, the cop who stood up to McElroy.
The town is fading in vitality. Most businesses have closed. Young people have moved on. Some yards are unkempt and stacked with junk.
The debate continues, as it will forever, about whether justice was done, where the town had the right to take the law into its own hands. Personally, I always sympathized with the town, the situation it found itself in, while being critical of it for not dealing with the situation much earlier. I’m convinced it was not a vigilante killing, in the sense that it was a planned an organized act. The situation blew up, and the predictable happened.

10 thoughts on “The Death of Ken Rex McElroy–35 year Anniversary

  1. “In Broad Daylight” will be timeless. For anyone interested in the true crime genre this is a must read. I imagine the transition from non-fiction to fiction would be a tad difficult, but you handled it flawlessly with “The Joy of Killing”. I hope you continue to write, fiction or non, you are an author that is worth reading.

    Richard Conforti

    • Thanks for your comments and kind thoughts. Transitioning to fiction was an interesting process, requiring kicking into another part of the brain, letting go of the obsession with facts. I’m working on a hybrid now — I worked a year as a prison guard in a max security prison, and I’m writing it part memoir part novel. Tentatively entitled “The Violinist.”
      Thanks gain.

      Harry MacLea

  2. I get the same feeling along the back of my neck when visiting Skidmore the same as I have when I have made a few photographic trips to Mount Carmel in Waco, Texas.

    I have yet to figure out what it is that bothers me so much about the two places, it might just be the mind playing games, but nonetheless it brings about a very uneasy feeling.

  3. I grew up in neighboring oregon mo. Graduated high school in 1981. This was the news of the day. The general belief is the town took care of a problem that had gone on way to long, and yes the law did let them down. The town did what they had to do. The law was scared to do their job. Government by the people, and for the people. Law by the people and for the people as well. My oppinion.

    • I’ve read 3/4 of this book and it was a bit too detailed for me with the “corn is five feet tall’ kind of description. I was so glad that when the shooting part finally came, it was long over due in the book and in actual life.

      The media called the man the town “bully.” That man was literally criminally insane. Far, far, far more than a mere “bully.”

      I did question the accuracy of some of the narrative, though. I worked in a funeral home once and the sequence of how the “bullies” body was handled doesn’t make sense at all. To the hospital for determination of death, yes. An autopsy is to determine all about the decedents fate. not just the obvious gun shot wounds but blood alcohol, etc. To take him first for embalming, which involves puncturing the torso and veins with equipment to embalm (and to first drain the blood), doesn’t make sense at it destroys the body and renders an autopsy essentially invalid. The proper sequence I’m certain would have been to the autopsy and then, lastly, to be embalmed.

  4. I grew up near this small town and when I was in high school my best friend and I actually got in his truck after work one night and cruised around town. We were young and stupid and I hate to think what could have potentially happened. I also remember Cpl Stratton he and Cpl Trullinger stopped us for various teen hijinx and we’re both so kind to us.

  5. Mr. MaClean, I found this site after watching the first part of the Sundance documentary. I was amazed at the fact that this has had such longevity and interest. I was born and raised in Saint Joseph. I hunted around Skidmore, Fairfax, Craig and Mound City for many years, never met anyone connected with the incident or the town. I do know those that did and those that pursued Ken. An immediate family member was Commander at Troop H for many years in the 70’s and I currently live two houses from the gentleman that took over when he retired. I have heard the stories from my family member and he was amazed at Men’s ability to stay out of jail. I played ball with a guy that bought a dog from him that couldn’t find his way home. He took the dog back, tied him up when Ken was gone and stopped payment on the check. He said he slept with a shotgun under the bed until that final day. Shame how that town has had such terrible luck.
    Thanks for your investigation and telling of the book, I think everybody in my family has read it. Have a good day.

    • I also watched that first episode and would like to watch the series but I didn’t see the series listed within that website. When I tried, it said episode 2 was not available. ????

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