Missouri Town Keeps a Secret For 40 Years

Four decades after Ken Rex McElroy was gunned down on the main drag of Skidmore, Missouri, in one of America's most infamous cold cases, the story of the notoriously brutal town bully has refused to die with him — no matter how much the farmers and blue-collar workers who live in the small farming town wish it would. Anywhere from 30 to 90 people watched the 47-year-old McElroy die in an act that ended his decade-long reign of terror over the people of Skidmore. At least some of the witnesses surely knew who fired the bullet that shattered the back window of McElroy's truck and struck him in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Yet, in a conspiracy of silence that has spanned 40 years, the townsfolk have held the secret close. It all began on the night of July 8, 1980, when McElroy shot 70-year-old grocer Bo Bowenkamp. Although he was convicted for the shooting, he received the lesser sentence of second-degree assault. This wasn't the first time McElroy had gotten off. After having been indicted 21 times for crimes like assault, rape, arson, cattle rustling and burglary, he escaped conviction each time because of witness intimidation. McElroy, who was well over 6 feet tall and weighed in around 270 pounds, would sit in front of witnesses houses with a shotgun. When residents heard that McElroy had been convicted of second-degree assault and bailed out until his sentencing — leaving him free to taunt the victims — they reached the point where enough was enough. Immediately upon bailing out of jail, McElroy headed for the D&G Tavern. When he left and got into his truck, shots pierced the silence. When the shooting ended, McElroy was dead. No one called for an ambulance, no one called police, everyone just went home. In the end, no charges were ever filed, and an FBI investigation hit a dead end.