this day in crime history: july 10, 1981

kenrex

On this day in 1981, Ken McElroy was shot while sitting in his truck in Skidmore, MO. McElroy, known to locals as the town bully, had been arrested at least twenty times for charges ranging from rape and arson to burglary and assault. But McElroy had a talent for avoiding punishment for his crimes, dodging conviction in every case.

In 1980, prosecutors were finally able to make a case against McElroy stick: the shooting of Ernest “Bo” Bowenkamp. Bowenkamp, 70, ran the local grocery store and was minister of the town’s Church of Christ. McElroy was charged with attempted murder and was eventually convicted of assault.

McElroy appealed the conviction. His appeal was granted and he was released on bond in 1981. When he returned to Skidmore, McElroy threatened to kill Bowenkamp. He made this threat in the local tavern. While armed with an M-1 Garand rifle.

Some of the townspeople approached the local sheriff in search of a legal solution to the situation. He suggested they set up a neighborhood watch.

On July 10, 1981, McElroy was sitting with his wife in his truck outside a local bar. A crowd gathered and McElroy was shot several times with two different rifles. No one called an ambulance. McElroy died at the scene. With about four dozen witnesses present, no one could identify a shooter.

Further reading:

True Crime Stories – Ken Rex McElroy and the town of Skidmore Missouri

Wikipedia – Ken McElroy

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5 thoughts on “this day in crime history: july 10, 1981

  1. The local newspaper once ran a story that his widow was trying to get Burt Reynolds to play him in a movie that would portray him as a noble victim. Presumably Mr. Reynolds had enough sense not to get involved.

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    • Thankfully Reynolds was too smart for that. There was a TV movie inspired by this case. It was released in 1991. Brian Dennehy played the character based on McElroy, and he wasn’t portrayed in a positive light. But Dennehy never had a problem with playing villains. He even played John Wayne Gacy in a TV movie.

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