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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

Is There Something in the Skidmore Water?

Monday, October 17, 2011

The 1991 movie In Broad Daylight, (a book of the same name, was a #2 New York Times bestseller) starring Brian Dennehy and Iowan Cloris Leachman covers the life of a notorious bully, Ken Rex McElroy. A resident of Nodaway County, Missouri, near the town of Skidmore, about 30 miles south of Clarinda, Iowa, his still unsolved murder in 1981 drew international attention. For years he had been accused of dozens of felonies, including pedophilia, rape, arson, hog and cattle rustling, womanizing and burglary.

Born the fifteenth of sixteen children in 1934, he was an early drop out. Also believed to have been involved in theft of grain, gasoline, alcohol, antiques and livestock, he avoided convictions 21 times, largely because witnesses refused to testify due to his intimidation. This often involved just sitting in front of their residence for hours.

After fathering more than 10 children with various women, he took up with 12 year old Trena McCloud. At 14 she became pregnant and went to live with McElroy and another woman. Sixteen days after Trena gave birth, she and the woman fled to Trena's mother's and stepfather's house. According to court records, McElroy shot the parents' dog, and burned the house to the ground.

In 1981, McElroy was convicted of shooting and seriously injuring the town's 70-year-old grocer. But McElroy successfully appealed the conviction and was released on bond, after which he engaged in an ongoing harassment campaign against the grocer, and other individuals who were sympathetic to him. In a local bar, armed with a semi-automatic military rifle and bayonet, he later threatened to kill Bowenkamp, the grocer.

On the morning of July 10, 1981, after his appeal hearing was again delayed, townspeople met with Sheriff Estes to discuss how to protect themselves. During the meeting, McElroy arrived at the D&G Tavern with Trena. As he sat drinking at the bar, word got back to the men at the meeting that he was in town. After telling the assembled group not to get in a direct confrontation with McElroy, but instead to seriously consider forming a Neighborhood Watch Program, Sheriff Estes jumped in his police cruiser and drove out of town.

The citizens decided to go to the tavern en masse. The bar soon filled completely. After McElroy finished his drinks, he purchased a six pack of beer, left the bar, and went to his pickup truck. While McElroy, with Trena at his side, was sitting in his truck he was shot and killed, hit twice by rifle fire.

There were 46 potential witnesses to the shooting -- only Trena claimed to identify a gunman; every other witness either was unable to name an assailant or claimed not to have seen who fired the fatal shots. The DA declined to press charges. An extensive Federal investigation did not lead to any charges.

Trena McElroy filed a $6 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Town of Skidmore, County of Nodaway, Sheriff Danny Estes, Steve Peters (Mayor of Skidmore), and Del Clement (whom Trena accused of being the shooter, but who was never charged). The case was later settled out of court by all parties for the sum of $17,600, with no one admitting guilt, for the stated reason of avoiding costly legal fees should the suit proceed. I'd hazard a guess that the defendants consider this the best money they ever spent, unless it was the few cents the bullets cost.

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Tiny Skidmore has been the scene of more violent and bizarre happenings. In 2000, Wendy Gillenwater, 25, was stomped to death by her boyfriend, who is now serving life in prison. The next year, a 20-year-old resident, Branson Perry vanished and many think he was murdered. In 2004 a 36 year old woman confessed to strangling eight-months-pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, before cutting the premature infant from her womb.

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Perhaps unrelated, Missourians like their liquor. It has what are probably the most lax state liquor laws in the country. Public intoxication is not illegal. There is no statewide prohibition on drinking in public, and no vehicle open container law, so passengers may consume alcohol openly.

There are no limitations on the types of locations that can sell liquor off-premises and residents over 21 may manufacture up to 100 gallons of any alcohol for personal use each year without any state limitation, license, or taxation. Anheuser-Busch, manufactured in St. Louis, is said to have something to do with the laxity.

Remembering Iowa's gosh-awful state owned liquor stores and the pass books necessary to purchase liquor. Don Paulin, 2carpenterdon@gmail.com, 7557 30th Av, Norwalk, IA 50211 - 515-201-7236

By Don Paulin
Been There, Done That