There are cases in this world that stand out for many things; depravity, gruesomeness, infamy, or mystery. This case is right up there in mystery. We have a person shot to death, with a crowd around him, yet nobody knows who did it. Let’s jump right in and learn about Ken Rex McElroy.
Ken Rex McElroy was born in 1934, the fifteenth of sixteen children, his parents were poor, migrant tenet-farmers, and eventually settled outside of Skidmore, MO. Dropping out of school at age 15, in the eighth grade, Ken had established a reputation quickly. He was a bully, a cattle rustler, thief, womanizer and many other things. Charges were brought against him 21 times, and he avoided conviction each time; witnesses often refused to testify due to intimidation.
Ken also had over 10 children with different women. His last wife, Trena, was 12 years old when Ken met her, he was 35. Ken started off his relationship with her by repeatedly statutorily raping her. She was pregnant by 14, dropped out of school in the ninth grade and lived with Ken and his second wife Alice. Ken divorced Alice to marry Trena, avoiding charges of statutory rape.
Ken considered himself and his family above the law. His children were as unruly as he was and when one of his children attempted to steal some candy at the local grocery store, Ken threatened the store owner, 70 year old Ernest “Bo” Bowenkamp and his wife, Lois.
He began to stalk them. He would sit outside their store or home, for hours with a shotgun or rifle with him. It escalated to the point, where Bo was shot in the neck, but thankfully survived. He was arrested, and charged with attempted murder. At trial he was convicted of assault. He was released on bail pending an appeal.
After being released Ken, went to the local bar, he had a rifle with bayonet attached, and made threats about what he would do to Bo. This led other patrons to see what they could do legally to prevent Ken Rex from harming anyone else. The local sheriff suggested a neighborhood watch.
July 10, 1981, Ken’s appeal hearing was again delayed. That morning townspeople met with Sheriff Danny Estes, at the Legion Hall, to discuss how to protect themselves. At this same time, Ken and Trena went to the bar for some day drinking. The people at the Legion Hall, learned that Ken was in town. Sheriff Estes encouraged people to NOT get into a direct confrontation with Ken, but suggested again to form a neighborhood watch program. He then left in his police cruiser out of town.
The people at the Legion Hall decided to go to the bar together. It was soon filled. After he finished his drinks, he purchased a six pack of beer, left the bar, and got into his pickup truck.
Someone, or at least two someone, shot at Ken Rex while he was sitting in his truck. He was shot at several times, and hit twice. Trena was unharmed in the truck. There were 46 potential witnesses to the shooting. No one called for an ambulance. Trena claimed to identify the gunman, Del Clement, but all the other witnesses, couldn’t be sure who it was or claimed to have not seen who did it. No charges were pressed against anyone.
Trena later sued the Town of Skidmore, County of Nodaway, Sheriff Danny Estes, Steve Peters (Mayor), and Del Clement for a $5 million wrongful death suit. The case was settled out of court for $17,600.
Since there isn’t a lot of information on this case, outside of Trena’s eyewitness testimony, and the townspeople who didn’t see a thing, we will never know who killed Ken Rex.
Was the murder of Ken Rex justified considering his history of bullying, intimidation, rape, assault, attempted murder, and his Houdini like way of not getting convicted?
Be curious, make good choices, stay safe