Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ken McElroy

The Law's No Help

On the night of May 29, a month after the candy incident, McElroy and Trena once again parked outside the Bowenkamp home. As Lois Bowenkamp watched through a window, Ken McElroy walked to the front of the truck holding a shotgun. He aimed at the house, raised the barrel slightly in the sky, and fired two shots.

Mrs. Bowenkamp watched as McElroy calmly returned to the truck and drove off. Thirty minutes later, he drove by again and fired another shot. The next morning, Lois Bowenkamp drove to the Nodaway County Sheriff's Office in Maryville to report the incident. Sheriff Roger Cronk told her he would file a report that would be reviewed by the country prosecutor. He suggested the couple should keep an eye on McElroy, which made her laugh.

Cronk did not file a report. He did not interview McElroy. He did not seek witnesses. He did nothing.

Two nights later, McElroy returned and fired more gunshots outside the Bowenkamp home. Hunkered down inside, the couple must have felt they were on their own. They were being harassed, intimidated, threatened and even assaulted, according to definitions in Missouri law. But law enforcement's refrain was the same after each incident: McElroy was within his rights, but you should watch him carefully. It must be noted that Skidmore's citizens, most of whom were well aware of the harassment, did nothing to help the Bowenkamps.

They were relatively new to the town, having arrived eight years before. Bo Bowenkamp, almost 70, was easing into retirement. He was 6-foot-5, but quiet and demure. His wife, 20 years younger than Bo, was a native of Skidmore. She could be feisty and outspoken.

On the evening of July 8, 1980, Bo Bowenkamp drove down to the store after hours to meet a repairman about a balky air conditioner. As he waited, Bowenkamp used a meat knife to cut up cardboard boxes near the rear entrance to the store. McElroy suddenly appeared outside the back door. After a brief exchange, Bowenkamp turned away. When he turned back, McElroy was pointing a double-barrel shotgun at him. The elderly man made a move to run as McElroy pulled the trigger, and the lanky Bowenkamp folded up and fell in a heap.

Ernest Bo Bowenkamp
Ernest "Bo" Bowenkamp

A few moments later, a boy found Bowenkamp, his head, neck and torso awash in damp scarlet. Sirens screamed to the scene. Among the first to arrive was Bruce Richards, a Maryville cop. He leaned over Bowenkamp and asked, "Who shot you?"

Bowenkamp replied, "Ken McElroy."

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