Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ken McElroy

At Last, a Trial

As usual, attorney McFadin used every legal maneuver to delay the trial. He got a change of venue to Bethany, Mo., 75 miles east of Skidmore. But the delays finally came to an end, and on June 25, 1981, the trial began.

David Baird, a young prosecutor three years out of law school, presented a competent case. The issue could not have been simpler. Bo Bowenkamp said McElroy assaulted him with the shotgun. McElroy said he fired in self-defense when Bowenkamp threatened him with a knife. The victim was the primary prosecution witness, the accused the main defense witness.

As in the Romaine Henry trial, McElroy dredged someone from his coon-hunting circle who testified that she happened to pass along Main Street in Skidmore at the very moment of the shooting. She said she saw Bowenkamp lunge at McElroy. She could not explain why it took her nine months to come forward with this information.

After closing statements from the lawyers, the jury quickly voted to convict McElroy of assault. They had several options, both for the specific charge and the sentence—up to life in prison. But under Missouri law of that era, the jurors were given no information about McElroy's pattern of behavior since he had a clean rap sheet despite nearly two dozen failed criminal charges. Jurors voted for second-degree assault. Some lobbied for a four-year sentence. Others favored two years. They settled on two.

After the conviction was announced, the judge continued McElroy's bail and ordered him released, pending a routine 25-day appeal window. Once again, McElroy was back on the loose in Skidmore.

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