Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ken McElroy

Bowenkamp's Daughters Speak Out

Lois Bowenkamp
Lois Bowenkamp

The women were toddlers in 1960 when Bo Bowenkamp, a divorced farmer, married their mother, Lois, a young divorcee who was working as a waitress in Shenandoah, Iowa.

The family lived for a number of years in nearby Plattsmouth, Neb., where Bowenkamp worked in construction, then moved to Lois' hometown of Skidmore, Mo., in 1972 as Bo—20 years older than his wife—reached retirement age.

The couple bought the local grocery store in 1977.

Joyce, Cheryl and their older brother, Tom, were just reaching adulthood at the time their stepfather was shot.

Joyce Monty, now 47, lives near Tulsa, Okla. She is married with an adult daughter and works for a manufacturing firm. Monty enlisted in the Army after her stepfather was shot but was in Skidmore on leave the day that McElroy was killed.

"I was home in bed, and a phone call from Cheryl woke me up right after it had happened," she said. "I jumped in my car and hightailed it up the street and there he was, slumped over the steering wheel of his truck—dead."

Her sister Cheryl Huston, 48, still lives in the Skidmore area. An optician, she has two children and four grandchildren. Divorced four times, she says she suffers from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of "the whole McElroy thing."

"I believe wholeheartedly that the criminal justice system not only let us down," Huston said, "but let the McElroy family down as well."

CRIME LIBRARY: What was your stepfather like?

CHERYL: Daddy was pretty much easy going. He didn't get riled very often. He was good at carpentry, and he worked part-time for a farmer before mom bought the store. He loved to go fishing.

JOYCE: His parents were farmers who emigrated from Germany and settled in southwest Iowa. He had a son and daughter from his first marriage, and he was a Lutheran. Daddy was a very quiet and reserved person on first meeting. Once he got to know people, he opened up a lot. He had the perfect place at the meat counter in the store to visit with the townspeople. He could talk about farming with the men who came through getting something for their lunches. He could talk gardening and remodeling with the ladies, and he could talk to the deliverymen about what was going on in St. Joseph, Kansas City and Maryville. It was a great place for him to be, and everyone in town knew him.

CL: And your mother?

JOYCE: Our mother is just about as opposite of our stepdad as you could get. Mom was born around the Skidmore area back in 1936 and lived there most of her life...Mom is the feisty one. She's got an opinion and although she doesn't force it on you, she will speak it...She's done time on the city council, served as mayor of Skidmore once, and still keeps an eye and ear on city goings-on. But unlike my stepdad, Mom doesn't back down from confrontations. Neither of them ever went looking for a fight with anyone, but Mom never let herself get pushed around. She's a bit stubborn at times, which has served her more good than bad in the past.

CHERYL: She was the disciplinarian in our family.

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