Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ken McElroy

Saved by the Law

McElroy's first appointment after his release was with Dick McFadin, his Kansas City lawyer. He arrived with a bag of cash and placed $15,000 on the lawyer's desk. Under their long-standing agreement, McElroy paid McFadin $5,000 cash per felony.

Attorney Richard McFadin
Attorney Richard McFadin

McFadin told McElroy the charges would be difficult to beat, especially if Trena, victim of the rape and eyewitness to the arson, testified against him. Trena and her baby had been secreted in a foster home/safe house in Maryville. But nothing was secret from Ken McElroy.

He began parking outside the house and staring at occupants through windows. Once, he sat and stared at the house for four solid hours. The foster family called police. Officers came and talked with McElroy. The cops told the family that the tormentor was within his legal rights to sit and stare.

McElroy learned the identity of the homeowners and began placing a series of threatening, intimidating telephone calls. Each contact from McElroy drove Trena to fear and hysteria, according to the foster family. In one call, he offered to trade "girl for girl" with the foster mother. He said he knew where the woman's daughter went to school—and what bus route she rode.

It seems unfathomable today that such blatant intimidation of witnesses in a criminal case would happen without legal repercussion—new charges, revocation of bail or, at the very least, a judicial order barring McElroy from such contacts. That McElroy was allowed to engage in such in-your-face intimidation in 1973 can be viewed as a harbinger of what was to come in 1981.

To his credit, the prosecutor piled on eight additional felony molestation charges after collecting evidence from Trena about trysts with McElroy at a St. Joseph motel over three years, beginning when she was 13. Then, lawyer McFadin went to work.

He split the charges into two separate trials and sought changes of venue for each. Trial dates were set, reset, then set yet again. After a year had passed, Trena announced to the foster family that she was leaving and would be living with her grandmother.

The family was suspicious, but she couldn't be held against her will.

Not a month later, McElroy was in McFadin's office. He asked the lawyer, "What happens if I marry Trena?"

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