29 Years Later, MO Town Maintains Secret of Vigilante Murder


The vigilante slaying of Ken Rex McElroy, the notorious town bully in Skidmore, Mo., dropped into the lap of a young prosecutor named David Baird 29 years ago. The murder on the small-town main street would eventually be told in a best-selling book and a Hollywood movie. Outsiders flooded to the hamlet of 400. The story was not so much of a killing, reports the Kansas City Star. It was of a whole town that refused to talk. And that secret would be part of Baird's life his entire time in office, which will soon end after nearly 30 years.

McElroy, 47, was a burly man with bushy sideburns and an ever-present gun. On July 10, 1981, he was shot to death in plain view of 30 to 40 people who gathered around his Chevrolet pickup outside a beer joint on Main Street. The crowd dispersed and lips were zipped. Investigators grand juries heard the same thing time and time again: “I heard shooting and got down. Didn't see a thing.” Baird could never charge anyone. That young prosecutor is 57 now. After being re-elected eight times, he recently was beaten in the Democratic primary and will soon leave office with the most famous case in Nodaway County history still an open file.

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