Ken Rex McElroy was an illiterate hog farmer who terrorized northwest Missouri for over twenty years. He robbed, raped, burned and assaulted almost at will. The residents were scared of him,law enforcement avoided him.
McElroy believed in “No witnesses, no case.” He made a mockery of the entire criminal justice system.
His reign of terror came to an abrupt halt in July 1981. A year earlier he had become pathologically inflamed over the allegation by a grocer’s wife that one of his daughters had not paid for a jawbreaker. He terrorized the grocer and his wife for months, until one day he drove up to the loading dock behind the store and shot the grocer’s husband at point blank range with a shotgun. He was eventually tried and convicted of assault in a neighboring county, but the law turned him loose, and he returned to the small town with rifle in hand. In the bar he threatened to shoot one of the witnesses, a town elder, and several bystanders swore out a complain to have his bail revoked.
On the day of the bail hearing, seventy-five men met in town to form a protective guard to get the witnesses to the courthouse. McElroy heard of the meeting, and drove into town. He settled in the bar with his wife, Trena, whom he had raped when she was twelve. The men streamed down the street and into the bar. When he left a few minutes later, six-pack in hand, over fifty men streamed out behind him. As he sat in his Silverado pick-up, casually lighting a cigarette, one man in the street reached into the back of his pick-up and pulled out a 30.30. Another man, close by, pulled a .22 from the rack in the rear window of his truck. The high-powered rifle opened first, shattering the window and puncturing McElroy’s skull. The .22 followed.
In a rich detail, author Harry Maclean tells the story of Ken Rex McElroy – from his early childhood days to how he came to be gunned down in the street when an entire town had had enough, in his book In Broad Daylight: A Murder in Skidmore, Missouri.
I was extremely impressed with the writing style offered by Maclean as I read the updated version, which contains a 2006 epilogue.
MacLean offers his readers the opportunity to get settle in with the folks of Skidmore and get an inside look into life in a small farming town. As a result of this effort, readers are privy to minute details but details which are so very important if the readers are to gain the insight MacLean wishes them to have, which is not the “Who done it” but the “Why” of this crime.
If you’re interested only in solved crimes, this is not going to be a good read for you. However, if you enjoy a great crime story that, in addition to the crime details, offers a moral debate, you’ll be so enthralled that, like me, you will be unable to put it down!
In Broad Daylight is a real true crime classic; an absolute MUST READ for fans! And there’s good news, as of July 2012, it’s available on Kindle!
For the best and most recent updates from this book, I recommend visiting Harry N. MacLean’s blog.
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