Skidmore is a small town in Nodaway County, Missouri, United States. The population was 284 at the 2010 Census (estimated 269 as of 2016). Despite its small population, the town has a long history of violence, and an unusually high crime rate per capita (murder rate included).

Let's go through some of the more notorious cases. The first major murder case from Skidmore, Missouri, took place in 1981. It is arguably one of the most infamous modern cases of vigilante justice.

Ken Rex McElroy, a local resident, reportedly terrorized the town of Skidmore for years. Over the course of his life, McElroy was accused of dozens of felonies, including assault, child molestation, statutory rape, arson, hog and cattle rustling, and burglary. He was indicted twenty times, but never convicted of any crime. Reportedly, he was able to escape conviction because all the witnesses were too afraid to testify. McElroy would intimidate them by stalking them, often parking his pick-up in front of their homes at night and watching them.

McElroy fathered more than 10 children with different women. He met his last wife, Trena McCloud (1957-2012) when she was 12 years old and in eighth grade. She became pregnant when she was fourteen, dropped out of school in the ninth grade, and went to live with McElroy and his third wife Alice. McElroy divorced Alice and married Trena in order to escape charges of statutory rape, to which she was the only witness. Sixteen days after Trena gave birth, both she and Alice fled to Trena's mother's and stepfather's house. According to court records, McElroy tracked them down and brought them back. He then returned to Trena's parents' home when they were away, shot the family dog, and burned down the house.

In 1980s, one of Ken McElroy's children was caught shoplifting a piece of candy at a local store, owned by Ernest "Bo" Bowenkamp and his wife, Lois. Enraged by the accusation, Ken McElroy started stalking Bowenkamps, and eventually threatened Ernest in the back of his store, with a shotgun. In the ensuing confrontation, McElroy shot Bowenkamp in the neck. Bowenkamp survived, and McElroy was arrested and charged with attempted murder, but was soon released on bail, and continued harassing and intimidating witnesses.

McElroy was eventually convicted of assault and sentenced to two years in prison, but was freed on bail pending his appeal. Immediately after being released at a post-trial hearing, McElroy went to the D&G Tavern, a local bar, with an M1 Garand rifle with a bayonette attached, and made graphic threats about what he would do to Mr. Bowenkamp. This led to several patrons deciding to see what they could legally do to prevent McElroy from harming anyone else. Nodaway County Sheriff Dan Estes suggested they form a neighborhood watch.

Once again, McElroy's bail hearing was delayed. On the morning of July 10th 1981, townspeople met at the Legion Hall in the center of town with Sheriff Estes to discuss how to protect themselves. During the meeting, McElroy arrived at the D&G Tavern with Trena. As he sat drinking at the bar, word got back to the men at the Legion Hall that he was in town. Sheriff Estes instructed the assembled group not to get into a direct confrontation with McElroy, but instead seriously consider forming a neighborhood watch program. Estes then drove out of town in his police cruiser. The citizens decided to go to the tavern en masse. The bar soon filled completely.

McElroy eventually finished his drink, purchased a six pack of beer, left the bar, and went to his truck with his wife. Two unidentified gunmen opened fire on the vehicle. McElroy was shot twice; once by a centerfire rifle, and once by a .22 rimfire rifle. He died almost instantly. There were 46 witnesses to the shooting; including McElroy's wife, Trena, who was in the truck with him at the time, but was left unharmed. Only Trena claimed to identify a gunman; every other witness either was unable to name an assailant or claimed not to have seen who fired the fatal shots. The DA declined to press charges. An extensive Federal investigation did not lead to any charges. McElroy was buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in St. Joseph, Missouri.

On July 9, 1984, Trena McElroy filed a $6 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Town of Skidmore, County of Nodaway, Sheriff Danny Estes, Steve Peters (Mayor of Skidmore), and Del Clement (whom Trena accused of being the shooter, but who was never charged). The case was later settled out of court by all parties for the sum of $17,600, with no one admitting guilt, for the stated reason of avoiding costly legal fees should the suit proceed.

Trena remarried and moved to Lebanon, Missouri, where she died of cancer on her 55th birthday on January 24, 2012.

Two decades later, a brutal crime shook the small community. On October 16th 2000, Greg N. Dragoo beat and dragged his girlfriend, Wendy Gillenwater, down several country roads outside of Skidmore, causing her to die. The autopsy report stated that she had been "stomped to death". Gillenwater's body was found outside her Skidmore home. Dragoo was charged with murder and given a life sentence by a Nodaway County Judge. Dragoo is currently incarcerated in Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron.

Less than a year later, Skidmore became a center of another serious but strange case. On April 11 2001, twenty years old Branson Perry, a local of Skidmore, Missouri, went missing. That day, Branson Perry asked a friend to come over to help him clean up in preparation for his father's April 13 return from the hospital. (The twenty-year old had been living with his father, Bob, at 304 West Oak Street in Skidmore, Mo., but his father had been hospitalized. Branson's parents had divorced five months earlier, and his mother, Rebecca "Becky" Klino, lived in a small town about 20 miles away.) While Branson and his friend cleaned the house, two men worked to replace a broken alternator on Bob's car that had gone out the previous day. The car was parked on the street in front of a storage shed next to the Perry home. Perry was last seen walking to the storage shed. Then he vanished. Inexplicably, no one saw where he went or what happened to him.

Brandon Perry's mother, Rebecca Klino, posted multiple comments in the forums discussing her son's disappearance. In her own words (describing the day Brandon went missing): "The events of the day are fairly sketchy to me and often make no sense. I don't have a time line of when they occurred, only sporadic comments that were made. At one point, the friend saw Branson run into the kitchen and take something out of one of the cabinets, then run out the back door. When he returned, she said he wouldn't tell her what he was doing and acted like nothing happened. Later, she said she had taken a shower and when she came out of the bathroom, she saw one of the men that were working on the car going through the cabinets in the kitchen. She said she asked him what he was looking for and he told her nothing and went back outside."

When police arrived at the Perry home to investigate the disappearance, they determined that nothing of Branson's appeared to be missing. His van, wallet, and all of his personal belongings were left behind. The men working on the car told police they never saw Branson while he was on his way to the shed. The jumper cables were also not in the shed.

According to Klino, "Several people were given lie detector tests. Some passed it and some didn't. I was not given details, which I understand." But in an odd turn of events, just two weeks after the investigation started, Klino said the jumper cables, "mysteriously showed up in the shed, just inside the door."

In 2004, Jack Wayne Rogers, a former minister from Fulton, Wisconsin, was sentenced to thirty years in prison, for a string of child pornography charges, and for cutting off a man's genitals (?!). Reportedly, a year before, in an Internet chatroom, Rogers initially bragged about raping and murdering Branson Perry [he never referred to him by name, but the physical description, age and location he mentioned all fit]. When the police confronted him about it, Rogers denied ever knowing Perry, claiming that the confession was "just a fantasy".

A search of Rogers's yard for possible buried evidence yielded nothing. Rogers remained the prime suspect for years, but no additional evidence has ever surfaced to link Rogers to Branson's disappearance, or to the crime he bragged about, so no charges have been filed.

"The police are not completely ruling out Rogers," Klino wrote in a post on her forum, "but now the investigation has turned towards Skidmore again. They have received new leads there. I suppose time has a way of unraveling secrets. I believe someone in that area knows what happened to Branson. In my heart, I don't believe Rogers is responsible. Despite the nightmare I lived through then, I am thankful that someone with that much evil will never walk the streets again. If it wasn't for that chat log they found on the other computer, the police may never have come across that animal."

Rebecca Klino remained devoted to finding out what happened to her son. On a Web site dedicated to Branson's disappearance, she wrote:

"I have never been a person to ask for much. I am asking, pleading, even begging for your help in finding my son or finding out what happened to him. I need for this nightmare to end. It is a roller coaster that doesn't ever stop. From the outside I may appear to be fine. Inside, I will never be ok. If you have ever lost someone who has died, then you know that feeling of complete despair. Over time it eases and becomes bearable.

You know the cause of what happened and you have been able to put your loved one to rest. You will always have that sense of emptiness and at times it overcomes you, but you are able to put it into perspective again. Parents of missing children never have that feeling ease. It never becomes bearable, only easier to hide. One minute you are ok and functioning, the next minute something triggers inside and you plummet to the deepest ravine you could ever imagine and can't find any way out. It can be something as simple as a smell, a taste, a sound, a touch and all the horror is there again. It never ends.

Please, please, please find it in your hearts to come forward if you have ANY information. You may think it is insignificant, but it may be the key link to answers."

Sadly, both of Branson's parents died before ever finding out what happened to him. Bob Perry passed away in 2004. Rebecca Kilno passed away of melanoma cancer in February 2011. It was written in Klino's obituary that she had been preceded in death by her son.

"I think she knew he wasn't alive," said Monica Caison, founder of the CUE Center for Missing Persons, "but she always wanted to continue to look for him either way."

Branson's aunt, brother, other family members, and friends of Klino's are still looking for answers. Caison has vowed to continue the search for answers on their behalf.

But the bloody history of Skidmore, Missouri, doesn't end there. On December 16th 2004, twenty four years old Bobbie Jo Stinnett, eight months pregnant at the time, was murdered in her home. The killer, thirty six years old Lisa M. Montgomery, a resident of Melvern, Kansas, strangled Stinnett to death, then cut her unborn child from her womb and took off with her. Stinnett was discovered by her mother, Becky Harper, in a pool of blood about an hour after the murder. Harper immediately called 911. Harper described the wounds inflicted upon her daughter as appearing as if her "stomach had exploded". Attempts by paramedics to revive Stinnett were unsuccessful, and she was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital in Maryville, Missouri.

The next day, December 17, 2004, Lisa Montgomery was arrested at her farmhouse in Melvern, Kansas where the newborn had been claimed as her own, and was recovered. The day-old baby, later named Victoria Jo Stinnett, was returned to her father, Zeb Stinnett. The quick recovery and capture was attributed to, in part, the use of computer forensics, which tracked Montgomery and Stinnett's online communication with one another. Both bred rat terriers and may have attended dog shows together. The investigation was also aided by the issuance of an AMBER alert to enlist the public's help, DNA testing to confirm the infant's identity, and the enormous amount of media attention.

Montgomery was charged with the federal offense of "kidnapping resulting in death", a crime established by the Federal Kidnapping Act of 1932, and described in Title 18 of the United States Code.

At a pre-trial hearing, a neuropsychologist testified that head injuries, which she had sustained some years before, could have damaged the part of the brain which controls aggression. During her trial in federal court, her defense attorneys, led by Frederick Duchardt, asserted that she had pseudocyesis, a mental condition that causes a woman to falsely believe she is pregnant and exhibit outward signs of pregnancy.

According to The Guardian newspaper, Duchardt attempted to follow this line of defense only one week before the trial began, after being forced to abandon a contradictory argument that Bobbie Jo Stinnet was murdered by Montgomery's brother Tommy, as Tommy had an alibi. As a result, the Montgomery family refused to co-operate with Duchardt and describe Lisa's unfavorable background to the jury.

Forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz testified for the prosecution. Dietz had worked with prosecutors on other high-profile cases, including those of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and bomber Ted Kaczynski, as well as two women, Andrea Yates and Susan Smith, who had killed their own children. Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Dietz testified that Montgomery did not have pseudocyesis and dismissed Ramachandran's theory as outrageous.

On October 22, 2007, jurors found Lisa Montgomery guilty. On October 26, the jury recommended a death sentence. Judge Gary A. Fenner formally sentenced Montgomery to death. On April 4, 2008, a judge upheld the jury's recommendation for death. Yesterday, Montgomery was the first woman to be executed in the USA since 1953.

Interestingly, Bobbie Jo Stinnett was a relative of the aforementioned Branson Perry, and they were both born in 1981, the same year Ken McElroy was murdered.

So what is up with this town? For a town with population of less than 300, this seems a bit strange. High crime rates are often attributed to poverty and an easy access to firearms, and while that probably plays a part, it does not explain everything in these cases. Is there (literally) something in the water there? Or in the air? Did Ken McElroy's prolific production of offspring create a disproportionately large genetic pool of seriously disturbed people? Or is there an even deeper and more bizarre secret behind Skidmore's very troubled history?