The Creepiest Small Town in America: Skidmore Missouri.
By Mike Moran of The Confessional Podcast.
Skidmore Missouri doesn’t have the population of a small town, it has the population of a small shopping center. The latest estimate is about 250.
Houses are cheap. But no one wants to move there. Along with people trickling away from this quiet community year after year, go the few businesses and schools, one by one.
Pictures online of skidmore could not be more dreary and depressing. Some even say your GPS doesn’t work when you drive into the area.
Crime rates are technically low, but when violence does visit this area, it’s custom made for True Crime addicts like myself.
Of course, it all began with the near-legendary tale of Ken McElroy, Skidmore’s most notorious resident. If you’re unfamiliar with the tiny town’s morbid claim to fame, Ill give you a brief synopsis.
In the 60s and 70s, McElroy was Skidmore’s boogyman. He was beyond a bully, more of a self-imposed dictator who ran the town of Skidmore like his personal fiefdom, literally raping and pillaging for 2 decades. He stole constantly from the local farmers and businesses, and assaulted people at will in all kinds of ways. He took women and girls he found attractive, as young as 12 years old to add to his family that included multiple wives at once, and over a dozen children.
He held a legal stronghold over anyone who dared to press charges with the aid of his mob-connected lawyer and intense harrasment campaigns, that included stalking, shootings, killing of pets, and arson. Even the police feared him.
When, after years of abuse a mob of local citizens surrounded McElroy in he center of town and fired a few fatal shots into the white trash terrorist, not one of the more than 50 witnesses would say say who pulled the trigger. To this day, every last citizen refuses to speak, and no one was ever arrested in the vigilante slaying.
This incident gave Skidmore a grisly 15 minutes of fame, as several books, many new reports, and a TV movie was produced around the incident.
Though things remained quiet for the next 20 years after the press died down, citizens slowly drifted away from the eerie burg and what few business and attractions were left, shut down eventually.
And then the darkness returned.
It started with the brutal killing of Wendy Gillenwater in 2000. Reportedly she was stomped to death by her boyfriend. Some internet sleuths have found evidence suggesting she was actually dragged around Skidmore hanging from his car until she died. Gillenwater’s killer, Greg Dragoo is serving life in jail.
And then things got really bizarre…
On December 16th 2004, 23 year old Bobbie Jo Stinnett was discovered by her mother who told 911 operators that she looked like “her stomach exploded.” Sadly Stinnett was soon pronounced dead, and was missing the most most valuable of items: the infant in her womb.
Miraculously, the baby, named Victoria Stinet was found alive and well. The woman who she was in the custody of was named Lisa M. Montgomery. Police recovered the newborn within a day to the shock of Montgomery’s friend and family, who were celebrating what they thought was the birth of Lisa’s 5th child.
As it turns out Lisa Montgomery had been lying about being pregnant, as she had done many times since she had her tubal ligation 9 years earlier.
She came in contact with the pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnett online, under the guise of purchasing a terrier from her, as Stinnett was a dog breeder.
When she was welcomed into her home, Lisa began strangling the mother-to-be, until she went limp. Clumps of Montgomery’s hair, and spots of her blood were found at the scene, indicating Bobbie Jo didn’t go out without a fight.
Once unconscious, Montgomery cut the infant from her womb, and took her own as her own. With some very quickly and expertly executed police work, tiny Victoria was treated and eventually placed in the custody of her father.
As of now, Lisa Montgomery is scheduled to be the third woman in American history to be executed by the federal government.
Despite her brutal deed, you’ve can’t help but feel for the troubled Lisa Montgomery. She was repeatedly raped by her stepfather as a child. When she told her mother about the abuse, she pulled a gun on her. She suffered so many beatings as a youth, it’s speculated she had brain damage. The young woman sought escape through alcohol consumption, and later by getting married as a teenager, but that quickly became an abusive situation as well. Clearly her horrific upbringing contributed to her mental state.
After the killing of Wendy Gillenwater, True Crime fans again forcused attention on Skidmore…
but it wasn’t over yet…
Then there was Branson Perry, cousin of Bobbie Joe Stinnet who disappeared, April 11, 2001. And by disappeared, I mean just straight up vanished. Almost into thin air.
One normal afternoon 20 year old Branson was cleaning up his fathers house, as he was set to return from a brief stay in the hospital. He went out the door to put some jumper cables in the garage, just a few yards away, and hasn’t been heard from since. No one saw him go anywhere, be abducted by anyone. Not even his friend Gena who was in the house helping him. Not the 2 other men who were working on his father’s car on the property. He was simply there one minute, and nowhere the next.
And he’s never been seen since. He left behind zero clues. There have been no leads in the case. The jumper cables he was transporting weren’t found…until 2 weeks later when they suddenly appeared in plain site on the property. Virtually all of Skidmore got together and combed the area, and found nothing. Extensive excavations based on tips lead nowhere.
It’s like he never existed.
There are a few…very loose theories of what happened…but none make much of an argument. His friend Gena, who was there that strange day, has admitted that the two were beginning to dabble in drugs. She believed he may had gotten in debt with some angry dealers.
Also, his Dad explained how a few weeks before Brandon had been violated by a neighbor. Apparently he was drugged and assaulted by a man named Jason Bierman leaving Branson understandably humiliated and angry. He speculated his son was eager to hightail it out of the area.
And then there was another theory, one involving a minister named Jack Wayne Roberts, who was arrested in April 2003 after he attempted to perform an amateur sex reassignment surgery on another individual, in a hotel room.
Along with child pornography, police also found on Roberts computer, graphic message board posts involving sadistic stories of extreme sexual assaults. One involved a young male hitchhiker who’s description matched Perry’s.
Roberts denied any and all involvement in the disappearance of Branson Perry, and swore his internet posts were merely fantasy. Though some believe a necklace found in Jack Robert’s home resembles one Branson owned.
He’s never been proven to be connected to the disappearance, but is serving a 30 year sentence currently, for his other crimes.
And it gets weirder…
When doing research for this writing I discovered that the bizarre violence of. Skidmore is reflective of its encompassing County. I should reemphasize that the crime rate is low throughout, but the instances that do occur are exceptionally grisly and strange.
There were the Talbott brothers who in 1880 were hanged for the murder of their father, despite the fact that he swore with his dying breaths that his political enemies were to blame.
There was Hez Rasco who murdered an entire family of 4, in 1910, and then burned the house and the bodies inside of it.
Benny Kemper did something eerily similar in 1974 when he slaughtered 4 of 5 members of the Merrigan Family.
There was William Taylor in 1994 who’s wife Debra, was initially thought killed in a farming accident involving a faulty combine. It was later discovered that William had lured Debra to her death by killing the family cat and propping it under the combine, urging his wife to try and get the pet out from under, so he could roll the heavy machine over her.
Loyd Jeffress, 71 who, in what may be the most elderly list of characters in a killing spree ever, fired at members of the Conception Abbey Monastery, killing a monk and a priest, and injuring others, all in their 60s and 70s. Why he choose these strangers in an organization he had nothing to do with is a mystery.
In 2013, business owner Steve Parsons was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14 year old. Minutes later he was convulsing on the floor of the court room, and died shorty thereafter. It turns out Steve had snuck a cyanide capsule into the courtroom, and discreetly gotten it into his mouth when the verdict was read.
There are also multiple accounts of grisly mob-justice, and honor killings dealt out with brutal beatings.
What do you think?
Is something macabre going on in Skidmore/Nodaway County Missouri? Is it America’s creepiest midwestern territory? Or is it simply a handful of incidents that have a very bright spotlight shined upon them, by True Crime addicts like myself?