Daily Archives: 12/23/2004

St. Louis Blogging

Still on vacation, and loving every ice-cold, freezing rain and sleet moment of it. Apparently temperatures in St. Louis are at their lowest since the winter of 2000. I had to go to Sears on Monday and buy a coat to keep myself warm. There is a chance of snow today, so I might even get a white Christmas this year.

The grisly news in frigid Missouri right now is the shocking murder of a 23 year old woman in northwestern Missouri. Lisa Montgomery, of Melvern Kansas, travelled to Skidmore Missouri last Thursday, ostensibly to purchase some dogs. In fact she strangled Bobbie Jo Stinnett, a pregnant woman who was selling the dogs. Montgomery then tore the unborn baby from her dead mother’s womb and stole the infant. She was desperate for a child of her own and concocted this horrible scheme after meeting Stinnett online. The grisly kidnapper was apprehended back in Kansas, after showing the baby to several people in a roadside diner. Bobbie Jo Stinnett was buried Tuesday afternoon, the murderer is behind bars, and the baby is back home safely.

The story has garnered international attention from the news media, but not many are making the connection to Skidmore’s violent history.

In 1981, “the Skidmore Bully,” Ken Rex McElroy, was gunned down in broad daylight. The illiterate son of a sharecropper, McElroy had terrorized residents for years. Dozens of residents were believed to have witnessed the shooting.

No one said a thing. No arrests were made. The media labeled it “a vigilante killing.” The incident inspired a best-selling book and film.

In 2000, Wendy Gillenwater was beaten to death in town by her boyfriend. A few months later, Branson Kayne Perry, 20, disappeared from his Skidmore home. His family believes he is dead. Authorities spent two years trying to connect his disappearance to a convicted child pornographer. The case remains a mystery.

Resident Richard Jones, 64, said the town’s reputation for the macabre is undeserved. “It’s getting to be a normal thing – and that’s not good.”

In such a small place, the incidents are bound to scar residents again and again, but no one more than Jo Ann Stinnett, 64.

Wendy Gillenwater was her granddaughter. Branson Perry was her grandson. And her grandson Zeb Stinnett was married to Bobbie Jo.

Skidmore is quite the macabre little town. It’s almost out of the X-Files or something. I am at a loss for how a small town of 400 people attracts a string of violent crimes over the course of two decades. This latest murder is by far the grisliest episode to date. I hope that nothing like this ever happens again in Skidmore, the town has seen enough violence.