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The gripping story of the breakdown of law in the small Missouri town of Skid-more. For decades, the legal system failed to stop Ken Rex McElroy from preying on people of the area; in 1981, he was shot down in broad daylight. Many of the town's most prominent citizens were apparently witnesses; though not parties to the killing, they chose to protect the gunman with their silence. McElroy grew up dirt poor and was never interested in earning an honest living. He started a career as a livestock rustler and arsonist and was known for his magic touch with coon dogs and women: he sometimes starved his dogs and fed them speed to make them vicious; he beat and mistreated his many women and turned young girls into loyal partners in crime. McElroy also learned early to intimidate witnesses to prevent prosecution; in one case, he convinced the 15-year-old he had raped and terrorized to marry him before trial. His lawyer successfully manipulated the Missouri criminal code to win trial delays, changes of venue; after being found guilty after a jury trial of shooting a storeowner, McElroy continued his violent campaign against his victim while out on ball pending appeal. It was at this point, when the people of Skidmore despaired of a legal solution, that McElroy was gunned down. Ironically, even the FBI got into the act to find his killer--particularly shocking to people who'd been unable to get any state or federal assistance while McElroy was at large. No arrests were ever made. Charged by the author's indignation at a legal system that failed to halt McElroy and at a media that issued distorted accounts of the case, this is a sad, disturbing tale of institutional betrayal, colorfully set against a backdrop of changing seasons and agricultural cycles.

Pub Date: Nov. 23rd, 1988
Publisher: Harper & Row