Fighting over Candy
The series of events that would end with Ken McElroy's murder began with an argument about a 10-cent piece of candy.
On the afternoon of April 25, 1980, several of McElroy's children stopped in the B&B grocery store in Skidmore to buy candy. Due to confusion at the cash register, one of the younger children began walking out of the store with candy in her hand that had not been paid for.
When the clerk hollered after the children, the oldest among them went flush with anger or humiliation. She took the candy from her sister, who broke out crying, and tossed it on a rack as she stormed out. Seconds later, an older sister marched into the store and declared, "Nobody accuses my little sister of stealing!"
The owners, Lois and Bo Bowenkamp, tried to resolve the disagreement through discussion. But that tactic would not work with the McElroy kin. The teenager swore that she and her family were finished shopping there, and Lois Bowenkamp said they were no longer welcome in the store.
Predictably, Ken McElroy arrived 20 minutes later. He stepped into the store with a pocketknife in his right hand. Behind him came Trena, who spewed obscenities at Lois Bowenkamp and threatened to "whip her ass."
Bowenkamp tried to explain what had transpired—that no one had accused the child of stealing, but that the older girl had gotten flustered when the clerk pointed out that the piece of candy had not been purchased. McElroy and Trena seemed to calm down. He asked for a pack of Camels. Bowenkamp, who had a stubborn streak, declined, saying the family had been barred from the store.
That evening, McElroy sat in his truck outside the store and stared. After closing, the Bowenkamps retired to their home at the edge of town only to find McElroy's truck crawling past their home, over and over.