The Real Story about the Candy
CL: Describe Skidmore before the McElroy mess.
CHERYL: A quiet, close-knit little town. It was made up of a lot of older people who had lived here all their lives...The biggest crime before that point was probably the theft of watermelons out of someone's patch. The men gathered at the pool hall to have some beer, shoot a few games of pool, and shoot a lot of bull...You could let your kids out to play after dark and not have to worry about anyone taking them, because everyone knew them and nobody wanted them. If they did something wrong, the story got to you before the kids did.
JOYCE: Skidmore was a town that minded its own business, lived life one day at a time, and liked itself. It was comfortable in its place, and the outside world didn't affect it all that much. Kids graduated from high school and went to college in Maryville or St. Joseph. Some of the more adventurous ones headed for Kansas City or Colorado...Skidmore in those days was the alpha and the omega of the rural American town.
CL: Did you know McElroy before he shot your stepfather?
CHERYL: Everyone knew McElroy was around, but—unless he was bothering you or stealing your livestock—his name really wasn't much of a household word. When I was a freshman in high school, Trena McCloud (who later became Trena McElroy) was one year ahead of me. She was 15, and we rode the same school bus. I remember my mom asking me if I had seen Trena get off the bus at any time and get in a pickup, or if I had seen any older men hanging around the school.
CL: (Trena McCloud was an adolescent when McElroy, 30, seduced her. He later was charged with statutory rape but beat the rap by marrying the girl. He silenced her parents by threatening to burn down their house.)
JOYCE: We'd been warned by the other kids at school about Ken McElroy. I also remember Mom warning us. But I never saw the man until 1980, after the candy incident...They sent their kids into the store once in a great while to buy a few things, but never came in themselves. I will say this for the kids: They were well-behaved when they were shopping. They came in, got what they needed, said 'thank you' and went about their business just like everyone else did. Never had a problem with them.
CL: According to the often-repeated scenario, the "candy incident" began when one of McElroy's young daughters was stopped as she inadvertently walked out of the store with some candy. True?
CHERYL: What actually happened was that the little girl wanted some candy. Her older sister took it away from her, threw it back in the box, and the
little girl left crying. My guess is that the older girl had to explain (to her parents) why her little sister was crying, and said that she had been accused of
shoplifting to keep herself out of trouble. My speculation has always been
that if the older girl had told the truth, things would probably have turned