There’s a lot to love about Missouri, but its homicide rate is definitely not one of them. Check out nine infamous murders that are an ugly stain on our state’s history.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. The Matthew “Mack” Harrison Marsden Murder
Marsden, a livestock trader from Jefferson County, was shot and killed in 1883. During the two years prior to his death, he was suspected of arson, murder and robbery, leading some to wonder whether his murder was a case of vigilantism. Although multiple men were arrested for his murder, no one was ever convicted. The case remains unsolved. Pictured: the Jefferson County courthouse.
2. The Ken McElroy murder
Skidmore's McElroy was a town bully with a long list of accusations to his name: assault, statutory rape, arson, child molestation, hog and cattle rustling, burlary. In 1981, after explicitly threatening to kill 70-year-old Ernest “Bo” Bowenkamp, a minister and the town grocer (who McElroy had seriously injured the year before), McElroy was shot to death in daylight while sitting in his truck on Skidmore's main street. Dozens witnessed his murder, which remains unsolved to this day.
3. The Kansas City massacre
The Kansas City massacre of 1933 resulted in the death of four law enforcement officers and Frank “Jelly” Nash, a criminal fugitive. The shootout, which took place at Kansas City's Union Station railroad depot, was an attempt by a gang to free Nash. Although the FBI pointed to Vernon C. Miller, Adam C. Richetti and Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd as the gunmen, there is some evidence that Floyd (pictured) was not actually involved.
4. The Kirkwood City Council shooting
In 2008 in Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis, a gunman opened fire at a public meeting at Kirkwood City Hall, killing six and injuring two. The shooter was Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton,who had a long history of legal and financial troubles with the city. Before entering city hall, Thornton shot a police officer across the street and stole his handgun. Victims of his shooting spree include police officer Tom Ballman, public works director Kenneth Yost, mayor Mike Swoboda, council members Michael Lynch and Connie Karr, and police officer William Biggs. Thornton was shot and killed by police in the event's immediate aftermath.
5. The South County Car bomber
In the late 1970s, a series of fatal car bombings occurred in south St. Louis County, taking the lives of Shirley Marie Flynn and Robert Curtis Jackson. The bombings, which appeared to have been random, were never solved.
6. The Haun's Mill massacre
On Oct. 30, 1838, a mob from Livingston County attacked a Mormon settlement in Caldwell County, brutally killing at least 17 and injuring nearly as many. This was the bloodiest event in the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. The event occurred after increasing animosity and friction between Mormon and non-Mormon residents of the area.
7. The Allen Britt murder
Ever heard the old song that goes “Frankie and Johnny were lovers?” The classic blues tune was inspired by an infamous St. Louis murder. In 1899, the 22-year-old Frankie Baker, a prostitute, shot and killed 17-year-old Allen Britt (aka 'Johnny') after she caught him cheating. The incident was quickly immortalized in song.
8. The Centralia massacre
In 1864, during the Civil War, two dozen unarmed Union solders were captured and executed in Centralia. Among the pro-Confederate perpetrators was Jesse James, future infamous outlaw (pictured).
9. The Meeks family murder
In 1894 in Linn County, four members of the Meeks family (Gus, Delora, Hattie and Mary) were brutally murdered by George and William Taylor, wealthy citizens of northeast Missouri. The Meeks were tenants on land owned by the Taylors. The murder occurred after Gus agreed to testify in court about the Taylor brothers' dishonest money-making schemes. Only 6-year-old Nellie survived the brutal shooting and beating.
Whether we like it or not, these horrifying events are ones we’ll remember forever.