KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Audiences will soon be able to see “Below the Fold,” a movie inspired by the strange crimes Skidmore, Missouri in theaters and on demand.
“Below the Fold” is a mystery-thriller where reporters Lisa Johnson (Sarah McGuire) and David Fremont (Davis DeRock) work to track down leads on the case of a missing girl, Susie Potter, who vanished from her quiet Skidmore home 10 years prior.
Along the way, they discover a tangled web of lies, deceit and double-dealing that fractures the small, northwest Missouri town.
The plot in “Below the Fold” is fictional, but several other, strange crimes that took place in Skidmore are not.
Writer and director Clayton Scott grew up in neighboring Worth County. He also has ties to two of the town’s most well-known murder victims, Ken Rex McElroy and Bobbie Jo Stinnett.
Ken Rex McElroy, whose still-unsolved murder outside of the local tavern inspired a book and movie both entitled “In Broad Daylight” was known to both of Scott’s parents.
“My mom, in the 70s, lived there [Skidmore] briefly so she knew about McElroy and you just kind of knew to stay away from him whenever he was in town. My dad, he didn’t live in Skidmore, but McElroy would do these coon hunting competitions and my dad was a judge at one. He remembers him just being there and being really good at it,” he said.
In 2004, the brutal murder of pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnett in Skidmore set off a region-wide manhunt before her killer, Lisa Montgomery, was arrested in Kansas with the child she cut from Stinnett’s womb. Earlier this year, Montgomery became the first woman to be executed by the federal government in 67 years.
“My older sister, she’s my half-sister and she was first cousins with Bobbie Jo. They knew each other growing up so that’s a very personal connection for her,” Scott said.
Still, there are other, lesser-known, but still tragic cases. Wendy Gillenwater was beaten to death by her boyfriend in 2000. He’s in prison for life. Branson Perry left his Skidmore home on April 11, 2001 and was never seen again.
“Whenever basically those cases Wendy Gillenwater, and Branson Perry and Bobbie Jo kind of happened, you know, in those consecutive years and as a teenager and as a kid growing up, it made me feel like bad things can happen in small towns just like anywhere else, and in this town in particular, Skidmore, they had the worst things happen,” Scott said.
That’s why Scott said filming in northwest Missouri was important. The movie’s newspaper scenes were filmed at the The Maryville Forum’s offices.
“Having that authenticity and being able to film at a real paper brought a lot of production value to the film and then filming on location in Skidmore, we’re filming in one of the old houses, it’s not there anymore, but just behind it that’s where Branson Perry lived.”
Scott said he hopes audiences will enjoy the film.
“For our little movie, you’re getting kind of a slow burn journalism thriller kind of in the vein of ‘All the President’s Men’ and ‘Zodiac.’ I mean, we’re a lot smaller movie, but you’re kind of getting that tone. You’re getting these reporters on a mission, trying to find out the truth of this missing girl that’s been gone for 10 years.”
“Below the Fold” is showing at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19 and Saturday, Nov. 20 at The Hangar in Maryville, Missouri. You can buy tickets here. The cast and crew will also be available for a question and answer session after each showing.
Tickets are limited and expected to sell out, so purchasing in advance is recommended.