Mystery, crime of small town of Skidmore, Missouri, inspires upcoming thriller film

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An area filmmaker is turning his knowledge of a small Missouri town into a full-length feature film laced with mystery and crime.

“Below the Fold” is based on events over the years in Skidmore, Missouri.

About 300 people live in Skidmore, about an hour or so northwest of St. Joseph. It’s a small town known for a cycle of high-profile murders, disappearances and violence. It’s what inspired Kansas City filmmaker Clayton Scott.

“I grew up in Worth County, Missouri. So right next door was Skidmore, and you hear about stories of just like the, the town and all the different kind of, you know, different kind of weird crimes that had happened there,” Scott said. “They had the succession of three different crimes there, so that was definitely a big impact for me growing up.”

Back in 1981, someone shot and killed Ken Rex McElroy as he sat in his truck. He was feared and hated around town, and even though plenty of witnesses saw the shooting, no one ever identified the killer.

In 2000, police say a man stomped his girlfriend Wendy Gillenwater to death. The following year 20-year-old Branson Perry disappeared from his front yard. He hasn’t been seen since.

Three years later, police say a woman strangled Bobbie Jo Stinnett with a rope, then cut her baby out of her womb with a kitchen knife. Her killer confessed and remains the only female on federal death row.

The film “Below The Fold” is a mystery thriller based loosely on these crimes, shot in the town made famous because of them.

“I think like one thing I definitely want to like make clear about the film is like, it is, it’s a fictional story. There is no Susie Potter,” Scott said.

“Just the feeling of the town in general just sort of gave that feel, you know, as an actor. Like I literally didn’t need the script, I didn’t need my character,” actress Sarah McGuire said. “I didn’t even need the director telling me like what to do or how to feel ’cause it, the town in general just kind of gave that sort of eerie, ominous feeling, I guess.”

“Kansas City, they have crime every day, but that’s a metro population of 2 million people,” Scott said. “Like this is, you know, something very small and close knit. They always say like things like that don’t happen in small town, sort of thing, but Skidmore makes it a little, a little different, you know.”

Some in the town were receptive; others wanted nothing to do with Scott or his film.

“We got real, real residents from the town that, and different segments that just added this, I think, a real texture and color to like, to the film, having the, some of the real people in it and just brings an authenticity,” he said.

The creators are submitting “Below The Fold” to several film festivals. They hope it premieres in 2020.



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