Missouri Town Has Seen Its Share of Violence

This tiny town in northwest Missouri was acquainted with violence well before someone strangled an expectant mother and cut the unborn child from her womb.

The town made national headlines in 1981 when a man with a violent past was gunned down on the street in the middle of the day. The close-knit community closed ranks and refused to name the killer, prompting some media reports to refer to residents as "vigilantes."

A best-selling book was written about the case, followed by a television movie titled "Without Mercy (search)." Earlier this year, the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival gave the film its top prize.

Skidmore, with a population of 342, is no magnet for criminals. Last year, there were just 23 violent offenses in all of Nodaway County.

Four years ago, however, a woman there was stomped to death by her boyfriend, now serving life in prison. In 2001, a 20-year-old man disappeared and many believe he was murdered.

Skidmore (search) has suffered economically in recent years, losing a quarter of its population, its only elementary school and many businesses. As a result, Skidmore's residents have learned to stick together.

Harry MacLean (search), who wrote "In Broad Daylight" on the slaying of Ken Rex McElroy, described the town's residents as "quiet people, mostly farmers who all knew each other since kindergarten." He said many had an "'us versus the world' approach to outsiders."

Police believe Bobbie Jo Stinnett (search) was strangled Thursday by a woman who contacted her over the Internet to look at the dogs Stinnett sold.

Lisa Montgomery is accused of cutting Stinnett's baby from her womb and trying to pass it off as her own. She has been charged with kidnapping resulting in murder.

"It's not a matter of where they lived," said JoAnn Stinnett, a distant relative of the victim. "All this just happened to hit here. It could have happened anywhere."