The FBI yesterday closed its year-long investigation into the killing of Ken Rex McElroy, the town bully of Skidmore, Mo., who was shot on Main Street in front of 20 to 40 witnesses, without returning any indictments.

Apparently stymied by the same conspiracy of silence as the preceding county, state and coroner's investigations, the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City yesterday announced the end of its inquiry into the death of the man who had terrorized the small farm town even though investigators admitted a suspect had been identified.

U.S. Attorney Robert C. Ulrich declined to name names, saying only that information would be turned over to county authorities and that he was "satisfied with the results as they are presented at the time."

McElroy's vigilante-style shooting had attracted national interest because of the long criminal record of the victim and the apparent inability of the legal system to do anything about it. Ken Rex McElroy was shot in broad daylight on July 10, 1981, as he sat with his wife, Trina, in the front seat of their pickup truck in Skidmore.

In his lifetime, according to townspeople, McElroy had threatened lives, shot his neighbors, rustled cattle, and twice been charged with rape of a minor -- including the woman who became his wife. Even after he was convicted of shooting the town grocer, McElroy, out on parole, terrorized his neighbors, walking into the town bar with a carbine and bayonet, threatening murder. Instead, last summer, he was murdered.

Since that time, there have been continual investigations of the shooting, and though the name of the suspect is spoken freely in town, no arrest has been made. Nor have there been, in this close-knit and religious town, any regrets.

"The town is well rid of him," said the wife of the grocer he shot and threatened to kill. "Justice is served."

Yesterday, as the news reached Skidmore that yet another investigation was closed, those feelings were echoed.

Dana Dunbar, a waitress at Mom's Cafe in Skidmore was asked how was it possible that the FBI had failed to obtain an indictment, though the widow had named the man who pulled the trigger, and everyone in town supposedly knew?

"She just said what was her opinion, it's just her word against everybody else's and everybody else isn't saying a thing," said Dunbar.

"Every time the FBI came into town everybody was uptight, they were tense and stayed home," Dunbar said. It was easy to tell when the FBI was around, she added, "because they traveled in pairs, and usually had two cars in town, and they'd stopped and talk to somebody at least an hour and a half, and after that, everybody'd know."

She also summarized, neatly, the way things were since the demise of McElroy.

"Quiet," she said.