PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — Lloyd Folsom and Everett "Skeet" Bishop got to be friends years ago after meeting each other in a mule-riding club.
Folsom lived in Prairie Village, a suburb of Kansas City, and kept his mules at Bishop's farm in Leavenworth County, Kan.
Then, within a month of each other in 1990, both men were murdered — their bodies sealed in barrels, dumped in a river and never found.
That much, at least, seems clear in an otherwise confusing case that has left Folsom’s murder unsolved.
On Friday, however, Eric Montgomery was sentenced to 19 months in prison for helping dispose of Folsom's body. There was no evidence to charge Montgomery with murder, but a Leavenworth County jury this month convicted the Kansas City man of aiding a felon.
Montgomery — who is listed as 75 in court documents but whose lawyer says he is 79 — almost escaped any punishment at all.
From April 18, 1990, until last year, Folsom was listed as a missing person. But last year, Prairie Village Police Sgt. Greg Hudson reopened the case and delved into a 1990s group of car and gun thieves that he says included Montgomery and Folsom.
Bishop was part owner of a Bonner Springs lumber yard and was not a criminal, Hudson said.
But Folsom introduced Bishop to his friends, convicted felons who could not legally own guns. They would go to Bishop’s farm to shoot weapons from his gun collection.
“He (Bishop) liked the thrill of being around them, but he couldn’t handle the stressors,” Hudson said.
Then Folsom disappeared, a month before Bishop was murdered. Folsom was 52 at the time.
Hudson suspects Bishop was killed because he knew too much, possibly even about Folsom’s murder.
In 1992, Montgomery received immunity for helping dispose of Bishop’s body by testifying against the man ultimately convicted of Bishop’s murder, fellow crime ring member Sherrill Brinkley.
But authorities say Montgomery did not tell them about Folsom at that time.
In June 2008, Hudson and a Leavenworth detective went to Montgomery’s home to ask about Folsom.
“He looked at me,” Hudson said, “and said ‘Lloyd’s dead.’ ”
Montgomery said Bishop killed Folsom. But Montgomery admitted he helped put Folsom’s body in a barrel and welded the top on.
Montgomery crossed the state line, chopped holes in the barrel with a hatchet, and floated it on the Missouri River, Hudson said.
“He bragged about how it would float out to the middle of the river and it would go rolling and bobbing on the current far down the river.”
Hudson said Montgomery either mistakenly assumed he had immunity for Folsom’s killing as well or thought the statute of limitations had expired.
Hudson said he doesn’t believe that Bishop killed anybody, despite Montgomery’s claim.
“There is no real conclusion, that’s the sad part,” Hudson said, “except all the players are all very old now.”
At the Friday sentencing, a doctor testified that Montgomery has cancer and heart and kidney problems. His attorney argued for a sentence of time served.
The prosecutor asked for the 20-month maximum and noted that Montgomery was well enough to get an assault conviction in 1999 and go to prison in 2004 for two aggravated battery convictions.
The judge imposed the 19-month sentence.
Outside the courtroom, Folsom’s sister and Bishop’s brother praised the work of police and prosecutors in getting the conviction after all these years.
“With what they had, they did a remarkable job,” said Folsom’s sister, Lois Serafin of Kansas City.