Cloner Dogged by Sex Scandal

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Getty;Ahn Young-joon / AP

Left: 1979, Utah. Joyce McKinney's arrest picture from Salt Lake County Sheriff's office. Right: Bernann McKinney holds one of her five cloned pitbull puppies

This is an updated version of a story that originally appeared on Friday August 8, 2008

It took a while to register, but there was something naggingly familiar about Bernann McKinney, the 57-year-old California woman whose ecstatically beaming features were splashed across the world's media on Aug. 6. The story was already a corker: the five baby pitbull terriers McKinney was showing off had been cloned in Korea from the ear of her late and much-missed pet Booger, who'd once saved her from an attack by another dog that had practically ripped McKinney's arm off.

But the story got even better when newspaper suspicions proved true and McKinney was forced to admit she was none other than Joyce McKinney, the former Miss Wyoming who 30 years ago fled Britain to escape charges of kidnapping a Mormon missionary and forcibly having sex with him.

Britons over a certain age will recall with a shudder the surreal and sexy details of that story from the winter of 1977. The 27-year-old McKinney was accused in court, along with a friend, Keith May, of abducting 21-year-old Mormon missionary Kirk Anderson from a church in a London suburb and taking him to a cottage in Okehampton, Devon in the southwest of England. There, said Anderson, he was chained to a bed and forced to have sex with McKinney for three days. McKinney, once a Mormon herself, was said to have formed a crush on him after they'd first met and had sex in 1975. Anderson tried to break off the relationship but McKinney was infatuated and stalked him to England where he'd asked for a posting as a missionary to escape her attentions.

The story was gift-wrapped for Britain's tabloid press and the "Mormon Sex Slave" case held the country agog as Anderson and McKinney gave their versions of what went on in the idyllic Devon cottage to a court assembled to decide whether McKinney had a case to answer. McKinney claimed that she was trying to rekindle her affair with Anderson using techniques of seduction recommended by Alex Comfort, author of that redolent manual of the day, The Joy of Sex.

McKinney told the court that the chains, fur-lined manacles, rope, chloroform and wedding trousseau complete with "pink feathers and see-through nighties" were all props for the bondage sessions she planned for McKinnon. "We had such a fun time — just like old times," McKinney told the court in her native North Carolina drawl. "I love him so much that I would ski naked down Mount Everest with a carnation up my nose if he asked me to," she added. Such sexual frankness rather stuck out in a magistrates court in sedate, suburban Surrey, England, in those days.

For his part, Anderson claimed that he'd been kidnapped at gunpoint (albeit a replica), forced to have sex while chained to the bed (and twice more unchained), and that, despite being six foot four and 240 lbs. (110 kg), had never resisted. "I had made a plan for my release," Anderson testified, "but it wasn't through running away. I was going to cooperate." Even after his ordeal, when McKinney and May drove him back to London and a long lunch in Trafalgar Square, he still cooperated.

After deliberating, the Surrey magistrates decided that McKinney and May should stand trial on kidnap charges but granted McKinney bail. Outside the court she declared her innocence, regaled the press with the promise that they'd heard nothing yet and walked off, tossing over her shoulder, "You can have my life story for twenty-five thousand!" But in April 1978, a month before her trial was due to begin, McKinney and May fled the country.

The police and media both chased after, with British tabloids competing to find McKinney, making do in the meantime with pictures and revelations about her former career as a nude model for sex magazines. When reporters ran McKinney and May to ground in Atlanta, Georgia a month later, the couple revealed how they'd used a succession of disguises — first as nuns, then in a sari and Sinbad the Sailor outfit.

In July, 1979, the FBI finally caught up with the couple in Asheville, North Carolina, where they got suspended sentences for falsifying passports but were not considered liable for extradition. In 1984, McKinney surfaced again, when she was arrested outside the office of Kirk Anderson in Salt Lake City where he was living. Police found rope and handcuffs in her car.

In Seoul, as she prepared to return home with one of her brand new Boogers, Bernann McKinney initially denied that she is one and the same Joyce McKinney who is still technically a fugitive from British justice. But confronted by the weight of circumstantial evidence — Joyce McKinney's middle name is Bernann, both are former beauty queens, both owned pitbulls and even appear to share the same social security number, birth date and home address — Bernann McKinney confessed to being a reinvention rather than a clone of her former self. "I thought people would be honest enough to see me as a person who was trying to do something good and not as a celebrity," a tearful McKinney told the Associated Press in a phone call. Ignoring the fact that police in her hometown of Newland, Avery County in North Carolina still want to talk to her about various other charges on file from recent years, McKinney still proclaims her innocence and calls her capers of 30 years ago "a figment of the tabloid press ... I don't want that garbage in with the puppy story."

This is an updated version of a story that originally appeared on Friday August 8, 2008