Cloned puppies may have exposed 31-year mystery
A woman who made news around the world when she had five pups cloned from her beloved pit bull Booger looked very familiar to some who saw her picture: She may be the same woman who 31 years earlier was accused of abducting a Mormon missionary in England, handcuffing him to a bed and making him her sex slave.
A paper trail of court documents and jail booking information uncovered by The Associated Press suggests 57-year-old dog-lover Bernann McKinney is Joyce McKinney, who in 1977 faced charges of unlawful imprisonment in the missionary case. She jumped bail and was never brought to justice.
British tabloids first recognized the blonde woman's smiling face when she appeared in news photographs this past week with the five pit bull pups she paid South Korean scientists $53,000 to clone from her pet dog Booger who died two years ago.
There is indeed a striking resemblance between Bernann McKinney and Joyce McKinney. Arrest records and court documents for the two names over the years show other similarities: the same birth date and Social Security numbers, the same hometown of Newland, N.C., and Joyce McKinney's middle name is Bernann.
"It fits," said Utah filmmaker Trent Harris, who made a documentary about Joyce McKinney's case. He said photographs of McKinney and the dogs left him with no question about her identity.
"I said 'Oh my God, that's Joyce,'" he said.
Bernann McKinney has flatly denied any connections to Joyce McKinney and says she planned to take legal action against those who suggested otherwise.
"I'm filing a $10 million libel action and I don't think you want AP to be part of that," McKinney said before boarding a plane to return to the U.S.
While in South Korea, she told reporters she was a screenwriter and handed out business cards with a Hollywood, Calif., address. The AP found that address did not exist.
In a phone call later Friday to the AP, Bernann McKinney repeated she had nothing to do with the Mormon abduction story and only wanted to talk about the cloning of her dog.
"It's a story of courage, of a very brave service dog taking care of me. He passed away. I was so depressed. I had him cloned," she said.
The story of Joyce McKinney is the stuff of pulp fiction: a North Carolina-born beauty queen who moved west, won the title Miss Wyoming USA, converted to Mormonism and went on to college at Brigham Young University, where she became obsessed with a Mormon fellow student.
When that young Mormon took a missionary trip to England, authorities say McKinney hired a private detective so she could locate and follow him.
She and a male accomplice were accused of abducting the 21-year-old missionary as he went door to door, taking him to a rented 17th-century "honeymoon cottage" in Devon and chaining him spread-eagled to a bed with several pairs of mink-lined handcuffs.
There, investigators say, he was repeatedly forced to have sex with McKinney before he was able to escape and notify police.
In a 1977 court hearing mobbed by the British press, Joyce McKinney said she'd fallen head-over-heels in love with the Mormon man and acknowledged tracking him to England. "I loved him so much," she told a judge, "that I would ski naked down Mount Everest in the nude with a carnation up my nose if he asked me to."
But she denied a sexual assault, saying the young man was a willing partner.
"I have been played up as a very wicked and perverted woman," she told the court. "It's not true."
McKinney and her accomplice spent three months in a London jail before being released on bail.
Press reports at the time that said the pair then jumped bail, posing as deaf-mute actors in Ireland to board an Air Canada flight to Toronto and eventually a bus to Cleveland, where investigators lost their trail.
Joyce McKinney surfaced again in Utah in May 1984 and was arrested for allegedly stalking the workplace of the same Mormon man she was accused of imprisoning in England. News reports say that police found a length of rope and handcuffs in the trunk of McKinney's car, along with notebooks detailing the man's daily activities.
Set to stand trial for lying to police and harassment in 1986, McKinney again disappeared just before proceedings and the case was dismissed.
It now appears Joyce McKinney may have escaped justice in the long-ago British case also. London police told The AP they've consigned the case to the history books because of its age and won't seek McKinney's extradition.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the 1984 Salt Lake County booking documents, which lists McKinney's full name, address, Social Security number and birth date. The AP compared the data to court and address records on file in North Carolina.
In both states, documents list McKinney's full name as Joyce Bernann McKinney and cite an Aug. 6, 1950, birth date, along with a hometown of Newland, N.C. A comparison of Social Security numbers on the documents show an exact match of the first five digits, the only numbers typically available in public records.
At the Avery County courthouse in McKinney's hometown of Newland in the western North Carolina mountains, a clerk said she instantly recognized the woman snuggling puppies as the Joyce Bernann McKinney who has a been a frequent defendant in court cases there.
"She is a person of note in our little community," said clerk Julia Henson.
Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frey said there are several charges on file against Joyce McKinney, including an active warrant seeking her arrest on a 2003 charge of communicating a threat against another woman.
Other charges include passing bad checks, an assault on a public officials and an 2004 animal cruelty charge alleging she failed to take proper care of a horse. That charge was dismissed.
James Stamey, the husband of the woman McKinney was charged with threatening, said McKinney left Newland about two years ago and no one had really seen or heard from her.
Until she showed up in the news about the cloned puppies.
"That's our Joy," Stamey said from his home in Newland.
Years ago, Stamey said, McKinney was a beautiful girl worthy of the Miss Wyoming USA crown.
"She's ugly as sin now," he said. "But, sure enough, that's her."