SALT LAKE CITY – 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’s 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.
Dog lover Bernann McKinney acknowledged Saturday that she is indeed Joyce McKinney, who in 1977 became a British tabloid sensation when she faced charges of unlawful imprisonment in the missionary case. She jumped bail and was never brought to justice.
Through tears, she explained that she went public with her efforts to replicate Booger, who died two years ago, hoping people would be able to focus on that story rather than the “garbage” of the past.
“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,” McKinney said.
“I think I gave people too much credit,” she said.
British tabloids first recognized the blond 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.
McKinney, who initially denied a connection, acknowledged her identity after an Associated Press story noted similarities in arrest records and court documents. They had the same birth date and Social Security numbers, the same hometown of Newland, N.C., and Joyce McKinney’s middle name is Bernann.
But McKinney, now 57, said that as far as she’s concerned, the Joyce McKinney of 31 years ago doesn’t exist. She maintains her innocence and says the woman of all those years ago is a “figment of the tabloid press.”
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 and went on to college at Brigham Young University, where she became obsessed with a 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 as he went door to door, taking him to a rented 17th-century “honeymoon cottage” in Devon and chaining him spread-eagle 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 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 sexual assault, saying the man was a willing partner.
McKinney and her accomplice spent three months in a London jail before being released on bail.
Press reports at the time said the pair then jumped bail, posing as deaf-mute actors in Ireland to board a 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 man she was accused of imprisoning.
Set to stand trial for lying to police and harassment in 1986, McKinney again disappeared just before proceedings and the case was dismissed.
London police said they’ve consigned the case to the history books because of its age and won’t seek McKinney’s extradition.
“They don’t have a case,” she said.
“It’s taken years of therapy to get past this,” she said. “We go to church and serve the Lord and try to lead good lives.”