The pioneer owner of the cloned puppy, however, flatly denies she's one and the same.
The story of Bernann McKinney surfaced from Seoul, South Korea, earlier this week and ran in newspapers throughout the world. She is the 57-year-old woman who reportedly sold her house to raise enough money to have Seoul-based RNL Bio clone a litter of puppies from the DNA of her beloved pit bull, Booger, who had died two years ago.
When The Associated Press story ran in The Salt Lake Tribune Wednesday, it got the attention of local filmmaker Trent Harris, who had done a documentary about Joyce McKinney, the woman charged in the missionary abduction, nearly 30 years ago. He was "pretty sure" Bernann McKinney and Joyce McKinney were the same person.
I got hold of Bernann McKinney, however briefly, Wednesday night when I called from my home to reach her during the daytime in Seoul. I got her mobile number from Hyung-Jin Kim, the AP reporter who had written the cloning story.
The first time I called, she hung up on me the second I said I was a reporter from Salt Lake City. The second time, she said "Why are you slandering me," as soon as I identified myself and hung up again. The third time, I blurted out, "Are you Joyce McKinney?" She said, "No," and hung up again.
I called the AP reporter and asked if he had an e-mail address because she wouldn't talk to me over the phone. He said he had similar problems interviewing her, noting: "She is a confusing person."
Her reaction on the phone, the fact that she is the right age and apparently from the same home town, and the similarity of the pictures of her now and of Joyce McKinney 30 years ago, suggests she is the same person.
Bernann McKinney, however, flatly denied the connection to the Telegraph in London. "That's garbage, that's rot," she told the newspaper.
Joyce McKinney made international news when she was charged with abducting a Mormon missionary, with the help of a male friend, and taking him to a cottage in England, where she forced him to have sex with her. She and the alleged victim had known each other at BYU before he left for his mission. She always maintained it was consensual sex.
Joyce McKinney made more news when she disappeared as the trial was underway and fled the country. British authorities eventually gave up trying to extradite her, but she was in trouble with the law again in Salt Lake City in the mid-1980s for allegedly stalking the alleged rape victim. She sued the Salt Lake City Police Department for false arrest and assault, but the case was eventually dismissed.
During the early and mid-1980s, Joyce McKinney often would call newspapers, including The Salt Lake Tribune, and talk to any reporter who answered the phone about her exploits, her persecution by authorities and her fan mail, including a colorful letter she received from a fraternity house at the University of Texas inviting her down to their place.