Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joyce McKinney and the Manacled Mormon

Love at First Sight

A young Kirk Anderson
A young Kirk Anderson

In 1976, Joyce McKinney, then 26, was enrolled in Brigham Young University's School of Theater and Cinematic Arts. With her best friend — McKinney was later quick to tell reporters that she was a good girl herself but that this friend smoked and drank and fooled around with boys — she'd cruise the pizza parlor and the ice cream shop.

It was during one of these jaunts that McKinney espied her unlikely Romeo. Fellow drama student Kirk Anderson was a 250-pound, 19-year-old from Orem, Utah. He played the trombone and had attained Mormonism's Melchizedek Priesthood. McKinney aspired to a sort of glamour; young Anderson, a janitor's son, might be kindly described as a little square, even frumpy. She was taken with how clean-cut he was; decades later she would still praise his beautiful eyes and clean skin. She fell for him immediately.

He later told investigators that he fell for her orange Corvette. His was white; they agreed to race.

McKinney's memory is that he told her that he loved her the first night they met, and that on their second date he asked her to marry him. But Anderson would testify that it was McKinney who brought up love and marriage.

 

Before Anderson came along, McKinney had been telling people that she was dating Wayne Osmond. The Osmond Family has never confirmed this, and it was around this time that Wayne married Miss Utah. Reporter Anthony Delano's book-length account of McKinney's story suggests that, after a series of pageant failures and the announcement of Osmond's engagement and marriage, McKinney underwent an extended stay at the Utah Valley Hospital to treat depression or even a suicide attempt.

She claimed that she also went out with a series of supposedly nice Mormon boys who just wanted to rape her. But Anderson was different. And she wasn't going to let this one go.

Lovers Torn Asunder — Or, a Boy Came to His Senses

According to Joyce McKinney the couple quickly started planning a wedding for May, when Kirk Anderson would turn 20.

She claimed that Anderson was meanwhile "torturing" her by expertly turning her on when they were both religiously committed to premarital celibacy. Though she'd backtrack on this, she would later say that they consummated their love on a waterbed in the living room of the house she was renting — her first time, and they only time they had sex before Anderson disappeared.

She was worried that she was pregnant. She kept calling his house. His mother would intercept her; the family didn't approve of her or the relationship. His bishop urged Anderson to break things off.

Pressured by his family and church, Anderson first fled to Oregon under a false name. And then he did what all good Mormon boys hope to do: He accepted a mission abroad.

Desperate to contact him, McKinney took a drastic step. Her lawyers sent Anderson a letter stating that she was pregnant and planning to keep the child. But Anderson never believed her, partly, he claims, because she'd started telling him she was pregnant just a few days after they'd had sex.

McKinney admitted herself to Timpanogos Women's Health Center, but leaped out a window to run away to California.

When she drove back to Provo later to get her things, McKinney was injured in a car accident. Though she later tried to attribute the scar to an alleged attack by Mormons bent on keeping her away from Anderson, her car insurance settlement netted her $15,000, a significant nest egg that enabled her wild story's next stage.

As Joyce McKinney said, she did "what any American girl would do if her fiance disappeared into thin air." She moved to Los Angeles to start a sex-work career to raise the money to hire a team to track him down and get him back.

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