It’s September 1977 in Surrey, England, and missionary Kirk Anderson is seen standing outside a Mormon meeting house. Then he disappears, kickstarting a scandal that will entrance the tabloids for years to come. And when Anderson reemerges three days later and almost 200 miles away, he has a shocking tale to tell.
This unsettling story begins in the mid-1970s at Brigham Young University in Provo – a city on the shores of Utah Lake, Utah. Subsidized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – or Mormons – the institution was known as a place where young men and women of the faith could meet and make matches. And it was here that a 19-year-old Anderson first encountered Joyce McKinney – a woman six years his senior.
Having entered the world in August 1949 in Avery County, North Carolina, McKinney grew up in a small town in the picturesque Appalachian Mountains. Apparently, she exhibited an unusually high IQ as a child and was moved ahead in her classes at school. In McKinney’s spare time, meanwhile, she indulged her passions for cheerleading and marching band.