My Right Foot

Gordon McGuire's becoming a role model for the severely disfigured. But he's by no means any sweet-natured Elephant Man type.

Which entailed free love.

The cult was most notorious for its tactic of evangelism through sex, termed "flirty fishing," in which women were supposed to bring men to God by seducing them.

Cult members couldn't figure out if McGuire was a good neighbor or a federal agent, which he definitely wasn't. Female cultists were dispatched to do some flirty fishing.

Gordon McGuire with his new foot and his new dog Doogan at McGuire's mother's house in Paradise Valley.
Irvin Serrano
Gordon McGuire with his new foot and his new dog Doogan at McGuire's mother's house in Paradise Valley.
Gordon McGuire at age 3.
Gordon McGuire at age 3.

"Five or six times a beautiful young girl would show up at my door [and say] she could only survive if I helped her," McGuire says. "It was always the same story: She needed to get out of some situation and she was going to kill herself if she didn't get some help. By the last few, I was like, `Well, maybe the world would be a better place if you weren't in it.' It just got ridiculous."

Latham says, "He got in with some pretty weird people up there."

Finally, an older woman showed up at his door. McGuire took a liking to her and they began living together. Much of the time, though, she seemed to be interviewing him. He would give his thoughts on the Bible and theology. She would then disappear for long periods. McGuire assumed she was off passing along what he had said to other cult members.

One night, she returned with a revelation. She told McGuire that cult members had come to believe he was the reincarnation of Zillah, who they thought was, according to the Bible, the first weapons designer for the Assyrian army. Zillah was actually one of the wives of Lamech, one of the descendants of Cain in Genesis.

"They didn't know what the hell they were talking about," he says now. "But it was still nice to be assigned a character from the Bible."

Neighbors began visiting him. They would talk deep into the night. Recalling his years proselytizing as a teen, he became a sort of pastor to the group.

Things on the mountain turned sour, though, when the woman decided she wanted her three children to move in with her and McGuire in his house. That led to a fight. She threatened to burn down the house. McGuire pitched her a bottle of rubbing alcohol, challenging her to do it. She stormed out.

A few minutes later, McGuire smelled smoke.

He went outside and discovered the rear of the house on fire. His girlfriend, sitting on a doghouse out back, blithely commented, "Looks like you've got a fire."

By the time the local volunteer fire department got there, the house and much of McGuire's belongings were gone.

So he got in his truck and headed back to his parents' home in Arizona. Where he was no longer welcome.

After a few rocky weeks with Gordon's parents, who were in the process of separating, Darrell McGuire suggested that his son go to Lubbock, Texas, to help his grandmother.

"She didn't need much help," Gordon says. "My dad just wanted me out of there. He had a new woman. I don't think I was part of his plans."

He went to Lubbock, where much of his extended family lives. He was surprised by the warm welcome, especially from one cousin and her female friend, Sonya.

Sonya, still striking at 52 years old, immediately latched onto McGuire, and within weeks they were living together.

Later, McGuire found out that his cousins had told Sonya that he came from a rich family and had recently received a large accident settlement.

"I was a sugar daddy, I guess," he says. "At first I just thought it was love."

Or lust. The couple would have sex several times a day, often spending whole days in bed. McGuire's body felt better. He didn't need the meth during his time with Sonya.

He later found a scientific study on the Internet explaining what he might have been feeling. Ejaculations, the study said, help keep lymphatic fluid moving through the body.

"I'm assuming it just helped keep all those fluids from pooling," he says. "Whatever was happening, it made me feel pretty good."

But his new girlfriend was also going through his money quickly. And in time, he came to find out that his lover had a checkered past.

One day at a park, McGuire struck up a conversation with a man walking his dog. The man said he worked at a nearby state school for troubled kids. McGuire told the man that his girlfriend had worked at the state school, too.

The man asked McGuire jokingly if his girlfriend was one of the women fired for running a prostitution ring out of the school.

The man described the ringleader of the group. He said the madam, a voluptuous woman approaching 50, would make her students scrub the bathrooms with toothbrushes.

Sonya had told McGuire about making her students scrub bathrooms with toothbrushes.

McGuire brought up the issue later during an argument, and Sonya came clean about her days at the school. Later, she bragged to him about having a black book "with all the sexual proclivities of all the town's leaders in it."

McGuire could deal with his girlfriend's being a notorious madam. But her spending was draining him, cutting into the nest egg he planned to use to move back to California and buy a house. When his savings dropped to $20,000, he left Sonya and Texas and headed back to Lake Elsinore.

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