Aug. 15, 2001 -- For months, French biochemist Brigitte Boisselier has been touting a lab hidden in the United States that was already conducting experiments in human cloning.
But the mystery didn't last for very long. Boisselier inadvertently tipped her hand when she testified before the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C. last week on why human cloning should be allowed.
"She gave many clues in that testimony," says Joe Lauria, a U.S. correspondent with the Sunday Times of London who pressed to find the lab's location for the British paper.
At the hearing, Boisselier said a father had written a letter asking her to clone his 10-month-old son who died during surgery to repair a defective heart.
Boisselier, a member of a cult called The Raelian Movement that proposes humans are the cloned creations of advanced extraterrestrials, never named the father or the location of the lab. But she did hint that her letter writer was a local legislator somewhere in the United States.
Archive Provides the Missing Link
Researching old news archives, Lauria told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America today that he discovered a former West Virginia state legislator and congressional candidate had lost his infant son in circumstances similar to Boisselier's undisclosed letter writer. That 1999 news article in a Charleston, W.Va., paper identified the local legislator as Mark Hunt.
Lauria further discovered in a Charleston phone directory a listing for Bioserv, Inc.—a company Boisselier claimed to have started with the letter writer. A call to the company was answered by a building manger who confirmed that Mark Hunt paid the rent on the building.
"It was spooky," says Lauria about discovering the connection and the lab's location. "I realized I was the only person in Charleston, West Virginia — other than Mr. Hunt and his law partner — who knew what was going on."
Lab Closed, But Not the Research
Lauria says that Bioserv's "really dilapidated, awfully kept building" was actually an old high school. The lab itself "didn't look like much more than a high school chemistry lab," he says. "But my reading and research showed that you don't need that much sophisticated equipment to do [human cloning experiments]," he says.
Since publishing the findings in the Sunday Times of London on Aug. 5, Lauria says, Hunt admitted to his financial backing of Bioserv, which has no connections to two other similarly named local companies.
Lauria also told Good Morning America co-host George Stephanopoulos that Hunt has since severed his relationship with Biosselier and has shut down the lab.
However, "I do know he wants to continue to clone his son," says Lauria. "He will go elsewhere, maybe out of the country if it becomes against the law in the United States."
"He wants his son back," says Lauria. "Or at least a replica."