Friday, August 3, 2012

The Case of the Seven-Year Sex Slave

The Initial Revelation

  On Thursday May 19, 1977, 20-year-old Colleen Stan left Eugene, Oregon to visit a friend in the Northern California town of Westwood, almost 400 miles away She had no car or money for a bus, but she was used to getting around with her thumb, so she hitchhiked.
"I just decided," Colleen later said in an A&E documentary, "that I was going to go down and wish her a happy birthday."
Despite the fact that four years earlier, Edmund Kemper had stalked and killed female hitchhikers in San Jose, California   most young women did not give the potential dangers of the practice much thought. Hitchhiking in the ‘70s was a way of life, part of a statement of freedom that the youth subculture had adopted in recent years.  Eschewing material things or simply having no money, they got around based on their belief in the kindness of strangers.
Carol Smith
Carol Smith
So Colleen figured she'd find a ride fairly easily down Interstate 5 into the next state.  She never anticipated just what would happen when she did get a ride and was unable to get out.  Her benefactors had no plans to kill her.  They had something else in mind.

Over the Border into Trouble

 On the day she set out from Eugene, Colleen made good time, catching rides that took her pretty far along her way.  By afternoon, she had gotten 350 miles, to the town of Red Bluff.  She had less then one hundred miles to go.  She tried to evaluate each person who stopped to make sure they seemed safe, and had even turned down two potential rides when she did not feel right about them, so when a blue Dodge Colt stopped on the road with a man, woman and baby inside, Colleen was relieved.  They were young, clean-cut and friendly, so she got into the back seat.  "I was thanking my lucky stars," she said later.
The family, whose last name was Hooker, kept up an amiable conversation with her, but after a short time, Colleen noticed the driver, Cameron Hooker, staring at her through the rearview mirror.  It made her nervous."He was checking me out," she said later. When they stopped at a gas station about a half an hour into the drive Colleen went to use the restroom.  "A voice told me to run and jump out a window and never look back," she recalled, but she calmed her fears and went back to the car.  After all,   this man wouldn’t do anything to her in front of his wife and child, she reasoned. As she got in, they handed her a candy bar.
Cameron Hooker
Cameron Hooker
They drove for another mile or so until Cameron appeared to make up his mind about something.  The Hookers mentioned that they were very close to some spectacular ice caves and they wanted to make a quick stop.  Colleen didn't object, so Cameron drove down a dirt road that seemed to take them to the middle of nowhere and then stopped the car, turning the key to shut off the engine. His wife Janice, seeming to understand what was about to happen got out of the car holding the baby.  Suddenly Colleen found a knife pointed end against her throat, as Cameron ordered her to put her hands above her head and asked her if she was going to do whatever he said.  She froze in fear.  She didn't know what else to say except, "Yes."  Then he handcuffed, blindfolded, bound, and gagged her.
Now was the time for revealing his special creation.  He placed a large, metal-hinged box made out of plywood over Colleen’s head.  It was heavy and had dense insulation in between its double walls, and a neck hole that near choked her.  The interior was carpeted, which impeded her ability to breathe.  She was to learn that, wearing this, she could not eat, drink, hear, or see.  She was in total darkness.  She then felt Cameron cover her with something heavy that felt like the sleeping bag she'd carried with her.  When the car started up again, she assumed that Janice had gotten back inside.  She sensed them descending down a winding mountain road.
Gag restraint & head box
Gag restraint & head box (APWIDE)
They stopped to get dinner at a fast food place while Colleen waited to find out what they had planned for her.  She wondered if she would ever see her family or friends again.  Then she sensed the car moving for a while before it stopped altogether and Cameron removed her restraints and prodded her to get out.
Inside a house, he removed the box that he'd placed over her head.  That was a relief, but it proved to be short-lived.  Cameron led Colleen down some steps into a cellar.  He indicated that she was to stand on a Coleman ice chest.  Terrified of what he might do to her, she obeyed.   He told her to lift her hands over her head, which she did.  Then he used a leather strap to tie her wrists to the overhead pipes.  As he removed each item of her clothing, she felt him trembling.  She was still blindfolded, but she could sense that he was building up to something.  Uncomfortable as all of this was, it was nothing compared to what came next.
Cameron removed the chest that was supporting her weight, and she hung there, suspended in the air.  She kicked and screamed to be let loose.  "He told me to go ahead and scream," she said.  He led her to believe that in other such situations, he'd just cut the vocal chords of his captive and if she kept it up, he'd do the same to her.
To her astonishment, Cameron walked away and then returned.  He started to hit her with something that hurt, both front and back.  Colleen shrieked out for help, but that only made him hit her more.  She realized he was using a whip.  He then left her hanging, with her tiptoes just barely brushing something.  She could see beneath the blindfold that a pornographic magazine lay on the floor, featuring a naked woman hung up just as she was.
Yet he was not about to just leave her alone.  Cameron was so excited by his conquest and possession of a slave that he went out and soon returned with his wife.  They removed their clothes and had sex right there at Colleen's feet.  To her it was a nightmare.  She could not believe this was happening to her.  She'd never heard of people doing such things and she could not understand what she had done to deserve this treatment.
To her relief, Cameron did take her down from her hanging position.  Her arms were sore and her body hurt where he had beaten her.  He made her sit inside another locking box, and when he closed it, she discovered that she could not move.  Then he placed the head box back on her head.  She was now completely immobilized and barely able to breathe.  She began to scream, drawing her captor back.  He placed a strap over her chest that constricted her breathing even more, forcing her to stop making noise.  Then he left her like that for a very long and frightening night. She thought she was going to die.
Her simple wish that morning to surprise a friend had turned into the worst experience of her young life, and it had only just begun.

Behind Closed Doors

 In the quiet town of Red Bluff, California, Cameron and Janice Hooker did not stand out.  They came and went like anyone else, buying supplies but generally keeping to themselves.  At his job at a local lumber mill, Cameron was considered dependable.  In 1976, they had rented a home on 1140 Oak Street from an elderly couple, Mr. And Mrs. Leddy, who lived next door and who noted that the Hookers seemed to be quiet types, just another young couple starting a family.  They knew nothing about the couple’s background. Cameron was better at working with his hands than making friends.  He'd graduated from Red Bluff High School four years earlier and found work at Diamond Lands Corporation..  The following year, in 1973, he met 15-year-old Janice, an epileptic.  Cameron spotted how malleable she might be, given how easily she yielded to whatever he asked, just to have some attention.  She'd clearly take a man at any cost.
Cameron, hooked on violent pornography, persuaded Janice to allow him to undress her and tie her to a tree, suspended by her wrists.   It wasn't comfortable, but his affection afterward was its own reward.  Their kinky sexual acts became routine and by 1975, they were married.  That's when Cameron really felt safe to do whatever he pleased.  Janice belonged to him, so he made her more of a partner in his sexual fantasies.
Roy Hazelwood
Roy Hazelwood
A study of 20 female accomplices of sexual sadists conducted by Roy Hazelwood and Ann Burgess—actually prompted by Colleen Stan’s experience—indicated that the male's fantasy life often gradually becomes a shared pre-occupation.  Whatever he wants motivates both partners.  As the male progressively isolates the female, she becomes more dependent on him and less able to speak up for herself.
"It is important to understand," Hazelwood writes, "that the ritualistic and heterosexual sadist inherently believes that all women are evil…consequently, if and when these men set out to prove this hypothesis…they select nice, middle-class women who are apparently normal."  They use a process that exploited the woman's vulnerability to turn her into a compliant accomplice.
That seemed to be the dynamic at play in the Hookers' relationship.  Cameron led the dance, and Janice submitted.   If she didn't, he threatened her life, and she believed he might act on his threats.
Yet such men typically tire of this submissiveness and start looking for someone more exciting.  Cameron wanted a young female slave, and he needed Janice to assist him in acquiring one.  Since the female half of such couples fears losing the man's love if she does not go along, and since she also spots an opportunity to diminish her burden of abuse by having his attentions on someone else, she often agrees to the arrangement.  All Janice asked for was a baby, and Cameron could then go do whatever he wanted.  He accepted the deal and began to ponder the future.
He had to do some preparation.  He needed a way to contain this slave and to prevent neighbors from hearing her cries until she learned her place.  With his fantasies in motion, he designed and made the boxes he would soon use on Colleen Stan.  Janice got pregnant, had a baby, and began to raise it.  As months went by, it might have appeared that Cameron may have forgotten his goal, but he hadn't.  Not at all.  When the time was right and everything was ready, he used Janice to help him establish the appearance of safety, and went trolling for the first of what he hoped would become a string of female sex slaves.

A Grim Black Limbo

 As morning arrived, Colleen felt exhausted.  She'd hardly slept at all, and now she had to wonder what would happen next.  Cameron came to get her.  He removed the head box and then opened the body box that had kept her pinned in position.  She breathed in relief, but was still afraid of this man.  Would he now let her go, or was there more in store?
He starved her for the rest of the day, and finally gave her a meal of water and potatoes.  Cameron hung her for a while and then put the head box back on.  She had no idea when he was going to come or go, or what he had planned for her.  She was allowed to use a bedpan, and was then stretched out on a rack, where she lay immobile for hours.
Another whole day went by before she was allowed to eat again.  Cameron forced her to drink some water and eat an egg salad sandwich.  She ate it but the day was hot and humid, so she declined to finish a second one.  He angrily reminded her that she ought to be grateful.  She protested that she was full, but she quickly learned that a slave did what she was told, no matter how she felt.
For her disobedience, Cameron hung her up again with some leather cuffs and whipped her until she passed out.  When he finally took her down, she was still not hungry and she was in extreme pain, but she forced herself to eat the rest of the food.  Satisfied, he tied her up, replaced the head box and left.  Colleen was deeply relieved to finally be left alone, but still very much afraid.
Perfect Victim
Perfect Victim
This was to become her routine: a single meal for the day, torture, isolation, and uncertainty.  "She existed in a grim black limbo," wrote Christine McGuire and Carla Norton in their book on the case,  Perfect Victim: The True Story of the Girl in the Box by the D.A. Who Prosecuted her Captor. "Helpless."
"Sometimes I thought I was just going to go crazy," Colleen said.

A Family's Search

 After Colleen had been missing for four days, her friends in Eugene contacted her family, who had not seen or heard from her.  They all grew concerned.  Colleen's parents discovered her plan to go to Westwood and upon calling her friend there, realized that she'd never made it.  She generally kept in touch with them, so on May 23, they filed a missing persons report with the police department in Eugene, Oregon.  She was five-foot-six, they told the officers, and weighed around 135 pounds.  She wore her brown hair long and straight, and she had blue eyes.  Her parents, divorced and remarried, both lived in Riverside, California.   Colleen herself had been married just before she turned 17.  A high school dropout, she'd wed Tom Smith, 22, but their life together in Ohio had lasted only a year.  She came home to get her high school degree and then moved in with friends in Eugene who became her adopted family.  Though she had two sisters at home, she felt closer to her friends.
Tom Smith was an obvious suspect.  Not much was known about him, except that he was from Ohio.  But he'd never bothered to come after Colleen before so there was little reason to think he'd just grab her.
Eventually hope receded.  Colleen's family just knew something terrible had happened to her.  "She would not have let us worry," her sister Jenise told A&E.  Though she had found respite with another family, she was always thoughtful enough to let her parents know where she was.  It would be a very long time before anyone who knew and loved her ever saw her again.  Jenise believed that someone had killed her, or perhaps that a religious cult had abducted her.
Colleen's mother made frequent calls to the sheriff's department in Eugene, but they never had any new information for her.  The family grew disheartened.

The Company

 As time went on Colleen saw very little of Janice or the baby.  For most of the day, she was left chained, blindfolded and stretched out naked on the rack.  Cameron visited her frequently to whip her.  Sometimes when he strung her up, naked and bruised, he would take pictures of her and develop the film himself.  Every once in a while, a more sadistic streak ran through him and he'd hold Colleen's head under water until she would lose consciousness.  She wondered if he'd go too far some time and kill her.  Colleen would frequently ask him when he was going to let her go.  He would always say, “Soon.”
Despite his unrealistic fantasies, Cameron had a practical side.  He realized that keeping Colleen chained to a rack all day could harm her health.  He had to think up another way to keep her under control, so for 10 days he worked on a box that looked like a coffin.  Until it was finished, Colleen had to make do with the rack.  Then into this tiny wooden cell, Cameron placed her sleeping bag.  He shoved earplugs in her ears and chained her up before closing her inside.  There she would remain until he wanted her.
This was the routine for over a month, and at no time was Colleen allowed to shower or clean up.  She lost around twenty pounds and stopped menstruating.  Her world became the box, so she began to adapt.  Cameron had equipped the box with a blower for circulation, but it did not control the temperature, so Colleen learned to approximate the time of day by the temperature inside the box.
Box, under the bed, trial evidence
Box, under the bed, trial evidence
Cameron's bondage sessions with Colleen grew longer and became more frequent.  For added torture, he'd use a heat lamp to burn her skin or to electrocute her.  Sometimes he would strangle her, and the whippings never ceased.  He was sexually excited by all that he did to her, and the sessions would end up with him molesting her, although he did not have sexual intercourse with her.
Then one day, he decided to put her to work.  He constructed a tiny cell that fit under the staircase and into this he placed Colleen, unshackled but blindfolded.  After closing the door, he'd remove the blindfold and order her to shell nuts or do macramĂ©.  This became her small realm of liberty, the only time she had the freedom of movement, contained though it was.
Months came and went, and Colleen turned 21.  She spent that day, as well as Christmas and New Year's Day, in the coffin.  After eight months of submitting to torture and the uncertainty of ever getting away, Colleen suddenly learned something new.
Cameron subscribed to an underground sadomasochistic newspaper called Inside News.  The edition that came out on January 1, 1978 contained an article entitled, “They Sell Themselves Body and Soul When They Sign THE SLAVERY CONTRACT.”
That gave him an idea.  He set about to create a contract, one that would appear to be legally binding.  He gave Colleen the slave name, "K" and he signed the contract himself with a false name, "Michael Powers."  By the end of that month, he made her read the article and then sign the contract as Kay Powers.  She thought what she was reading was pure evil, but he told her that either she would sign it or he would sign it for her and then make her wish she had.  She complied.
The document contained the rules she was to follow, and her signature meant that she agreed to them.  She was now to refer to him as "master," and to keep her body “open” to him at all times for his satisfaction.  If she did not comply, he would not be allowed to keep her, and she might be turned over to someone not as nice as he was.
Contract of Slavery, trial evidence
Contract of Slavery, trial evidence
He lied and told her he paid $1,500 to register her with something called   the Slave Company.  He explained that people with the company were watching them all the time, and they had even bugged the house.  They knew who Colleen's relatives were and would kill them if she ever disobeyed.  Janice was his slave as well, and should either of them attempt to escape, the company would punish them by nailing their hands to a beam and hanging them up for days.
"He always had things to back up his stories," Colleen reported, "and I believed what he said."
Colleen remained his captive for seven years, but the conditions would shift and change with Cameron's obscene inspirations.  She learned to shut down her emotions.  "The more I played his game," she told journalist Betty Lease, "the better it was for me.  If I fought, it went on forever."  She learned that begging for mercy only further incited him, so she stopped asking.  In his presence, she contained her tears so he would not know how she felt.  She used the power of her mind to escape her situation.  But each day she was brought abruptly back.

Outright Slavery

 Eventually Colleen, now referred to in the house as K, was allowed to do household chores such as cooking, washing dishes, and cleaning up.  Yet whenever Cameron yelled "Attention!" she was to strip off her clothes, stand on her tiptoes, and reach her hands to the top of the doorway between the living room and dining room.
She wore a slave collar and was supplied with a registration card, supposedly from the slave company.  Cameron would tell her horror stories of things that had happened to slaves who'd disobeyed.  One had her tongue taken out with a soldering gun, he claimed, another pulled limb from limb, and another her fingers torn off.
Then one night, Cameron brought Colleen into the marriage bed.  Janice tried to go along with the sex play, but ultimately she left and went into another room.  That night for the first time, Cameron raped Colleen.  After that he had regular sex with her.
As he began to trust her not to run, Cameron gave her more time in the cramped workshop under the stairs, even allowing her to sleep there.  But her freedom was short-lived.  The Hookers moved into a trailer on a piece of land that provided more privacy, yet space inside was at a premium.  To keep Colleen captive, Cameron designed a ventilated box that would fit under the couples' waterbed.  This realm of near-sensory deprivation was Colleen's new home, and Cameron gave her a bedpan to use for her necessities.
Like a prisoner in maximum security, she was allowed out for an hour each day to brush her teeth, eat, clean her bedpan, and sometimes wash her hair.  Her only other respite was working outside in the yard on days that Cameron had off from work, but he kept an eye on her.  He warned her that the company was always watching and they would find her if she tried to run.  Those neighbors who saw and spoke to her believed she was a live-in babysitter.  At no time did she ask for help.  She was even allowed to go jogging and she always came back.
Whatever the Hookers did on their waterbed, from sex to giving birth to their second daughter, Colleen could hear in her box.  There was no privacy, for her or for Janice.  Cameron called the shots.
Typically, Colleen just quietly did whatever she was asked, but sometimes she would make a mistake.  For that she would be punished with electrical wires that left small scars on her skin.  Eventually, that would work to her advantage.

A Strange Reprieve

 Colleen asked for a Bible for Christmas one year, and Cameron complied.  Every chance she got, she buried herself in its text.  Cameron continued to tell her about the company and to subject her to things that would deepen his hold on her.  He pierced her labia for "identification" purposes, although he later he told her it was symbolic of a wedding ring and that some day he hoped to have children with her.
Three years after her abduction, in 1980, Cameron allowed her to go out one night with Janice.  They had some drinks, met some men, and went home with them.  With Cameron's permission, Janice even carried on an affair with one of them.
Both Cameron and Janice worked, but Janice lost her job, so Cameron decided to put his slave to better use.  He took her to Reno and neighboring towns to make her beg for money in the streets.  It was humiliating, but Colleen had no choice.  She never exploited opportunities to request help.
Then Janice found work and Colleen was left alone at home to baby-sit.  Again, although she was not tied up now, she did nothing to try to gain her freedom.  At night, she was often chained to the toilet, sleeping on the floor of the back bedroom.  It was hard, but it was better than the box under the bed.
Janice brought work home and engaged Colleen to help her, thereby using her to bring in more money.  However, the two women sometimes fought, because Janice was jealous of Cameron's excessive attention to the younger woman.  She wanted Cameron to let Colleen go.  Cameron made Janice quit her job so she could watch the children, and Colleen returned to her life in the box under the bed.  Cameron convinced her that he had paid the company $30,000 to ensure complete protection for her, which was a huge financial sacrifice, so she had better behave.  Again he reiterated that the company had put bugs into the cars, homes, and phone lines of all the members of her family, to make sure she did not contact them to get help.
One day he decided to make sure Colleen knew her place by having her point a gun down her throat.  Not knowing if it was loaded, she obeyed his command to pull the trigger.  The empty metallic click sent a shock through her and she knew that he might one day kill her.  Cameron had Colleen say goodbye to all the neighbors to make them think she was going back to southern California.  They didn’t know she was getting confined again to the trailer.
Colleen missed her family, so as a reward for her obedience Cameron allowed her to write three letters to her sisters to let them know she was alive.  He checked the letters' contents before sending them out.  He even let her call home once from a payphone, and eventually even arranged for a visit.  He said it was rare that the company allowed such a thing, and they would be monitoring it carefully.
She was left inside the box for a full week before being taken out to go on her trip.  Cameron had warned her that the company might put her through some tests first, and he gave her a description of their museum of skeletons from other runaway slaves.  Yet in the end, he said, the company had decided to forego the tests, but if she said anything to anyone about her situation, they would rush in and grab her.
On March 20, 1981, three and a half years into her captivity, Cameron provided Colleen with a cover story about him being a computer programmer with whom she was involved, and then took her to meet with her parents and sisters.
Her father, utterly surprised to see her and this new "boyfriend" who did not even wait to be introduced, noted her thin, haggard appearance.  Afraid that they had offended her in some way to have made her disappear for so long, the family walked on eggshells, leaving their many questions unspoken.  Colleen remained vague about where she had been, but she was overjoyed to see them all.  She was not sure how long she had—she hoped for a whole weekend—but all she wanted was to make every minute count.
"She gave us no information on where she'd been," Jenise recalled, "or on where she'd be going.  We were all afraid to sit her down and get it out of her.  We were afraid we would lose her again."
The next morning, she went to visit her mother, who lived a few blocks away and who took her to church and to see other relatives.  Then it was over.  "Mike" called and said he would be there soon to pick her up.  After only 24 hours, he had decided to cut her visit short.
When it came time for Cameron to pick her up to take her back to Red Bluff, she told her family that he was her fiancĂ©.  Her sister took a picture of the two of them, and she thought Colleen looked happy.  She did not know how badly Colleen wanted to beg her for help.

Time to Leave

 Her year of semi-free existence was over.  Cameron put her back inside the box, and that's where she stayed most of the time for the next three years.  Once she managed to kick open the bolted door, but grew afraid of what might happen to her, so she told Cameron what she had done.  He fixed the damage without punishing her and forced her back inside.
Her physical condition declined.  Her hair fell out and she lost more weight.
As nice as it was for Cameron to have Colleen, he apparently wasn't satisfied.  He talked about wanting more slaves, which meant he would need more space.  He decided to build a dungeon, and he had Colleen help to dig a deep hole for it in the yard.  He put in a floor and built brick walls, finishing it in November of 1983.  He moved her into it, but when it flooded, Cameron saw how impractical it was and once again he put Colleen back in her box.
Yet there was a growing threat to which Cameron was blind.  Janice disliked the fact that her husband was having regular sex with Colleen.  To quiet her anger, she read the Bible.  Soon she was reading it quite regularly.  She began to feel increasingly more ashamed over what was going on in her home.
Colleen turned 27.  To her mind, this was now her life.  She'd been with the Hookers for seven years, with no end in sight.  She began to receive small liberties again, and was even allowed to have an outside job working at the King’s Lodge Motel.  She was told the extra money would be spent on buying her a small house near the Hookers, which would be for her.
Janice Hooker
Janice Hooker (APWIDE)
Janice began attending a local Nazarene church, and Colleen sometimes went with her.  Cameron, too, was biblically inspired, but only to emphasize his ownership of them both.   He would say that this arrangement was what God wanted, including the sexual acts he had started to command between them.  They couldn't help but think of the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar from Genesis.
Nevertheless, Janice knew that the situation was morally wrong, so she went to Pastor Frank Dabney and other members of her church for advice.  Instead of revealing the full story, however, she framed it as a love triangle.  They all let her know that God would not approve.  That admonition began to work on her and she finally formed a plan.
On August 9, 1984, Janice picked up Colleen at the King’s Lodge.  She told her that there was no company and no slavery contract—it was all lies.  Colleen listened to this and realized that nothing now bound her to Cameron.  She abruptly quit her job and left with Janice.  She stayed one more night, asking Cameron to allow her and Janice to sleep alone.  He complied.  They used the time to plan Colleen's escape, to be effected the following day while Cameron was at work.
Colleen called her father in Riverside to ask for money to buy a ticket to come home.  He wired it immediately.  With ticket in hand, she then called Cameron from the bus station.  She told him she knew he had been lying all along and she was leaving.  Cameron cried, but Colleen was not to be deterred.  She walked away from seven years of forced captivity to try to find her life again.
"I got on the bus and I left."

The Truth Comes Out

 Colleen returned to her parents, not saying a word to the authorities about what she had been through.  She also did not tell her family and she stayed in touch with Janice Hooker by phone.  Janice asked her to keep the whole thing quiet, at least until she knew what she herself was going to do.  Cameron scared her, but she wanted to leave.
Cameron and Janice, at first separated and then reunited. Then they began to get rid of any evidence that Colleen had ever been there at their home.  Whenever she called, Cameron begged her to come back, but she refused.  Yet she assured the Hookers each time that she would not go to the police.
As she dropped hints about her ordeal to her parents, they began to urge her to turn these people in.  Her cousins made threatening calls to the Hookers.  Colleen told Cameron that she forgave him and that she would pray for him to stay away from his life of sin.  Yet she did nothing further.
Then Janice left Cameron again, this time for good.  Her fear and guilt had eaten away at her.  She needed to talk with someone and she chose the receptionist at a doctor's office.   They talked for almost two hours, and the receptionist thought she was asking for help.  She encouraged Janice to go ahead and tell her what was really bothering her, so Janice let the truth out.  Having told one person, and having become frightened about what might happen to her two daughters, Janice went straight to Pastor Dabney to confess everything.  He was stunned, and with her permission, he phoned the police.
Detective Al Shamblin arrived at the church.  For the first time Janice mentioned Cameron’s connection to the 1976 disappearance of a young woman from the area named Marie Elizabeth Spannhake.  She knew of her nickname, Marliz, and accurately depicted other details.
The prosecuting attorneys knew they would need Janice's help in pinning the charges on Cameron, so in return for testifying against her estranged husband they granted her immunity from prosecution.  She then told a detailed story about the abduction of Spannhake.  It started much like Colleen’s abduction, but Cameron had shot her in the stomach and then strangled her to death.  He drove quite a while, Janice recalled, before he dumped the body.  Yet even with Janice's assistance, the police did not find the woman’s remains.
Janice told them about Colleen and how her husband had brainwashed the girl to keep her under his control.  She provided more details, including how she had helped to destroy evidence, so detectives went out to investigate.  One team questioned neighbors, who insisted that Cameron was "nice," "normal," and "good-tempered," while Shamblin went to Riverside to talk with Colleen.  He found her to be lucid and helpful, if disturbingly detached.  She corroborated Janice’s story, but deputy district attorney A Christina McGuire found real problems: Colleen had had ample time to escape and upon getting to Riverside, she'd never even contacted the police.
But then as McGuire was thumbing through a sketchbook taken from Hooker's trailer, a slide fell out. It was a photograph of a slavery contract—a document that Janice had said had been destroyed.  Here it was preserved and ready for the evidence file.  They also had slides of Janice being hung and bound in various ways.  Another interview with her revealed that Cameron had stalked more women with the intention of making more slaves.  Two rolls of undeveloped film confiscated from Cameron's stash were sent to the FBI for processing.  They contained some pictures of Colleen in captivity, including photos of her naked and hooked to the ceiling or on the rack.  This case was looking better and better.
Officer Shamblin outside the Hooker home
Officer Shamblin outside the Hooker home (APWIDE)
On November 18, 1984, Detective Shamblin drove to the Hooker’s residence and arrested Cameron.  Defense Attorney Roland Papendick was retained for him.


Cameron Hooker under arrest
Cameron Hooker under arrest (APWIDE)
Cameron was booked on kidnapping, rape, sodomy, and assorted other charges.  The media was informed, and it soon became a high profile case with national coverage.  Many neighbors doubted that Cameron Hooker could have done something so awful.  They weren't surprised to hear that he pleaded "not guilty" to all counts.
The prosecution realized that there was a statute of limitation problem with the kidnapping charge, because seven years had passed and the statute stipulated three.  Also, the defense was saying that Colleen had remained with the Hookers voluntarily and that Janice had turned in her husband because she was jealous of Colleen.
Colleen's quiet demeanor upon being questioned and the absence of any sense that she wanted revenge tended to give this defense more weight.  So did Janice's lackluster and inconsistent performance during the preliminary hearing.  Yet the judge decided there was sufficient evidence for a trial.
Searching both homes where the Hookers had lived with Colleen, police found whips, leather restraints, the head boxes, the stretcher, and hooks in the ceiling that corroborated Colleen's statements.  They also found many publications illustrating violent, sadistic pornography.
Comparisons between Colleen Smith and Patricia Hearst, a 19-year-old celebrity kidnap victim who in 1974 had helped her captors to rob banks, soon surfaced.  Aware that brainwashing was not easy to prove and that it had not worked as a defense for Hearst, McGuire interviewed six experts on the procedure.  Among them was Dr. Donald Lunde, who would later be hired by the defense.  After a great deal of consideration and allowed only one of this type of expert, she finally retained Dr. Chris Hatcher.  He had done work on the effects of terrorism, had studied the People’s Temple in Jonestown, and had written well-received articles on the psychology of hostages.
McGuire then had to learn all she could about Colleen's ordeal. Troublesome for the prosecution was a tape on which Colleen told Cameron that she loved him.  McGuire was not happy about this piece of evidence, but they moved forward.  Together they made a timeline across the seven years, looked at the photos, and went over how the head box and other contraptions were used.  Colleen was mostly passive throughout.
With pressure from the county that this trial could be too expensive, McGuire had to listen to Papendick's attempts to reach a plea deal, based on the fact that the sexual acts were consensual.  But McGuire wanted badly to try this man for his monstrous crimes.  She refused to deal.
Papendick tried several delaying tactics, having his own experts examine both Colleen and Janice, but finally a trial date was set.  Cameron Hooker would face a jury, beginning on September 24, 1985 in Redwood City in San Mateo County Superior Court, before Judge Clarence B. Knight. Hooker was charged with a total of 16 felony counts: one kidnapping, with a special allegation of having used a knife; seven of rape; one of forced oral copulation; one of forced penetration with a foreign object; one of forced sodomy; three of false imprisonment; and two of abducting to live in an illicit relationship.
The prosecution began its opening statement.  McGuire made reference to the Story of O, Cameron’s favorite movie about a young woman abducted by a sadistic "master" and turned into a sex slave so compliant she was willing to kill herself for him.  She hoped this dramatic image would clarify how someone can be transformed into a person without a will of her own.  Cameron Hooker, she said, had broken Colleen's will.
The defense emphasized issues of voluntary stay, insisting that Colleen and Cameron had had a relationship.
Janice was the first prosecution witness to take the stand..  She answered questions more clearly than during the preliminary hearing, because she was free of the effects of medication.  She explained Cameron’s plan, the fictitious company, the slave contract, and Cameron's whips.  She also admitted to burning most of the evidence.  She discussed the dungeon and his plan for acquiring more slaves.
The jury saw the pictures processed by the FBI lab displayed on large posters, along with Cameron's pornography collection, a replica of the head box and the dehumanizing box that had been built for underneath the bed.  Prior to the trial, several people had tried it out to see what it was like (as did some jurors during the trial).  "I felt like I was in a coffin," said McGuire of her experience.  The box had been awkward and uncomfortable.  It was unnerving to be enclosed for only a few moments and she could not imagine three whole years inside this contraption.
The prosecution also had built a full-scale dungeon like the one for which Colleen had been forced to dig a hole.  Then Colleen told her story, which she found difficult to do.  The jurors and reporters seemed to have nearly as much difficulty believing it.
To illustrate how the head box worked, it was brought in the courtroom and placed over the head of a woman dressed much like Colleen.  The jury was stunned at how it fit and that it had been part of Colleen's ordeal.  Hearing about it was not nearly as dramatic as seeing it lifted over someone's head and screwed into place.     
McGuire spent a lot of time going over Colleen’s contacts with neighbors and friends.  She brought up the company and Colleen’s belief in it.  She wanted the jury to understand that what appeared to be freedom was in fact a form of captivity that was based on her fear of trying to run away.  She wore invisible chains.
Colleen’s sister, Bonnie Sue Martin, testified about her sister’s appearance when she visited home in 1981.  It was beneficial for the jury to see someone, with her thick, healthy hair, who resembled what Colleen once had looked like.  That made an impression.  Clearly, by comparison, the girl had suffered.
Dr. Michael J. Vovakes, a physician, stated that the scars on Colleen’s ankles and wrists had resulted from restraints.  He also described the burn marks from electrocution, and Colleen's pierced labia.
Then psychologist Chris Hatcher, with impressive credentials and experience in such cases, explained to the jury how mind control worked.  He addressed the dynamics of sado-masochism, and the dominant and submissive personalities involved—particularly the excitement factor for the "master" in getting someone to submit to his whims.  Hatcher then talked about how the effects of sudden kidnapping, death threats, being housed in a dark tomb that disturbed daylight patterns, the physical abuse, the loss of control over necessary bodily functions, and the lack of communication were collectively effective in breaking down Colleen's will.  He had examined the crime scene and had interviewed Colleen at length, and he believed that she had been coerced into staying with the Hookers.  In other words, her values, her identity, and her whole way of looking at the world had been changed.
There was talk throughout the trial of what was known as the Stockholm syndrome, which occurs under the unusual conditions of extreme stress in captivity, where there may be torture and a high degree of uncertainty.  Kidnapping victims, abused spouses, and tortured prisoners are most prone to it.  The captive appears to become involved to some degree with his or her captor, and even to consent to abuse and captivity.  That person may express feelings of affection in a way that surprises outsiders and makes them wonder at just how captive and abused the person really is.
What appears to occur, according to experts who have studied the phenomenon, is that the person "freezes" as a way to avoid further torture, and then yields to try to appease the captor.  If the captor then takes care of basic needs, the captive may feel gratitude bordering on affection..  Such victims become susceptible to suggestion, and having their own world shrink to that shared with the captor, may become sympathetic.   Identifying with the captor and seeing no way to escape, it becomes easier to acquiesce, even to the point of acting as if they love their captors.  They are trying to arrange their otherwise unsafe and difficult world for maximum comfort and safety.
Hatcher used Hooker's own pornography to show the jury the steps involved in creating a sex slave out of an ordinary girl.  Then he applied all of this to Colleen.
Papendick had trouble with cross-examination, since Hatcher knew his field well, so finally he quit to await his own expert's testimony.
The prosecution rested.

Hooker's Defense

 On Friday, October 18, Cameron Hooker took the stand to explain his side of the story.  He admitted to the kidnapping and described his fantasy of slaves and bondage.  Yet he tried to gain sympathy by telling the court that Colleen had been ill from substance abuse withdrawal and he had been worried about her.   He maintained that she had fallen in love with him and he was merely caring for her.
He went on to explain how he had found the Slave Contract in a magazine.  He described his obedience drills and admitted to telling Colleen “little stories" about the company.  Even so, he said, all of the sexual acts were consensual, as were the photographs he had taken of her.
Then there were several bombshell revelations, substantiated by hard evidence. After Colleen left, she had made a total of 29 phone calls to the Hookers, one of which was over an hour long, and Papendick said this behavior showed her attachment to them. This appeared to surprise the jury.  He had Hooker also state that his wife, Janice, had been jealous of their relationship.  He'd been caught between them as they bickered over their differences.
Papendick believed that if they could get the jury to consider only the kidnapping charge, Cameron would be home free, because the statute of limitations on kidnapping had already run out.  His strategy was to make Janice appear to have been jealous of the relationship growing between Colleen and Cameron, which made her turn on her husband and lie.  He brought up her outing with Colleen to the bar and a ski trip they took together.  He then presented a stack of letters that Colleen had written to Cameron in which she had freely expressed her love for him and her desire to have children with him.
"I seem to be falling deeper and deeper into love with you with each passing day,"  She wrote. She also wrote that she did not want to leave him.
McGuire had not known about these letters and when she later confronted Colleen about their existence, Colleen simply said that she had forgotten about them.   She claimed that Cameron had made her write them and that she had done so out of fear.  "I used to tell him that I loved him," she defended herself to the A&E interviewer, "because the better I treated him the better he treated me."
But this was seriously damaging to the case, as was Colleen's brief visit to her family.  McGuire had to work hard to turn things around.
Dr. Lunde, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Stanford University Medical School, took the stand.  He had worked on the Patty Hearst case, among other cases related to captivity, and he dismissed the idea of brainwashing.  He did not think there was an invisible psychological barrier that one can place around people to keep them from walking away.  He also explained coercive persuasion to the jury, veering off too often into legal terminology and being chided by the judge.  Taking a different tack, Lunde said that enduring long durations of immobility would cause muscles to go into involuntary spasms.  That implied the Colleen was lying about her ordeal.
However, McGuire pointed out that Colleen had had substantial exercise working in the garden, and digging.  She hoped the jury was following her reasoning.  Then she brought out the fact that Dr. Lunde, whom she herself had interviewed prior to trial, had failed to research the case thoroughly and had never personally interviewed Colleen or Janice.  He had only reviewed the report prepared by Dr. Hatcher, listened to the recordings, and interviewed Cameron.  He had not even written a report, nor did he recall that in his own papers he had used terms such as "broken," although he now acted as if he failed to understand them.  In the end, the judge undercut him and he lost some credibility.
After five weeks of trial, on October 25, the defense rested.  In closing statements, McGuire focused on the charges of kidnap, rape and sexual assault, while Papendick honed in on the phone calls, the visit home, and the love letters.  McGuire said Colleen was a captive; Papendick said her actions were voluntary.
While it seemed clear that the jury had been offended by Cameron Hooker's arrogance and lack of remorse, they also seemed confused by Colleen's apparent bond with her abductors.  The prosecution had not presented definitive proof that she had no choice in the matter.   This would be a difficult decision.
"The real question," said Greg Lefevre, a television journalist who covered the trial, "was reasonable doubt.  Was the jury going to buy it?  Were they skeptical of this young girl?"
The jury looked over the evidence and talked about the issues for three days.  On the third day, they sent word that they were hung on one of the counts, which meant they were solid on the others.  Finally on Halloween, they returned a verdict.
Hooker in cuffs, in court (APWIDE)
Hooker in cuffs, in court (APWIDE)
Cameron Hooker was found guilty of ten felony counts, including kidnapping, rape, and other sex offenses.  As he listened, Cameron showed no emotion.
On November 22, Hooker was sentenced to consecutive terms for the sex crimes, which totaled 60 years.  He received 1 to 25 years for the kidnap, plus a 5 to10 year sentence for using a knife while doing so.  If he served the maximum time sentenced, he was looking at 104 years.  His lawyer immediately appealed.
In a press conference, Colleen expressed how glad she was that Cameron Hooker would never be able to hurt anyone else the way he had hurt her.  That had been her primary motive in going through the trial.
Although she still felt a bit fragile, she got on with her life.   She found a job, went into therapy, and went to school for an accounting degree.  She managed to find a way to feel better about herself.  She got married and had a child, but then got divorced.  Her daughter considers her to be brave and strong.
"My life," Colleen said on the documentary, "isn't any different from anyone else's, I don't think."  She became a crisis hotline volunteer for domestic abuse and sexual assault, and she sometimes still warns young people about the dangers of hitchhiking.
Cameron Hooker's appeals were denied and he remains in prison.


  1. Really well captured.
    More people need to be aware

  2. Thanks for the post, i was looking for the real whole story

  3. Cooper's punishment should've involved been tied upside down by the balls and going 12 rounds twice a day with Tyson.

  4. Very well written. Case back in the news recently. Why are so many men such monsters? That's the real question.

  5. Think Cameron Hooker needs to stay in prison with no possibility of parole.... Also I think the police need to search for Marie Elizabeth Spannhake to get Hooker for the Murder of Marliz. Agree?