Photo of the Day

Red Bluff Police Department Lt. Jerry Brown, at a Red Bluff news conference Tuesday, Nov. 27, 1984, shows a head restraining device found at the home of Cameron Hooker who has been arrested and being held for questioning in connection with the kidnap of a women and bolding her as a sex-slave for seven years. (AP Photo/Walt Zeboski)

Red Bluff Police Department Lt. Jerry Brown, at a Red Bluff news conference Tuesday, Nov. 27, 1984, shows a head restraining device found at the home of Cameron Hooker who has been arrested and being held for questioning in connection with the kidnap of a women and holding her as a sex-slave for seven years. (AP Photo/Walt Zeboski)

The Girl in the Box

Warning: This is a Very Disturbing Story

The case of Colleen Stan is not well-known; possibly because it is so horrific that people just don’t want to know about it. Colleen Stan was a hitchhiker who was kidnapped, tortured, and forced to live in a box as a sex slave for almost a decade in the 1970s.

Twenty-year-old Colleen Stan is living the life of her dreams: total freedom to go anywhere she wants. Always wanting to explore, she normally arrives at her destinations by hitchhiking. But when she sets out to hitchhike her way to California, she accepts a ride from a friendly-looking family who ends up kidnapping her and sending her down a winding path of darkness, sadistic sex, and despair as she lives her life in a coffin-like box for the next seven years.

Colleen immediately went through incredible suffering in the car when she was placed in a contraption, built by her kidnapper, that enclosed her head in a wooden box. Colleen was taken to her kidnapper’s home and hung naked by her wrists from the basement ceiling. She was blindfolded, and left for days at a time in that position. She was frequently whipped, and Hooker and his wife sometimes had sex in the room at Colleen’s feet.

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, “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.

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.

Cameron Hooker was born in Alturas, California on November 5th, 1953. He grew to be a shy, introverted boy. Tall, thin, geeky and bespectacled, he had no genuine friends and took refuge in his intense imagination. By the time he’d left school and begun working in a local lumbermill, his only reading matter was pornography – the kind which portrayed bound women being tortured. Over time his fantasies took on a single theme; in them he flogged nude women who were pinioned with leather straps. When he was nineteen, he met a shy fifteen-year-old named Janice.

The girl was not good looking and she suffered from low self-esteem; Cameron found her easy to acquire. In fact, she was grateful to be asked out by such an apparently polite youth – a fellow who drove his own car and showed her respect. Other boys ignored her or gave her a hard time; in fact, she had a history of doting on young men who treated her with contempt – it seems that the worse they behaved towards her, the more she adored them. Hooker allowed her to become attached to him; then one day he told her that he wanted to take her into the woods, suspend her from a tree and beat her. Janice was shocked and afraid of being hurt, but she was more afraid of losing Cameron. Though he did hurt her and she particularly disliked the agony of being hung by her wrists, he was so grateful and loving when he took her down that she complied with all of his desires.

They were married in 1975 and in their rented home in Red Bluff, she continued to submit to Hooker’s twisted needs. In fact, his drive to restrain and hurt her became steadily greater. Often he’d put a rubber gas mask over her head – its eye-pieces were painted over and Janice was thus deprived of sight whilst he abused her. She was terrified of the gas mask and when he added choking her into unconsciousness to his routines, Janice decided that she wanted to be excused from her husband’s most extreme and painful acts.

She’d known for a long time about Cameron’s dream of kidnapping a girl and using her as his slave. She later explained that she wanted a baby and longed to live a ‘normal’ life; if he had a slave – a girl who could not say ‘no’ – he would stop wanting to whip and throttle her. She agreed to help to him abduct a girl that he could use as his pain-slave. The only condition she made was that Cameron was not to have sex with his captive – he could hurt her as much as he liked, but there was to be no intercourse.

Many writers about this case go to great lengths to excuse Janice for her part in the events which then took place. They dutifully reprint statements she has made about how ‘sickened’ and ‘guilty’ she felt. However, the undeniable truth is that she was a willing accomplice; she made the crimes possible, she played a vital part in luring Hooker’s victims and despite providing self-serving accounts (which portrayed her dashing off in distress to vomit when her husband was busy with rape or torture), Janice Hooker plainly enjoyed the limitless power they had over their victims.

In my opinion, Janice Hooker was just as guilty (and worthy of punishment) as Myra Hindley – one of the ‘Moors Murderers’ – whose case has many parallels with her own. Hindley took a full and enthusiastic part in the sexual abuse, sadistic punishment and murder of children; like Janice, she was instrumental in gaining the victims’ trust before they were snatched; like Janice, she laid the blame for everything on her partner.

In January 1976, the Hookers offered a ride to an eighteen years old girl in the nearby town of Chico – Janice later remembered her name as ‘Marliz Spannhake’ when informing the Police. Instead of going to her apartment, Cameron drove to a lonely spot. The girl was tied up, her cries were silenced by a strap that went over her jaw, her head was locked in box that Cameron had specially made for the purpose.

Once taken back to the Hooker home, she was stripped naked and hung by her wrists from the ceiling. Cameron beat her and attempted to make her take this punishment without screaming or even crying in pain. The girl could not or would not conform to this order. Hooker had spent most of his life dreaming about this moment; but his treasured fantasy began to fall apart on its first contact with reality. The more he hurt his victim, the more noise she made; perhaps she didn’t understand what he wanted or maybe she was determined to resist at all costs. Either way, he became so angry that he resorted to cutting her vocal chords (Janice claimed that he’d mentioned the possibility of having a ‘Silent Slave’).

In the end, deeming the girl uncontrollable, he decided she had to die and shot her repeatedly in the belly with a pellet gun. When that weapon failed to take her life, Hooker strangled her. In the early hours of the next morning, the Hookers drove into the mountains, and buried ‘Marliz Spannhake’ in a shallow grave. Although the police were later able to verify that a girl named ‘Maric Elizabeth Spannhake’ had vanished one evening in January 1976 they were unable to locate the grave – even though Janice went with them to aid their search. Consequently, there was not enough evidence to charge Cameron Hooker with murder.

Colleen Stan hitchhiking - taken around the time of her kidnapping.

Colleen Stan hitchhiking – taken around the time of her kidnapping.

On 19th May 1977, twenty-year-old Colleen Stan (not her real name) was hitchhiking between Eugene, Oregon and Westwood in Northern California.

A young couple with a baby offered her a lift in their blue Dodge Colt. Years later, Stan recalled that she found the appearance of the couple reassuringly safe; the mild-looking man and his plain-faced woman who held a little baby seemed to present no danger. Colleen was always careful when she hitchhiked; she prided herself on taking no chances with vehicle-users who might take advantage of a woman alone. The presence of a mother and her little child effectively persuaded her to accept a ride. Thus she entered the Hookers’ automobile and began seven years of hell.

The Hookers chatted amiably with her. When they stopped at a service station thirty or so minutes later, they politely apologised for the delay and suggested that she might want to use the lavatory whilst they got more fuel and went to the convenience store there. Inside the restroom, Colleen had a gut-feeling that almost approached panic – she thought about making an excuse to the couple and finding another ride. But she choked back this moment of dread – after all, they’d been very nice to her and she thought that the man was hardly likely to try anything nasty in front of his wife and baby.

She rejoined the Hookers; they’d bought candy bars and even got one for her too. Colleen felt rather guilty about her doubts. When the young couple casually pointed out that they were only a little way from some spectacular ice caves and suggested making a brief detour to see them, their future victim had no objection. When the car stopped in that lonely place, Cameron held a knife to her throat: “Put your hands above your head” he ordered. For a moment she froze, paralysed with terror; Hooker repeated the command, pressing the knife harder against her neck. She obeyed. He swifty handcuffed her hands behind her back and she was blindfolded. He placed the jaw strap round her head and tightened it so she could not open her mouth. Then he bound her ankles and placed one of his carefully-built wooden boxes over her head. It was insulated with material designed to absorb sound. When it was closed and locked shut, she was in total darkness and hardly able to breathe.

The Hookers covered her with her own sleeping bag and drove to another quiet spot – they were waiting for darkness to come so that they could sneak the girl into their home. Janice went to fetch a fast food meal and Colleen was released from the headbox for a while; she could smell the greasy food her captors were eating. The blindfold remained in place so she could not even guess their location; all too soon the box was put back on her head and she was taken to the Hookers’ house.

The headbox and her ankle restraints were removed; Colleen was guided through a back door into a kitchen – she could make out the bases of a stove and a refrigerator; then Cameron took her down steps into a basement.

She was made to stand on a big chest freezer; her hands were cuffed to a pipe above her head and her clothes were removed item by item – her captor took off one cuff at a time to strip her upper clothing, never leaving both of her hands unfastened. Even though she was crippled by fright, she realised that Hooker was trembling as her exposed her.

The handcuffs were replaced by stiff leather cuffs and then Hooker pulled the freezer out from under her feet. Suddenly all her weight was painfully borne by her wrists. She started to struggle – CRACK! – A whip sent a sickening wave of hot pain across her back. CRACK! – The whip found her belly.

Gradually she learned that the whip stopped when she hung still and was silent. Through the bottom edge of her blindfold she saw a pornographic magazine – it depicted a naked woman hung in exactly the same way as herself at that moment.

He left her hanging for a while; her mind boiled with thoughts she could not properly focus on – what had she done to deserve this horror, this abuse? Hooker returned and put some kind of support beneath her feet – her toes could barely make contact with it and the relief offered to her wrists was only slight. As Hooker well knew, she had to alternate between standing on tiptoe and hanging by her wrists.

Colleen heard Janice enter the room; the partners were speaking in whispers. She caught glimpses of their own clothing being removed. Their whispers became moans and grunts – they were having sex on the basement floor right beneath their suspended captive.

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.

The torture box

The torture box

The box which was placed on Colleen’s head when she was kidnapped

The box which was placed on Colleen’s head when she was kidnapped

Coffin-like box

The Coffin-like box

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.

Colleen Stan on her 20th birthday. She was kidnapped soon after this photo was taken.

Colleen Stan on her 20th birthday. She was kidnapped soon after this photo was taken.

It 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 neighbours 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.

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.

Colleen Stan liked to hitchhike, but got into the wrong car in 1977.

Colleen Stan liked to hitchhike, but got into the wrong car in 1977.

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.

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.

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.

His wife Jan was complicit in the abuse, and referred to Stan as a “piece of furniture.”

She kind of treated me like I was having an affair with her husband. They had no qualms about hurting me,” Stan said. “He had finished building this coffin-sized box; put chains around my neck; run the chains down my body. He had put a blower that would blow in air. 

And then he would keep me in there for like 22, 23 hours a day. It was just absolutely pitch-black in this box. Totally dark. I had claustrophobia so terribly bad. I would get really anxious and focus on being locked up in the box and listening to that fan next to my head just going on and on and on, just feeling like I was going to lose my mind.”

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 macramé. 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.

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, 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.

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.

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 fiancé. 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.

Cameron Hooker

Cameron Hooker

According to Stan, Hooker feared he had given his slave too much freedom, and took her back to his mobile home where he locked her in the wooden box under his water bed; she remained in the box 23 hours a day for the next three years. Bodily functions were dealt with by her using a bed pan which she hooked under herself with her feet. It was stated in court that Hookers’ children were told “K” would go home at night; however, after they had gone to bed, he took her out of the box to feed and torture her. She was reportedly not allowed to make any noise and had to lie still 23 hours long at a time in the dark with little air to breathe. In summer, conditions were especially harsh on her as the temperatures would swelter to over 100 degrees in her box. In order to feed herself, she ate cold scraps of food.

It wasn’t until 1983 that Stan was reintroduced to the children and neighbours, with her being also allowed to get a job as a maid at a motel. Hooker wanted her to become his second wife, which was a turning point for Janice. According to TV program Girl in The Box, Janice’s breaking point came when her husband started talking about getting four more female slaves. Particularly, she confessed that—starting with their first date—she had also been tortured, brainwashed and referred to as a whore over the years by Cameron.

Janice further stated that she survived their relationship with denial and compartmentalization. By August 1984, she began struggling with herself, and also went to Stan in order to inform her that Hooker was not part of “The Company.” However, she did maintain that the organization did exist. In a televised interview for Girl in The Box, Stan told the interviewer that she then went to a bus station and called Hooker to inform him that she was leaving him, and that he reacted by bursting into tears;  Stan subsequently caught a bus home. In the months that followed, she did not contact the police but continued to call Hooker regularly; she explained this at the trial by saying that she wanted to give Hooker, at Janice’s request, a chance to reform. Three months later, Janice reported her husband to the police. She informed the Red Bluff Police, Lt. Jerry D. Brown that Cameron had kidnapped, tortured, and murdered Marie Elizabeth Spannhake, who had disappeared in 1976. Authorities were unable to locate the remains of the woman. Due to the lack of physical proof, no murder charge was brought.

Chris Hatcher, a forensic psychologist and criminal profiler, testified for Cameron’s prosecution at the start of the 1985 trial, and Janice testified against her husband in exchange for full immunity.

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.

Colleen was eventually reunited with her family and managed to start afresh.

“My first feeling was when I was free and reunited with my family was just, I was so filled with joy,” Stan stays. “It was just like my cup was overflowing with joy.”

“Coming home is the first step to the rest of your life”

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 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.

On April 16, 2015, Hooker’s request for parole was denied, with him being eligible for another hearing in 2022.

Both Colleen and Janice have changed their last names and continue to live in California, but with no communication.

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