Kidnapping of Colleen Stan
Colleen Stan is an American woman who was kidnapped and held as a sex slave by Cameron and Janice Hooker in Red Bluff, California, for over seven years between 1977 and 1984. At the trial of her abductor, her story was described as unparalleled in FBI history.
Kidnapping and imprisonment
On May 19, 1977, Cameron Hooker (born on November 5, 1953) kidnapped 20-year-old Colleen Stan as she was hitchhiking to a friend's birthday party. Stan stated that she was an experienced hitchhiker and had already allowed two rides to go past before accepting the ride with Hooker. "She felt confident climbing into the blue van", because Hooker's wife, Janice, and their baby were also in the car. According to Stan and Janice Hooker's testimonies, once they were alone in an isolated area, Hooker pulled off the highway and put a knife to Stan's throat.
Earlier, Cameron and Janice had reached an agreement that Cameron could capture a slave to take Janice's place, as up until that time Cameron had been using Janice to act out his bondage fantasies. There was to be no sex with Stan according to the agreement, but this was later to change.
On the first night of her kidnapping, Stan was strung up by the hands and beaten by Cameron. She was then left blindfolded and suspended while Cameron and Janice had sex together below her.
After her kidnapping, Stan stated that she was tortured and kept locked in a box 23 hours a day until, in January 1978, she was given a contract and forced to sign herself into slavery for life. She said that Cameron led her to believe that she was being watched by a large, powerful organization called "The Company" which would painfully torture her and harm her family if she tried to escape. She was assigned a new slave name, "Kay", forced to call Cameron "Master", and was not allowed to talk without permission. Cameron wanted his new slave to be like the woman in the Story of O. Shortly after he named his slave K, Cameron started raping Stan. This consisted of oral rape as Cameron did not want to have sex with Stan vaginally as he considered that a breach in his agreement with his wife. He also penetrated Stan with various implements vaginally and anally. The Hooker family, together with Stan, then moved to a mobile home in Red Bluff, where Stan stated that she was kept locked in wooden boxes under the matrimonial water bed. In 1978, Janice gave birth to a second baby on the water bed above Stan.
Stan states that her faith in God, and belief that someday she would be free, helped her survive, and that her greatest fear was not of Cameron but of "The Company" which she said Cameron reinforced on a daily basis. To avoid painful punishments, she said she tried to be a good slave and that due to this she was allowed out to jog, work in the yard, and care for the Hooker children alone in the mobile home. Even with an open door, neighbors, and a telephone, Stan made no attempt to escape; she said that her fear of "The Company" kept her from seeking help.
Stan was even allowed to visit her family by herself in 1981. While at home, she did not reveal the truth about her situation and again stated that this was because of her fear of "The Company" and what they would do to her and her family. Her family thought she must have become involved in a cult because of her homemade clothes, lack of money, and absence of communications over the years. Her family did not want to pressure her fearing she would go away forever. Hooker posed as Stan's boyfriend and returned the next day. Stan's family took a photograph of the pair together, which shows them smiling and happy. Stan explained this at the trial as being due to her happiness at visiting her family.
According to Stan, Hooker feared he had given his slave too much freedom—he took her back to his mobile home and 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 the Hooker children were told "Kay" (a form of Stan's slave name K) had gone home and that at night, after the children had gone to bed, Hooker would take her out of the box to feed and torture her. She was not allowed to make any noise and she had to lie still twenty-three long hours at a time, in the dark with little air to breathe. In the summer conditions were especially harsh on her as the temperatures would swelter to over 100 degrees in her box. She ate scraps which were always cold and usually leftovers.
It wasn't until 1984 that Stan was reintroduced to the children and neighbors; she was also allowed to get a job as a maid at a motel. Hooker wanted Stan to become his second wife, which was a turning point for Janice Hooker. Other sources (the TV program Girl in a Box) state that Janice's breaking point came when her husband started talking about getting five more female slaves.
Janice Hooker stated that she had also been tortured and brainwashed over the years by her husband, and that this had started on their first date. Janice said that she survived her relationship with Hooker by denial and compartmentalization. By August 1984, her world was falling apart. Janice told the police that she went to Stan and told her that Hooker was not part of "The Company." She did maintain however that the organization did exist.
In her television interview for Girl in a Box, Stan told the interviewer that she then went to the bus station and called Hooker to inform him that she was leaving him (and that he reacted by bursting into tears) and she then 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 did this because she wanted to give Hooker, at Janice's request, a chance to reform. Three months later Janice Hooker reported her husband to the police.
Janice Hooker informed the Red Bluff Police, Lt. Jerry D. Brown, that Cameron Hooker had kidnapped, tortured and murdered Marie Elizabeth Spannhake who had disappeared in 1976. Authorities were unable to locate the remains of the woman, and with no physical proof, no murder charge was brought.
After the escape
Once back home, Stan went to school for an accounting degree, married, and had a daughter. She also joined an organization to help abused women. Both she and Janice have changed their last names and continue to live in California. There is no communication between the women. In March 2009, an updated version of Stan's story written by Jim Green was published under the title Colleen Stan, The Simple Gifts of Life (ISBN 978-1440118371).
Chris Hatcher, forensic psychologist and criminal profiler, testified for the prosecution at the start of the 1985 trial. Janice Hooker testified against Cameron Hooker in exchange for full immunity.
Hooker was in the end sentenced to consecutive terms for the sexual assaults, for the kidnapping, and for using a knife in the process, for a total of 104 years imprisonment. He will be eligible for parole in 2023.
In popular culture
The case was documented in a book by the prosecutor and was the inspiration for an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit ("Slaves", Season 1) and Ghost Whisperer ("Ball & Chain", Season 4). The Stan case is also referenced in Kathy Reichs' book Monday Mourning. There is also a Criminal Minds episode inspired by her story, with Derek Morgan's cousin being enslaved by a man with the same threat of "The Company"
In 1996, American art-rock band Elysian Fields released the song "Jack in the Box," on their first album Bleed Your Cedar. The song describes the experience of the box that Hooker kept Stan imprisoned in under the bed he shared with his wife, and alludes to the power Hooker had over her.
In 1998 Cameron Kingsley Hayes depicted the kidnapping in a painting called "In 1977 Cameron Hooker picked up a hitchiker, 19-year old Colleen Stan…"
In 2012, the episode "The Apartment" of the SyFy series "Paranormal Witness" told the story of the disappearance of Marie Spannhake at the hands of Cameron and Janice Hooker with a small mention of this kidnapping.
In 2012, a short opera composed by Patrik Jarlestam (SWE) and Jonas Bernander (SWE) based on the kidnapping premiered in Stockholm, Sweden, called Den fyratusenfyrahundrafyrtiofjärde dagen (The 4444:th day).
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