Kidnapping of Colleen Stan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

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.[1]

Kidnapping and imprisonment[edit]

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.[2] 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",[3] because Hooker's wife, Janice, and their baby were also in the car.[4] 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.[5] Stan was then locked in a wooden head box which was designed to prevent light, sound, and fresh air from entering.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9] She was assigned a new slave name, "K", not the word "Kay" but the letter "K",[10] 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,[11] 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.[12]

Stan states that her faith in God, and belief that someday she would be free, helped her survive,[13] and that her greatest fear was not of Cameron but of "The Company" which she said Cameron reinforced on a daily basis.[14] To avoid painful punishments, she said she tried to be a good slave[15] 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.[16]

Stan was even allowed to visit her family by herself in 1981.[10] 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.[10] 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.[10] 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.[17]

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.[18] 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" would go 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.[19] 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 of food which were always cold.


It wasn't until 1983 that Stan was reintroduced to the children and neighbors; she was also allowed to get a job as a maid at a motel.[20] Hooker wanted Stan to become his second wife, which was a turning point for Janice Hooker.[21] Other sources (the TV program Girl in The Box) state that Janice's breaking point came when her husband started talking about getting four more female slaves.

Janice Hooker stated that she had also been tortured, brainwashed and referred to as a whore over the years by her husband, and that this had started on their first date.[22] 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.[23]

In her television interview for Girl in The 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.[24]

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.[25] Authorities were unable to locate the remains of the woman, and with no physical proof, no murder charge was brought.

The trial[edit]

Chris Hatcher, forensic psychologist and criminal profiler, testified for the prosecution at the start of the 1985 trial.[26] Janice Hooker testified against Cameron Hooker in exchange for full immunity.[27]

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. Originally not eligible for parole until 2023, he had his hearing date moved up seven years to 2015 by California's Elderly Parole Program. On April 16, 2015, Hooker's request for parole was denied. He is eligible for another hearing in 2022. [27]

After the escape[edit]

Once back home, Colleen studied for an accounting degree, married, and had a daughter.[28] She also joined an organization to help abused women. Both she[29] and Janice have changed their last names and continue to live in California. There is no communication between the women. In March 2009, a version of this story, written by Jim Green, was published under the title Colleen Stan, The Simple Gifts of Life (ISBN 978-1440118371).

In popular culture[edit]

The Stan case and its core elements of an invisible conspiracy used to coerce the victim into servitude and long periods of confinement has formed the basis for several episodes of television crime series, including Criminal Minds ("The Company", Season 7), Ghost Whisperer ("Ball & Chain", Season 4), and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit ("Slaves", Season 1).

The case was profiled in the 2008 episode "Kidnapped" of the Investigation Discovery series Wicked Attraction. The 2012 episode of the SyFy series Paranormal Witness "The Apartment" told the story of the disappearance of Marie Spannhake and includes a small mention of the Stan kidnapping.

The case was documented in a book Perfect Victim: The True Story of the Girl in the Box by prosecutor Christine McGuire and Carla Norton[30] and referenced in Kathy Reichs' book Monday Mourning.[31]

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. It inspired the name for the Texas experimental/noise group Black Leather Jesus by Richard Ramirez.[citation needed]

In 2012, a short opera composed by Patrik Jarlestam and Jonas Bernander based on the kidnapping premiered in Stockholm, Sweden, called Den 4444:e dagen (The 4444:th day).[32]

The main storyline in The Poughkeepsie Tapes was based on this case.

On September 10, 2016, a television movie based on Stan's kidnapping titled Girl in the Box premiered on Lifetime Network;[33][34] the movie was followed by a two-hour documentary entitled, "Colleen Stan: Girl in the Box".


  1. ^ Green, Jim B. (2009). Colleen Stan: The Simple Gifts of Life. Dubbed by the Media "The Girl in the Box" and "The Sex Slave". iUniverse. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-4401-1837-1. 
  2. ^ Steinbrecher, Ed. "Hooker, Cameron Michael". astrological data. Astro-Databank. Retrieved June 7, 2012. 
  3. ^ (Woollard p. 5)
  4. ^ Woollard, Lisa. "I was locked in a box for 7 years!". Online Article. Closer Online. Retrieved June 8, 2012. 
  5. ^ Green, p. 22.
  6. ^ Green, p. 23.
  7. ^ Green, p. 172&175.
  8. ^ Green, p. 28.
  9. ^ "CNN Saturday Morning News". CNN. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. May 11, 2013. Retrieved December 25, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c d LaRosa, Paul (September 2, 2009). "Exclusive: Woman Imprisoned in Coffin for 7 Years Has Special Message for Jaycee Dugard". CBS News. Retrieved December 25, 2013. 
  11. ^ Green, p. 59-64.
  12. ^ Green, p. 84.
  13. ^ Green, p. 6.
  14. ^ Green, p. 65.
  15. ^ Green, p. 184.
  16. ^ Green, p. 88.
  17. ^ Green, p. 108-117.
  18. ^ Green, p. 118.
  19. ^ Green, p. 118-121.
  20. ^ Green, p. 131&132.
  21. ^ Green, p. 178.
  22. ^ Green, p. 170&172.
  23. ^ Green, p. 136.
  24. ^ Green, p. 179.
  25. ^ Green, p. 151-153.
  26. ^ Ewing, Charles; Joseph McCann (2006). Minds on Trial: Great Cases in Law and Psychology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-518176-0. 
  27. ^ a b Mendonsa, Cristina (April 16, 2015). "Man who tortured 'girl in the box' denied parole". KXTV. Retrieved May 22, 2015. 
  28. ^ "Free Girl". "The Girl in the Box by Free Girl". Retrieved June 8, 2012. 
  29. ^ "True Tales Number 1: The Seven Year Hitchhike". May 19, 1977. Retrieved June 8, 2012. 
  30. ^ Mcguire, Christine; Norton, Carla (1989). Perfect Victim: The True Story of "The Girl in the Box" by the D.A. That Prosecuted Her Captor. Dell. ISBN 978-0440204428. 
  31. ^ Reichs, Kathy (2004). Monday Mourning: A Novel. Scribner. ISBN 978-0743233477. 
  32. ^ "Patrik Jarlestam Portfolio". 
  33. ^ Egan, Nicole Weisensee (September 9, 2016). "WATCH: How the 'Girl in the Box' Became a Lifetime Movie – Nearly 40 Years After Her Kidnapping". People. Retrieved September 11, 2016. 
  34. ^ MacDonald, Lindsay (September 10, 2016). "TV Query: Is Lifetime's 'Girl in the Box' based on a true story?". Zap2it. Retrieved September 11, 2016. 

External links[edit]