Mar 09, 1: In the spring of , Colleen Stan was an attractive young woman and well aware of the dangers of hitchhiking. The practice seemed particularly risky those days, just a few years after the arrest of a serial killer in Santa Cruz who preyed on young female hitchers.
Advertisement But Stan, young and high-spirited, had been hitching for years and nothing had gone wrong. She was also broke, so when she decided it might be fun to make a surprise birthday visit to a friend living more than miles south in Westwood, Calif. So on May 19, , Stan, 20, stepped onto the shoulder of the highway and stuck out her thumb. He seemed harmless enough, especially since he was traveling with his wife, Janice, 19, who cradled a baby in her arms.
Still, despite their normal appearance, Stan started to feel a growing sense of dread. After a few miles, Hooker stopped for gas and Stan used the restroom. That's when she said she heard a voice. At another stop, this one in a secluded wooded area, Hooker pulled out a butcher knife and held it to Stan's throat. He blindfolded and gagged her and fastened a pound hinged wooden box around her head, blocking the outside world. When the car stopped, her captors led her into a house and down into a cellar.
Thus began her long nightmare. Hooker devised all kinds of torments. He starved her, whipped her, burned and shocked her, dangled her from the ceiling by her wrists, and forced her to go without baths. He left her for days, naked, in the head box, and sometimes in another box — a coffin-like creation — or tied to a rack.
Jerry Brown shows a head-restraining device found in Cameron Hooker's home during a news conference. If she said no or tried to escape, Hooker told her that a powerful organization, known as The Company, would come and get her.
He told her they had bugged her family's home, and were watching at all times. For about a year, Stan was a fixture in the Hooker home, caring for their two children, taking odd jobs, and even going out socially with Janice.
To the outside, the arrangement looked like a couple with a live-in housekeeper. No one suspected that the girl was forced to sleep in a box under the couple's waterbed, or that she was raped on a regular basis. As time went on, she had more liberties. In March , he took her for a brief visit with her parents, but she was too afraid of Hooker and The Company to even try to convey what was going on. After Hooker abducted Stan, he kept her as a sex slave in a similar box under his bed for seven years.
Soon after the visit, Hooker locked his prisoner back into her box. For three years, she had limited access to the outside world. Hooker would let her out to work, helping him build bigger accommodations — like an underground dungeon — for more slaves. It went on like this until , when Janice helped Stan escape. It was a simple matter of getting her to a bus station, where she called her father for money for a ticket home.
Janice, intent upon trying to rehabilitate her husband by bringing him to church, begged Stan to say nothing about her seven years of torment. Advertisement Janice Hooker helped Colleen Stan escape husband Cameron Hooker, and eventually ratted him out to police. Eventually, Janice realized neither prayer nor counseling could help Cameron Hooker.
She told her pastor and then police about Stan's abduction, as well as one of Hooker's earlier stabs at finding a slave. Marie Elizabeth Spannhake, 19, had been walking along a road in when she accepted a ride from the couple.
No one had a clue what happened to her after that, until Jan told police that the girl had died at Hooker's hands. Her first-person account of the nightmare was the same as Jan's story. Police investigations turned up evidence supporting the wild tales, such as the head box, and soon Hooker was in handcuffs. Hooker's attorney tried to make it appear as if Stan had been a willing participant, pointing out she had opportunities to escape but did not take them.
It took the jury two and a half days to find him guilty of kidnapping, sodomy and rape, and on Nov. But there was not enough evidence to try Hooker for Spannhake's death. He is eligible for parole in After the trial, Stan tried to move on to a normal life, but misery followed her — a string of failed marriages and a troubled child, now in jail. In , she wrote a book, "The Simple Gifts of Life," in which she describes her ordeal and what she learned from it.