Warning: The following contains disturbing descriptions of violence and sexual violence. Reader discretion is advised.
When 20-year-old Colleen Stan hitchhiked out of her Eugene, Oregon hometown on May 19, 1977, she was careful about whom she took a ride from. She turned down a lift from a group of young men, understanding the small but serious risk inherent to what she was doing. But Cameron and Janice Hooker seemed innocuous: They were a couple with a baby, after all.
But what followed was a misery of unspeakable depth and duration.
After pulling onto a side road under the guise of sightseeing, Cameron held Stan at knifepoint and brought her back to the couple’s home in Red Bluff, California. There, he stripped her naked, hung her by her arms from the basement rafters, and whipped the young woman repeatedly before having sex with his wife in Stan’s blindfolded presence.
He presented her with a master-slave contract, which he forced her to sign.
[Watch Colleen Stan: The Girl in the Box on A&E Crime Central.]
For seven years, Stan was held captive. She was locked in a small coffin-like wooden box the Hookers kept under their bed; occasionally, she would be let out—but only to be raped, whipped or forced to do household chores.
Colleen Stan, Brainwashed, Slowly Earns Freedoms
Cameron Hooker told Stan that any attempts to escape would be met with violent repercussions for both her and her family. He asserted that there was an organized crime syndicate, “The Company,” that was watching Stan and would punish her and her family if she attempted to escape.
Surprisingly, in March 1981, Stan was allowed to visit her family by herself for approximately 24 hours. In May 1984, she was allowed to start working as a maid at an area hotel. Stan was also afforded opportunities to go jogging unsupervised. But all the while, she never ran away, because she believed the story about “The Company.”
Michele Galietta, a professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who has done research on violent offenders, psychopathy and trauma, tells A&E True Crime that Stan’s belief in “The Company” makes sense when taken in the larger context of her kidnapping.
“It sounds a little unbelievable, but ask yourself: Is not the fact that she’s kept in a box under a bed completely, wildly unbelievable?” Galietta asks. “If everything you’ve ever thought in terms of predictability and safety is taken away—what is left of the psyche? This is not a one-time rape or a one-time attack. This was pervasive, for years.”
Janice Hooker’s Role in Keeping Colleen Stan Captive
Stan’s imprisonment might not have occurred had it not been for Janice Hooker, Cameron’s wife. But Janice’s role in the story of Colleen Stan’s imprisonment is complicated.
After marrying Cameron Hooker in 1975, Janice agreed to allow him to have a slave whom he could torture, under the condition that he only has sex with her (Janice). For years, Janice saw Colleen as a rival. But things turned when, in 1984, Cameron announced a plan to get another slave. In August of that year, Hooker went to a pastor and told him everything. When the pastor advised that Janice leave the marriage, she went to the motel where Stan was working and told her that there was no “Company,” and that she could leave without repercussions.
Galietta describes Janice as “absolutely a collaborator.” But she stopped short of calling Janice Hooker a psychopath in her own right, saying that, “These are not psychological questions, they are moral questions. You don’t get the impression from any data that she has a lot of psychopathic traits—more that she was so locked in that she ceased to have independent thought.”
Still, armed with the information Janice provided her, Stan left…but not before calling Cameron from a bus station payphone, where she told him she was leaving. Hooker cried, in later court testimony describing the conversation as a “hard” goodbye from a woman he loved.
Mark Olver, a professor of psychology at the University of Saskatchewan who specializes in sexual deviance, psychopathy and recidivism prediction, says it’s hard—but not impossible—to imagine that someone as psychopathic as Cameron Hooker might mourn the loss of a victim relationship the same way that well-adjusted people mourn the termination of their romantic relationships.
“People who are so psychopathic are so self-serving,” Olver tells A&E True Crime. “But…it’s possible he could’ve had an attachment to her—as sadistic and one-sided and brutal and terrorizing the relationship was. But I don’t know if it’s an attachment, or the loss of the human sex object.”
Cameron Hooker’s Criminal Trial
Janice called the police to report Cameron’s crimes about three months later. And although she had second thoughts and helped him destroy some of the evidence that would’ve helped convict him, she ultimately worked as a cooperating witness against Cameron in exchange for immunity.
Between Janice’s testimony, Colleen’s testimony and evidence collected at the scene—notably a copy of the master-slave contract—Cameron Hooker was convicted of kidnapping, using a knife in an abduction, rape and sexual abuse on October 31, 1985. He was sentenced to 104 years in prison on November 22, with judge Clarence Knight remarking at the time that Hooker is “the most dangerous psychopath I have ever dealt with…[who] will be a danger to women as long as he is alive.”
Cameron Hooker Today
Hooker is currently serving his sentence at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran. In 2014, he was denied parole for 15 more years. However, because COVID-19 has inspired new releases from prison, there is a chance Hooker could come up for parole again in 2021—something that the local sheriff’s association vehemently opposes.
Olver says sex offenders who are Hooker’s age—66 at time of publication—don’t tend to re-offend nearly as much as those who are younger, partly due to diminished physical strength.
But regarding Hooker’s underlying psychopathy, Galietta says extreme cases like his rarely disappear with time. It’s one thing to rehabilitate a one-time violent robber. It’s another to make a sadist like Hooker better.
Given “the lack of remorse necessary to engage in [Hooker]’s behavior, and the kind of pathology that creates the appetite for” it, Galietta says that “we certainly do not have any good track record in the world of psychology to modify that.”
In 2016, a Lifetime movie Girl in the Box was made about Stan’s abduction.
Update: In March 2022, Cameron Hooker’s probable cause hearing was pushed to April 18, 2022 according to the Tehama County District Attorney’s Office. After that hearing, a judge will decide if there will be a trial to determine if Hooker should be labeled as a sexually violent predator. If he is found guilty at that trial, Hooker would remain behind bars and receive mental health treatment. If found not guilty, Hooker could be released on parole.