I Was Held Captive in a Box for 7 Years
A kidnapping victim’s harrowing ordeal becomes the subject of a new Lifetime movie
Colleen Stan couldn’t believe her good fortune. The 20-year-old was hitchhiking from her parents’ home in Eugene, Ore., to Northern California for a friend’s birthday on May 19, 1977, when a friendly, cleancut–looking couple with a baby in the car pulled over and offered to drive her the rest of the way. “I was thanking my lucky stars,” she recalls. Little did she know the ride would mark the beginning of seven years of unimaginable torture. The couple, Cameron and Janice Hooker, ended up kidnapping Colleen and forcing her to become his sex slave. They brought her to their home in Red Bluff, Calif., where Cameron, a 23-year-old lumber yard worker, eventually began keeping her locked up in a homemade wooden box roughly the size of a coffin for up to 22 hours a day. “Life as I knew it had come to an end,” Colleen, the subject of a new Lifetime movie, Girl in the Box, tells In Touch. “Everything was taken away from me.”
Her story of torture and survival is bone-chilling. The night of her kidnapping, Colleen says, Cameron blindfolded her, chained her to a pipe in his basement and beat her. He then placed a box over her head and another one over her body. “It was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face,” says Colleen, now 59. “I was gasping for air, thinking I was going to die.” Her family attempted
to find her and contacted local police, but Colleen had vanished without a trace. Eight months into her captivity, Cameron forced Colleen to sign a contract agreeing to be his slave, and he changed her name to “K.” She was now to refer to him as “master” and Janice as “ma’am” and make her body available at all times to Cameron, who frequently sexually abused her.
Over the next few years, Colleen was given small doses of freedom. She was able to go for jogs, interact with Cameron and Janice’s two small children (neighbors thought she was a live-in babysitter) and even call home to let her family know she was OK. By then, she’d been so brainwashed by Cameron that she didn’t dare attempt to escape. “There were threats made against me and my family,” Col- leen explains. In March 1981, Cameron even took her home to visit with her father, his wife and her sisters. “I wanted to scream out the truth but I was terrified for their lives and mine,” she says. Soon after, he constructed a new box, which he kept under his and Janice’s bed. Colleen was often locked in there with just a bedpan. “I’d lie there for 22 hours at a time, only being allowed out to be tortured.”
Three years later, in 1984, a guilt-stricken Janice helped Colleen escape. Janice had begun reading the Bible, attending church — and becoming increasingly frightened of her husband. “She told me we had to get away,” says Colleen. “She thought he was going to kill us both.”
Janiceput Colleen on a bus to her parents’ home while Cameron was at work one day. “I was overwhelmed with joy,” recalls Colleen. Cameron was eventually captured, and in 1985, at age 31, he was found guilty of 10 felony counts, including kidnapping and rape, and given the maximum sentence of 104 years (His wife was given immunity for testifying against him). It took time to adjust to life out of captivity, but Colleen — who has married and divorced twice since her escape and lives with her current husband in Redding, Calif. — credits therapy and her faith with helping her survive and heal. She has a 29-year-old daughter and a grandson she adores. “I have my life. I am healthy and whole,” she says. “You carry on because you don’t want to give your perpetrator another moment of your life.”
— Reporting by Jaclyn Roth
Cameron Hooker is serving time in a California prison but is up for parole in 2030. “I’m not angry,” says Colleen (right, on her 20th birthday, five months before she was taken), “but I’m diligent about making sure this man doesn’t hurt anyone else.”
SHE WAS FORCED TO LIVE IN THIS TORTURE CHAMBER
“I was kept in the dark, not allowed to wash, given a bedpan and fed once a day … scraps or potatoes,” says Colleen (played by Addison Timlin in Lifetime’s Girl in the Box).