Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Case of the Seven-Year Sex Slave


Cameron Hooker under arrest
Cameron Hooker under arrest (APWIDE)

Cameron was booked on kidnapping, rape, sodomy, and assorted other charges.  The media was informed, and it soon became a high profile case with national coverage.  Many neighbors doubted that Cameron Hooker could have done something so awful.  They weren't surprised to hear that he pleaded "not guilty" to all counts.

The prosecution realized that there was a statute of limitation problem with the kidnapping charge, because seven years had passed and the statute stipulated three.  Also, the defense was saying that Colleen had remained with the Hookers voluntarily and that Janice had turned in her husband because she was jealous of Colleen.

Colleen's quiet demeanor upon being questioned and the absence of any sense that she wanted revenge tended to give this defense more weight.  So did Janice's lackluster and inconsistent performance during the preliminary hearing.  Yet the judge decided there was sufficient evidence for a trial.

Searching both homes where the Hookers had lived with Colleen, police found whips, leather restraints, the head boxes, the stretcher, and hooks in the ceiling that corroborated Colleen's statements.  They also found many publications illustrating violent, sadistic pornography.

Comparisons between Colleen Smith and Patricia Hearst, a 19-year-old celebrity kidnap victim who in 1974 had helped her captors to rob banks, soon surfaced.  Aware that brainwashing was not easy to prove and that it had not worked as a defense for Hearst, McGuire interviewed six experts on the procedure.  Among them was Dr. Donald Lunde, who would later be hired by the defense.  After a great deal of consideration and allowed only one of this type of expert, she finally retained Dr. Chris Hatcher.  He had done work on the effects of terrorism, had studied the People’s Temple in Jonestown, and had written well-received articles on the psychology of hostages.

McGuire then had to learn all she could about Colleen's ordeal. Troublesome for the prosecution was a tape on which Colleen told Cameron that she loved him.  McGuire was not happy about this piece of evidence, but they moved forward.  Together they made a timeline across the seven years, looked at the photos, and went over how the head box and other contraptions were used.  Colleen was mostly passive throughout.

With pressure from the county that this trial could be too expensive, McGuire had to listen to Papendick's attempts to reach a plea deal, based on the fact that the sexual acts were consensual.  But McGuire wanted badly to try this man for his monstrous crimes.  She refused to deal.

Papendick tried several delaying tactics, having his own experts examine both Colleen and Janice, but finally a trial date was set.  Cameron Hooker would face a jury, beginning on September 24, 1985 in Redwood City in San Mateo County Superior Court, before Judge Clarence B. Knight. Hooker was charged with a total of 16 felony counts: one kidnapping, with a special allegation of having used a knife; seven of rape; one of forced oral copulation; one of forced penetration with a foreign object; one of forced sodomy; three of false imprisonment; and two of abducting to live in an illicit relationship.

The prosecution began its opening statement.  McGuire made reference to the Story of O, Cameron’s favorite movie about a young woman abducted by a sadistic "master" and turned into a sex slave so compliant she was willing to kill herself for him.  She hoped this dramatic image would clarify how someone can be transformed into a person without a will of her own.  Cameron Hooker, she said, had broken Colleen's will.

The defense emphasized issues of voluntary stay, insisting that Colleen and Cameron had had a relationship.

Janice was the first prosecution witness to take the stand..  She answered questions more clearly than during the preliminary hearing, because she was free of the effects of medication.  She explained Cameron’s plan, the fictitious company, the slave contract, and Cameron's whips.  She also admitted to burning most of the evidence.  She discussed the dungeon and his plan for acquiring more slaves.

The jury saw the pictures processed by the FBI lab displayed on large posters, along with Cameron's pornography collection, a replica of the head box and the dehumanizing box that had been built for underneath the bed.  Prior to the trial, several people had tried it out to see what it was like (as did some jurors during the trial).  "I felt like I was in a coffin," said McGuire of her experience.  The box had been awkward and uncomfortable.  It was unnerving to be enclosed for only a few moments and she could not imagine three whole years inside this contraption.

The prosecution also had built a full-scale dungeon like the one for which Colleen had been forced to dig a hole.  Then Colleen told her story, which she found difficult to do.  The jurors and reporters seemed to have nearly as much difficulty believing it. 

To illustrate how the head box worked, it was brought in the courtroom and placed over the head of a woman dressed much like Colleen.  The jury was stunned at how it fit and that it had been part of Colleen's ordeal.  Hearing about it was not nearly as dramatic as seeing it lifted over someone's head and screwed into place.      

McGuire spent a lot of time going over Colleen’s contacts with neighbors and friends.  She brought up the company and Colleen’s belief in it.  She wanted the jury to understand that what appeared to be freedom was in fact a form of captivity that was based on her fear of trying to run away.  She wore invisible chains.

Colleen’s sister, Bonnie Sue Martin, testified about her sister’s appearance when she visited home in 1981.  It was beneficial for the jury to see someone, with her thick, healthy hair, who resembled what Colleen once had looked like.  That made an impression.  Clearly, by comparison, the girl had suffered.

Dr. Michael J. Vovakes, a physician, stated that the scars on Colleen’s ankles and wrists had resulted from restraints.  He also described the burn marks from electrocution, and Colleen's pierced labia.

Then psychologist Chris Hatcher, with impressive credentials and experience in such cases, explained to the jury how mind control worked.  He addressed the dynamics of sado-masochism, and the dominant and submissive personalities involved—particularly the excitement factor for the "master" in getting someone to submit to his whims.  Hatcher then talked about how the effects of sudden kidnapping, death threats, being housed in a dark tomb that disturbed daylight patterns, the physical abuse, the loss of control over necessary bodily functions, and the lack of communication were collectively effective in breaking down Colleen's will.  He had examined the crime scene and had interviewed Colleen at length, and he believed that she had been coerced into staying with the Hookers.  In other words, her values, her identity, and her whole way of looking at the world had been changed.

There was talk throughout the trial of what was known as the Stockholm syndrome, which occurs under the unusual conditions of extreme stress in captivity, where there may be torture and a high degree of uncertainty.  Kidnapping victims, abused spouses, and tortured prisoners are most prone to it.  The captive appears to become involved to some degree with his or her captor, and even to consent to abuse and captivity.  That person may express feelings of affection in a way that surprises outsiders and makes them wonder at just how captive and abused the person really is.

What appears to occur, according to experts who have studied the phenomenon, is that the person "freezes" as a way to avoid further torture, and then yields to try to appease the captor.  If the captor then takes care of basic needs, the captive may feel gratitude bordering on affection..  Such victims become susceptible to suggestion, and having their own world shrink to that shared with the captor, may become sympathetic.   Identifying with the captor and seeing no way to escape, it becomes easier to acquiesce, even to the point of acting as if they love their captors.  They are trying to arrange their otherwise unsafe and difficult world for maximum comfort and safety.

Hatcher used Hooker's own pornography to show the jury the steps involved in creating a sex slave out of an ordinary girl.  Then he applied all of this to Colleen.

Papendick had trouble with cross-examination, since Hatcher knew his field well, so finally he quit to await his own expert's testimony.

The prosecution rested.

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'