Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Case of the Seven-Year Sex Slave

Hooker's Defense

On Friday, October 18, Cameron Hooker took the stand to explain his side of the story.  He admitted to the kidnapping and described his fantasy of slaves and bondage.  Yet he tried to gain sympathy by telling the court that Colleen had been ill from substance abuse withdrawal and he had been worried about her.   He maintained that she had fallen in love with him and he was merely caring for her.

He went on to explain how he had found the Slave Contract in a magazine.  He described his obedience drills and admitted to telling Colleen “little stories" about the company.  Even so, he said, all of the sexual acts were consensual, as were the photographs he had taken of her.

Then there were several bombshell revelations, substantiated by hard evidence. After Colleen left, she had made a total of 29 phone calls to the Hookers, one of which was over an hour long, and Papendick said this behavior showed her attachment to them. This appeared to surprise the jury.  He had Hooker also state that his wife, Janice, had been jealous of their relationship.  He'd been caught between them as they bickered over their differences.

Papendick believed that if they could get the jury to consider only the kidnapping charge, Cameron would be home free, because the statute of limitations on kidnapping had already run out.  His strategy was to make Janice appear to have been jealous of the relationship growing between Colleen and Cameron, which made her turn on her husband and lie.  He brought up her outing with Colleen to the bar and a ski trip they took together.  He then presented a stack of letters that Colleen had written to Cameron in which she had freely expressed her love for him and her desire to have children with him.

"I seem to be falling deeper and deeper into love with you with each passing day,"  She wrote. She also wrote that she did not want to leave him.

McGuire had not known about these letters and when she later confronted Colleen about their existence, Colleen simply said that she had forgotten about them.   She claimed that Cameron had made her write them and that she had done so out of fear.  "I used to tell him that I loved him," she defended herself to the A&E interviewer, "because the better I treated him the better he treated me."

But this was seriously damaging to the case, as was Colleen's brief visit to her family.  McGuire had to work hard to turn things around.

Dr. Lunde, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Stanford University Medical School, took the stand.  He had worked on the Patty Hearst case, among other cases related to captivity, and he dismissed the idea of brainwashing.  He did not think there was an invisible psychological barrier that one can place around people to keep them from walking away.  He also explained coercive persuasion to the jury, veering off too often into legal terminology and being chided by the judge.  Taking a different tack, Lunde said that enduring long durations of immobility would cause muscles to go into involuntary spasms.  That implied the Colleen was lying about her ordeal.

However, McGuire pointed out that Colleen had had substantial exercise working in the garden, and digging.  She hoped the jury was following her reasoning.  Then she brought out the fact that Dr. Lunde, whom she herself had interviewed prior to trial, had failed to research the case thoroughly and had never personally interviewed Colleen or Janice.  He had only reviewed the report prepared by Dr. Hatcher, listened to the recordings, and interviewed Cameron.  He had not even written a report, nor did he recall that in his own papers he had used terms such as "broken," although he now acted as if he failed to understand them.  In the end, the judge undercut him and he lost some credibility.

After five weeks of trial, on October 25, the defense rested.  In closing statements, McGuire focused on the charges of kidnap, rape and sexual assault, while Papendick honed in on the phone calls, the visit home, and the love letters.  McGuire said Colleen was a captive; Papendick said her actions were voluntary.

While it seemed clear that the jury had been offended by Cameron Hooker's arrogance and lack of remorse, they also seemed confused by Colleen's apparent bond with her abductors.  The prosecution had not presented definitive proof that she had no choice in the matter.   This would be a difficult decision.

"The real question," said Greg Lefevre, a television journalist who covered the trial, "was reasonable doubt.  Was the jury going to buy it?  Were they skeptical of this young girl?"

The jury looked over the evidence and talked about the issues for three days.  On the third day, they sent word that they were hung on one of the counts, which meant they were solid on the others.  Finally on Halloween, they returned a verdict.

Hooker in cuffs, in court (APWIDE)
Hooker in cuffs, in court (APWIDE)

Cameron Hooker was found guilty of ten felony counts, including kidnapping, rape, and other sex offenses.  As he listened, Cameron showed no emotion.

On November 22, Hooker was sentenced to consecutive terms for the sex crimes, which totaled 60 years.  He received 1 to 25 years for the kidnap, plus a 5 to10 year sentence for using a knife while doing so.  If he served the maximum time sentenced, he was looking at 104 years.  His lawyer immediately appealed.

In a press conference, Colleen expressed how glad she was that Cameron Hooker would never be able to hurt anyone else the way he had hurt her.  That had been her primary motive in going through the trial.

Although she still felt a bit fragile, she got on with her life.   She found a job, went into therapy, and went to school for an accounting degree.  She managed to find a way to feel better about herself.  She got married and had a child, but then got divorced.  Her daughter considers her to be brave and strong.

"My life," Colleen said on the documentary, "isn't any different from anyone else's, I don't think."  She became a crisis hotline volunteer for domestic abuse and sexual assault, and she sometimes still warns young people about the dangers of hitchhiking.

Cameron Hooker's appeals were denied and he remains in prison.

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