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Crime News Snapped

Did The Kidnapper Who Tortured 'The Girl In The Box' Have A Previous Victim?

Before kidnapping Colleen Stan, did her abductors snatch another young woman in broad daylight? It’s a 25-year-old mystery.

By Joe Dziemianowicz

While hitchhiking to a friend’s birthday party in May 1977, 20-year-old Colleen Stan was picked up by a couple with a baby who were not an average family. Anything but.

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Instead of dropping her off toward her destination, they kidnapped Stan at knife-point and imprisoned and abused her for seven years.

In “Snapped Notorious: The Girl in the Box,” a new special on Oxygen, Stan recounts her harrowing experience at the hands of abductors Cameron and Janice Hooker during in-depth and chilling interviews. Stan, now 64 and a grandmother, relives the horrors she endured and how she finally escaped.

Stan also eerily recalls seeing a photograph of a young woman in a coffin-like structure where she was held captive in the Hookers’ Red Bluff, California home. 

Maria Girl In Box

It was “kind of like a school portrait type picture,” Stan told “Snapped Notorious.” “Every time I crawled in and out of this box, I could see that picture.” 

Stan believed that the girl in the picture could have been taken by her captors before her. Who was she? What happened to her?

In 1984, the year she decided to leave her husband and turn him into authorities for holding Stan captive, Janice Hooker told authorities that Stan was not the first girl that Cameron kidnapped. They had abducted another young woman who was eventually murdered, Janice claimed in police interviews, reported the Chico News & Review in 2010. She said she knew from looking at the girl’s driver’s license that the girl's name was Marie Elizabeth Spannhake.

Spannhake was indeed a woman who went missing from Chico, California years earlier. The 18-year-old had vanished on January 31, 1976, about 16 months before Stan was kidnapped. She had moved to the area with her boyfriend, John Baruth, a month earlier.

On that day, Spannhake and Baruth had gone to a swap meet, where they reportedly argued and she subsequently decided to walk home. She never arrived at their residence.

Baruth called the police on February 2 to report that she’d gone missing. He confirmed none of her belongings were missing from the apartment, according to the News & Review. 

Early in the investigation into Spannhake’s disappearance, Baruth came under suspicion. Police asked Baruth to take a lie detector test and he agreed. He passed and was cleared as a suspect. Investigators had few other leads, and the case eventually went cold.

Janice claimed Cameron had kidnapped Spannhake when she was walking home that day. She said they were in their car when they spotted Spannhake walking along a stretch of road. They offered her a lift, and then abducted herEventually, Cameron murdered her, she alleged.

Before Cameron killed her, he tortured her: He put a box on her head, hung Spannhake from hooks in the rafter, and even tried to silence her by cutting her vocal cords, Janice claimed, according to the Chico News & Review. Cameron later shot Spannhake “at least twice in the stomach with a pellet gun” and strangled her. 

The Hookers are believed to have rolled her body up in a carpet, drove up into the mountains, and buried her along a dirt road, according to “Snapped Notorious.” 

Efforts to find Spannhake’s body have been futile.

To learn more about this case, watch “Snapped Notorious: The Girl in the Box” on Oxygen.

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