Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Case of the Seven-Year Sex Slave

A Strange Reprieve



Colleen asked for a Bible for Christmas one year, and Cameron complied.  Every chance she got, she buried herself in its text.  Cameron continued to tell her about the company and to subject her to things that would deepen his hold on her.  He pierced her labia for "identification" purposes, although he later he told her it was symbolic of a wedding ring and that some day he hoped to have children with her.

Three years after her abduction, in 1980, Cameron allowed her to go out one night with Janice.  They had some drinks, met some men, and went home with them.  With Cameron's permission, Janice even carried on an affair with one of them.

Both Cameron and Janice worked, but Janice lost her job, so Cameron decided to put his slave to better use.  He took her to Reno and neighboring towns to make her beg for money in the streets.  It was humiliating, but Colleen had no choice.  She never exploited opportunities to request help.

Then Janice found work and Colleen was left alone at home to baby-sit.  Again, although she was not tied up now, she did nothing to try to gain her freedom.  At night, she was often chained to the toilet, sleeping on the floor of the back bedroom.  It was hard, but it was better than the box under the bed.

Janice brought work home and engaged Colleen to help her, thereby using her to bring in more money.  However, the two women sometimes fought, because Janice was jealous of Cameron's excessive attention to the younger woman.  She wanted Cameron to let Colleen go.  Cameron made Janice quit her job so she could watch the children, and Colleen returned to her life in the box under the bed.  Cameron convinced her that he had paid the company $30,000 to ensure complete protection for her, which was a huge financial sacrifice, so she had better behave.  Again he reiterated that the company had put bugs into the cars, homes, and phone lines of all the members of her family, to make sure she did not contact them to get help.

One day he decided to make sure Colleen knew her place by having her point a gun down her throat.  Not knowing if it was loaded, she obeyed his command to pull the trigger.  The empty metallic click sent a shock through her and she knew that he might one day kill her.  Cameron had Colleen say goodbye to all the neighbors to make them think she was going back to southern California.  They didn’t know she was getting confined again to the trailer.

Colleen missed her family, so as a reward for her obedience Cameron allowed her to write three letters to her sisters to let them know she was alive.  He checked the letters' contents before sending them out.  He even let her call home once from a payphone, and eventually even arranged for a visit.  He said it was rare that the company allowed such a thing, and they would be monitoring it carefully.

She was left inside the box for a full week before being taken out to go on her trip.  Cameron had warned her that the company might put her through some tests first, and he gave her a description of their museum of skeletons from other runaway slaves.  Yet in the end, he said, the company had decided to forego the tests, but if she said anything to anyone about her situation, they would rush in and grab her.

On March 20, 1981, three and a half years into her captivity, Cameron provided Colleen with a cover story about him being a computer programmer with whom she was involved, and then took her to meet with her parents and sisters.

Her father, utterly surprised to see her and this new "boyfriend" who did not even wait to be introduced, noted her thin, haggard appearance.  Afraid that they had offended her in some way to have made her disappear for so long, the family walked on eggshells, leaving their many questions unspoken.  Colleen remained vague about where she had been, but she was overjoyed to see them all.  She was not sure how long she had—she hoped for a whole weekend—but all she wanted was to make every minute count. 

"She gave us no information on where she'd been," Jenise recalled, "or on where she'd be going.  We were all afraid to sit her down and get it out of her.  We were afraid we would lose her again."

The next morning, she went to visit her mother, who lived a few blocks away and who took her to church and to see other relatives.  Then it was over.  "Mike" called and said he would be there soon to pick her up.  After only 24 hours, he had decided to cut her visit short.

When it came time for Cameron to pick her up to take her back to Red Bluff, she told her family that he was her fiancé.  Her sister took a picture of the two of them, and she thought Colleen looked happy.  She did not know how badly Colleen wanted to beg her for help.

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