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Missing

Marie Elizabeth Spannhake

Was a missing young woman murdered by a couple involved in a similar crime?

  • Last updated: November 7, 2022
  • Chico, CA
  • January 31, 1976

About

According to countless portrayals of paranormal activities in literature and film, spirit manifestations are the result of a restless soul crying out for justice.

In 2000, single mom Jodi Foster and her young daughter Hannah moved into an apartment on Parmac Road in Chico, CA. They began to experience odd things, such as the heat coming on by itself while the AC was running, and televisions, air conditioners, and other appliances turning themselves off without being touched. Only 3 years old at the time, Hannah reported seeing what she described to her mom as a woman in white walking around the apartment, sometimes kissing her forehead before she drifted off to sleep. Though the electrical wiring was checked the strange occurrences continued, and Foster began to have specific, detailed dreams about a girl being taken, tortured, and buried in a mountainous location. In these dreams, she claimed to have seen the girl hanging from her hands in a basement, with a man torturing her mercilessly and eventually slitting her throat. She saw the man and his wife move the body to a car to bury at a remote location. In the dream, Jodi clearly recalled the car turning onto a dirt road with the sign “A17.”

Unable to live with the strange electrical and visual occurrences in the original apartment, the pair moved into another apartment in the complex before the year was out. Once out of the original apartment, Foster learned the story of the disappearance and suspected murder of Marie Elizabeth Spannhake. She began researching the case and noticed disturbing similarities to the girl in her dreams, to the woman her daughter had described seeing, and even to pictures of her that the child had drawn.

Marie Elizabeth Spannhake was 19 years old when she moved to Chico, CA to live with her boyfriend.

Marie, who sometimes went by the nickname "Marliz", was described by friends and family as an outgoing and friendly person. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Marie was one of seven children of Ernst and Dorothea Spannhake. A lovely teenager, Marie was bitten by the acting bug and dreamed of moving to California to become famous. When she met John Baruth in 1975 and he asked her to move to California with him, she readily agreed.

The couple rented an apartment on Parmac Road in Chico, California, where Marie worked as a part-time model for a camera shop while seeking full-time employment. On the day she went missing, January 31, 1976, Marie and John were at a flea market, where they argued bitterly. Furious, Marie stormed out of the flea market saying she'd walk home, although she was still new in town and didn't really know her way around. There were reports of Marie being last seen on foot at around 4:00 pm that afternoon on Mangrove Avenue. However, when Marie did not return to the Parmac Road apartment she shared with Baruth for two days, her fiancé filed a missing-persons report on February 2, 1976. He told authorities that nothing appeared to be missing from the apartment - all of Marie's clothing, suitcases, and even her toothbrush were left behind - so it did not appear that Marie had returned to the apartment to pack up and leave. As is typical, police initially briefly suspected Baruth in his fiancée’s disappearance. More than one person they had interviewed mentioned that Marie had grown tired of the relationship and may have wanted to end it. Marie's mother told authorities that Baruth may have been connected to the drug culture, though he denied being involved or harming Marie. While at his apartment, detectives noticed he’d received a hang-up call, and he admitted that had occurred numerous times since Marie went missing. Police invited Baruth to submit to a polygraph test and he agreed. He passed the polygraph and was eliminated as a suspect. Though Baruth, Marie’s family, and authorities searched relentlessly for her - sometimes employing such unconventional methods as a psychic and an African Witch Doctor - Marie was never seen alive again. While her remains have never been found, authorities believe Marie was abducted and murdered.

The following year, another young woman was kidnapped. While hitchhiking to a birthday party from Oregon to Westwood, CA, on May 19, 1977, Colleen Stan was given a ride by a couple with an infant in a blue Dodge Colt. She began to sense something was off about the couple, but she pushed down her feelings and did not try to escape the vehicle. Before long, however, her worst fears were realized when they drove onto a dirt road and pulled over. Holding a knife to Stan's throat, the man - Cameron Hooker - grabbed a homemade contraption he called a “headbox” and restrained her.

Stan was held captive by the Hookers in a box under their marital bed in their Red Bluff, CA home; raped and tortured for 7 long years, until the wife, Janice, ultimately had a crisis of conscience and helped her escape in August of 1984. In November of that same year, Janice turned her husband in to authorities and agreed to testify against him at trial in exchange for full immunity from prosecution. The sensational story garnered national attention as the “girl in the box” or “seven-year sex slave” case.

Janice Hooker told an astonishing and compelling tale to authorities.

Upon marrying Cameron Hooker to escape an abusive household, his wife was growing increasingly aware of his obsession with bondage, violence, and torture. Desperate to have a child and even more desperate to avoid her husband's increasingly violent attentions, Janice made what she would later see as a deal with the devil. The pair came to the agreement that Janice could have his baby if Cameron were allowed to take a “slave girl” for sexual purposes. Janice - now ready to divorce her husband - explained to authorities that they’d kidnapped and held captive a young woman named Colleen Stan from 1977 to 1984, imprisoning her for seven years in a box under their bed. They’d kept her restrained for up to 23 hours a day, only freeing her so Hooker could rape and torture her. After some time had passed, Stan was forced into signing a “slave contract” whereby she agreed Cameron had ownership over her and addressed him as “master”. Upon signing this contract she was eventually permitted more freedom, but only after being brainwashed into believing there was a sinister entity called “The Company” to which Hooker belonged. This manipulation prevented her from going to authorities or attempting to flee, although she was ultimately aided in her escape by Janice.

But Janice had more to reveal to the Red Bluff police. She alluded to the fact that Stan wasn't the first kidnapping; she alleged that Cameron had kidnapped, tortured, and killed Marie Elizabeth Spannhake a year before abducting Stan. She claimed that she and her husband were out shopping when they spotted Marie walking alone on Mangrove Avenue on the afternoon of January 31, 1976. The couple offered Marie a ride and she accepted. When the young woman tried to exit the vehicle, Cameron Hooker grabbed her, pulled her back in the car, and restrained her with a contraption he had built. Janice Hooker further stated that her husband took Marie to their Red Bluff home, hung her by the wrists in the basement, and cut her vocal cords to prohibit her screaming. He continued to torture and rape Marie, eventually untying her long enough for her to write a note stating "I'll give you anything you want if you let me go", since she was no longer able to speak. Janice then reported her husband responded by shooting Marie twice in the abdomen with a pellet gun, and finally strangling her to death. Janice knew Marie’s nickname and where she was born, and was able to describe in perfect detail the clothes that Marie was wearing when they abducted her. This account was further confirmed by Colleen Stan, the other kidnap victim, who reported seeing a photo of Marie on display at the Hooker’s home, and a connection was formally announced and pursued by law enforcement.

Thanks to Janice’s testimony, Hooker was arrested, and on October 31, 1985, he was convicted of 10 of the 11 felony charges he’d faced in relation to the Colleen Stan kidnapping. Hooker was sentenced to a total of 104 years on November 22 that same year, with the presiding judge declaring Hooker to be the most dangerous psychopath he'd ever encountered. Unfortunately, her testimony was not enough to result in bringing charges in Marie’s case, although authorities were convinced of Hooker’s involvement in her abduction and ultimate murder. Without a body, however, there was not enough evidence to charge. Though culpable in the Stan kidnapping, Janice eventually assisted in the young woman's escape and contacted the police shortly afterward. She was given immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony against her husband and has never been charged with any crime.

Where the case stands today:

When Jodi Foster and her daughter Hannah moved into Apartment 14 at a housing complex on Parmac Road in Chico, CA, and began experiencing bizarre happenings, she knew nothing about the disappearance of Marie Elizabeth Spannhake - nor that she had been a former resident of that particular unit four decades earlier. Jodi’s relentless research and curiosity led her to go to the authorities and in 2007, she was able to convince police to re-investigate the case. Based on the amount of information she provided, officers issued a search warrant for the Oak Street home in Red Bluff where Janice and Cameron Hooker had lived at the time of Marie's disappearance. Authorities collected evidence for several weeks, taking floor samples from the bathroom, examining the basement with forensic equipment, and digging underneath the house. The results of this investigation were never released to the public. In 2012, Jodi published a book based on her paranormal experiences in the home, ‘Forgotten Burial: A Restless Spirit’s Plea for Justice’. Further attention will no doubt be focused on the case, thanks to the November 1 episode “The Ghost in Apartment 14” on Unsolved Mysteries, which is currently streaming on Netflix. Whether or not this ghostly manifestation is actually the spirit of Marie - unable to rest until someone is held accountable for the terrible ordeal she endured - she deserves justice, and a dignified end to her story.


Information

  1. Date Missing:January 31, 1976
  2. Birthday:June 20, 1956
  3. Current Age:66
  4. Age at Incident:19
  5. NAMUS Number:MP40883
  6. Race:Caucasian / White
  7. Gender:Female
  8. Height:5'5"
  9. Weight:110-120 lbs
  10. Hair Color:Brown

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Marie and John's former apartment

Chico, CA

Location of the apartment that Marie and John shared in 1976.

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