In 2009, one of Hollywood's best-known teachers drove a 13-year-old girl into the Malibu hills, where, she says, a horrific sexual assault occurred. Five years later, police recorded their private conversations and made an arrest. Now, on the eve of his criminal trial, the accuser, Jordyn Ladell, tells her story.
This story first appeared in the May 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Around 10 a.m. on March 11, 2014, an attractive young woman with curly blond hair and hazel eyes walked into a Starbucks at a Barnes & Noble at The Promenade in Westlake Village. She ordered a soy chai latte and took a seat facing the magazine racks. She wore a cream-colored dress and boots and carried a cellphone. At a nearby table sat Nick Coulter, a plainclothes detective with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department's Special Victims Unit. A tattooed veteran of the gang wars in Southeast L.A., Coulter was watching over the girl, an 18-year-old community-college student named Jordyn Ladell. A half-dozen officers had helped plan this operation — a sting in which the young woman would face a man she says sexually assaulted her nearly five years earlier, when she was an eighth grader who liked country music and ballet. More undercover officers took up posts outside, and a patrol car sat around the corner. In a nearby office, police sat with Jordyn's family, waiting for the operation to begin. Jordyn had her instructions — she was the bait.
Everything was in place — detectives had placed a wiretap on her key chain — but Jordyn still was jittery. She hadn't been alone with the man they were after since 2009, and the idea of sharing a coffee with him made her want to vomit. Jordyn was pretending to fiddle with her phone when a fit-looking man in his 50s with light-colored hair walked in. ("He came up and gave me the biggest, grossest hug ever," she told me later.) Jordyn stole a nervous glance at Coulter, who nodded back reassuringly.
According to a preliminary hearing filed with the Superior Court of California, the police target in the Starbucks that day was Cameron Thor, an actor with many TV and film credits to his name, including a small role in Jurassic Park (he played Lewis Dodgson, a villain who plots to steal dinosaur embryos). Thor, now 55, also is one of Hollywood's best-known acting coaches, and the Carter Thor Studio he runs with his wife, Alice Carter, has catered for years to a steady stream of working actors in Studio City. The studio's website asserts that Sharon Stone and David Fincher have given "vibrant talks" there and a cached version cites a long list of Hollywood A-list students, including Cameron Diaz, Helen Hunt, Drew Carey, Faye Dunaway, Courteney Cox and Madonna. Thor's professional lineage extends back to a longtime association with celebrated acting coach Roy London, one of Hollywood's premier acting teachers during the 1970s and '80s, and, Thor has claimed, his mentor. In a personal essay titled "My Story," Thor wrote that as London became increasingly successful, he sent the younger man "theories, funny ideas, coaching hints" that helped Thor establish his own bona fides as well as a growing clientele. Years later, the ranks of actors and teachers of the craft across the country (and the world) are filled with people who have the imprimatur of Thor's artistic counsel. One former student, an actress who's well connected in Hollywood and asked to remain anonymous, told me that Thor was considered the "go-to guy" for the studios. "You could swing a dead cat and hit a former student of his in Hollywood," she says. A current student, a successful actor, says: "The first time I saw him I thought, 'He's kind of crazy.' He has no boundaries, but in a good way."
Though best known as an acting coach, Thor has had such roles as aspiring dinosaur thief Lewis Dodgson in the 1993 hit Jurassic Park.
At 2 p.m. on June 3, 2014, three months after that Starbucks meeting, detectives from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department arrested Thor at an apartment in Woodland Hills. Soon after Thor's arrest, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Simone Shay filed 14 felony charges against him, including kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault. Thor was booked and released from jail on $2.6 million bail (later reduced to $1 million). In January of this year, during an emotional preliminary hearing, L.A. Superior Court Judge Alan Schneider threw out one of two aggravated sexual assault charges but ruled that Thor would have to face a jury on the remaining counts, which include kidnapping with the intent to commit other crimes and multiple counts of lewd acts against a child.
Many victims of sexual violence remain quiet for years before coming forward, and some never speak openly of their trauma at all. The majority of Bill Cosby's accusers, for instance, emerged only decades after the abuse allegedly had occurred, and then only because one accuser finally had gone public. Experts in rape and sexual assault say victims, especially those as young as Jordyn was when Thor allegedly assaulted her, often are too overwhelmed with shame, guilt and fear to come forward — even to their parents — much less file a criminal complaint.
Today, six years after the alleged kidnapping and assault, what occurred between Thor and Jordyn forms the core of an upcoming criminal trial. Thor's attorney, James Blatt, says Thor will plead not guilty to all charges and that he and his client are "looking forward" to their day in court. "We're confident that Mr. Thor will be exonerated," he says. Blatt insists there never was any inappropriate sexual behavior between Thor and Jordyn. "Someone is lying here," he says. "I believe my client is telling the truth." Blatt declined to make Thor available for this article. Assistant DA Shay also declined requests for comment on this case.
Blatt says his client, whose movements are restricted (he wears an ankle bracelet), could face life in prison if convicted. Students continue to take classes with Thor and Carter at the studio (though Blatt says Thor isn't teaching minors). Blatt claims that "many" people have volunteered to testify as character witnesses. "I've known Cameron and Alice for 25 years, and I would be stunned to find out that any of this is true," says Nicki J. Monti, a psychotherapist and longtime friend of Thor's. "I don't know what the circumstances were; I only know Cameron, and I know that Cameron is a person of quality." Blatt notes that in 25 years as an acting coach, Thor never before has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior toward minors. "He has tutored and taught thousands of young girls, teenagers and young adults, and there has never been one single complaint against Thor in 25 years until this incident," he says. "Usually if there's a history, it comes out, especially if there's publicity."
Thor has deep roots in an industry that prizes connections. But his looming trial may have dampened public displays of support. Several managers, agents and publicists who represent some of the biggest names in Hollywood — people Thor has claimed as students — say they knew Thor but declined to comment because of the sensitivity of the case. "This is just so toxic," says one prominent agent who asked to remain anonymous. "No one wants to touch it." But several of Thor's former students did speak out on his behalf. An actor named Jeff Meek, who has had roles on several soap operas and one episode of Criminal Minds, says, "I love Cameron; he's an absolutely brilliant coach." One current student, a well-known actor, says: "I'm a better person for having known Cameron. He's taught me more about living and life than anyone I've known." Another student, Sarah Kelly, who writes a blog called Extra Dry Martini, published a post at the time of Thor's arrest defending him. "I do not believe the horrible accusations against my teacher and friend are true. Not for one second. No one who has known him, who has studied with him, could believe them either." Recently, when I asked Kelly to provide further comment, she declined, saying only that she stood by her post "100 percent."
For a long time, Jordyn didn't say anything either. When she did begin to speak, privately to family, the story often came out in fragments. In February, Jordyn decided to tell her complete story for the first time and speak with The Hollywood Reporter. Many facts of the case will be revealed in the upcoming trial, a process Jordyn, like Blatt, says she welcomes wholeheartedly. Jordyn insists that whatever comes of the trial, her intention is to provide a full accounting of her story as a step toward putting several years of suffering behind her. The decision to go public, she says, has another aim: "If anyone else can be helped by my story, I want that."
The spring of 2008 was a cruel time for the Ladell family. Dean Ladell, a self-described entrepreneur who now runs several marketing and brand management companies, was in serious financial peril. In 2004, a key investor pulled out of his firm, and by 2007 Ladell was running out of money. He borrowed heavily from family members, but that wasn't enough. The utilities of their Agoura Hills home often were in danger of being shut off. "We had no money," recalls Jordyn. Fights between the parents, and often the children, were frequent and sometimes violent. Jordyn and her twin brother, Josh, had called police on their own parents — sometimes as a scare tactic, sometimes out of real concern. "They had a really chaotic, tumultuous, dysfunctional world for quite a few years," says Jana Kanner, 55, a divorced mother of two who has lived across the street from the Ladells since 2007. "They were broke, broke, broke, and during that whole time is when things were just chaotic in every area."
One night in late April, Jordyn's mother, Pattie, desperate and frustrated, came home with a bottle of Popov vodka and drained a sizable portion of it. Pattie's mother had died of alcohol-related pancreatitis back home in New Mexico years earlier, and Pattie had struggled with addiction all her life. Dean knew about her alcoholism, but her children did not. Before Pattie passed out, she had enough presence of mind to tell her kids to call 911. "I'm going to die," she told them. Child Protective Services showed up that night as an ambulance carried Pattie away. The next day, Kanner took Pattie to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, which set her on the path to sobriety. She then sought out a meeting closer to home and found one that met every morning at 7 at a local bank. The next day, Pattie attended her first meeting at the new location. Jordyn, who was 12 at the time, waited for her mother in the parking lot.
It was during one of Pattie's first meetings that a striking middle-aged man named Cameron Thor rose to speak. As it happened, that morning's meeting was special. Some participants were celebrating their sobriety anniversaries, so people from all around Los Angeles had come to hear the testimonials and success stories. Holding a candle, Thor spoke about becoming sober, and at the end, he handed his candle off to someone in the audience to whom he wished to bequeath good fortune and continued sobriety. Pattie says Thor walked straight up to her and placed the candle in her hand. "He gives this big eloquent speech and then comes over and gives me the candle," she says. "It made me feel special, it made me feel moved."
Jordyn says the photo on this junior high ID reflects how she looked when the alleged attack occurred.
In those early days of Pattie's sobriety, Jordyn waited for her mom outside the bank during the meetings. Pattie says Thor celebrated her achievements in sobriety and offered his support. Still fragile, she welcomed it. Pattie had disclosed many details of her troubled home life with AA members, and she says Thor often offered up a kind ear and words of encouragement. Thor was dynamic and commanding, and Pattie thought his struggles with alcohol gave him an authority and a depth of feeling she craved. "I was looking at him for help," she says. "I would have gone to the moon with him."
Eventually, Jordyn began accompanying her mother inside as a support — a poor decision in hindsight, perhaps, but Pattie's sponsor was in favor of the idea. With the long brown hair she had back then and big hazel eyes, Jordyn often had been told she was pretty and had grown accustomed to receiving compliments from strangers. Pattie and Jordyn both say that Thor quickly turned his attention to the daughter. In Jordyn's memory, Thor used unusual language. Shortly after they first met, she says, he began calling her his "minx" and "muse," exotic words that meant little to a 12-year-old girl. She Googled them and took pleasure in being likened to a goddess. Jordyn thought the monikers were the friendly, if perhaps peculiar, overtures of a responsible and sober figure taking a real interest in her life. A friendship of sorts blossomed, and the three of them became a fixture at the meetings. They sat together during testimonials and chatted in the parking lot after meetings. And if Jordyn was talking to someone else, she says, Thor often would stand at her side, like a sentinel. "Bye, Minx," he'd say when they parted ways. "Love you, kid." Their communication continued after meetings, via text. She says that he told her to call him "CT" and that he often signed off with "love."
She says Thor began to drop hints about his celebrity connections. According to Jordyn, he showed her pictures of him goofing around with Johnny Knoxville (who called Thor his "good friend" in a 2013 tweet) and said the two had gotten into raucous bar fights. Thor spoke earnestly about his friendships with Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Cameron Diaz; it's unclear whether these were actual friendships or simply an attempt to bolster his image. One day after a meeting, Jordyn and Thor were chatting in the parking lot when Thor said he was interested in giving her acting lessons. In the preliminary hearing, Jordyn recalled that Thor related "that the most f—ed-up people were the best actors, so that's why I should do it." She says that Thor then gave her a hug and held her close — closer than she knew how to properly interpret.
Pattie and Jordyn both recall that Thor, aware that the family couldn't afford the $240 a month the studio charged, offered to teach Jordyn for free. Jordyn says she was hesitant — she didn't consider herself particularly creative or outgoing, and the thought of acting or speaking in front of people scared her. She was more interested in the idea of modeling, but most of all she liked that Thor now was offering to pay for her braces as well. She had a gap between her two front teeth, and kids at school teased her about it. Jordyn decided she would go for it.
Up until this point, says Jordyn, though Thor might have been inappropriate, he hadn't yet crossed certain boundaries. But now, she says, the lines started to get fuzzier, even uncomfortable. One day after a meeting, Jordyn says Thor told her he thought she was "sexy." Jordyn told me she understood it as "just another way of saying I was pretty." Another older man at AA had started flirting with Jordyn very openly, telling her that as soon as she turned 18, he wanted them to get married. Jordyn says the man never made any physical overtures but talked of their impending union once she came of age. She rebuffed the advances. The man eventually overdosed, an apparent suicide.
Thor's posture seemed more ambiguous. Pattie saw him as a kind of support. In court, Jordyn said, "My parents were fighting, so he kind of took the role as a father figure in my life." But now, Thor began texting her more regularly, says Jordyn. The texts came at all hours of the day and night, sometimes in flurries, often with cryptic messages that she didn't understand. Sometimes she might receive half a dozen texts in a day and wake up to find several more written during the night.
When Pattie went to Dean with the idea of their daughter taking acting lessons, Dean didn't think much of the idea, but just as soon forgot about it. Looking back, he says that had he paid attention to the details of the arrangement, he wouldn't have gone along with it. But with tensions still running high, he acknowledges that his family was "as close to the brink as it's possible to be without going over." The moment slipped by without much deliberation.
Pattie took Jordyn up the road to Thor's house for her first lesson at around 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 3, a school day. Thor welcomed Pattie and Jordyn into an artfully decorated home. The trio chatted briefly in the foyer. Thor then took Jordyn up to his bedroom, which had a four-poster bed, a bench and a balcony. Pattie waited in the car. Jordyn later testified that Thor got physical soon after the doors shut — touching her shoulders and rubbing her thighs. They read a script together, and at the end of the session he took her in his arms and gave her a long hug. He pressed himself into her. In testimony, Jordyn said, "He told me that he was hard." She says Thor then gave her a paperback copy of A Streetcar Named Desire and sent her on her way.
Though the Ladells were in crisis five years ago, they insist the family is stronger and closer than ever, finding financial success, faith and domestic peace. From left: Dean, Jordyn, Josh and Pattie.
A second and third class took place on the following two Tuesdays. Many people have asked Jordyn why, after the first uncomfortable encounter, she said nothing. "What was I going to say?" she says. "That I made Cameron hard? I assumed that I did it. So what was I going to tell my mother?" Jordyn didn't want to get in trouble, but more than that, she didn't want her mom to slip out of sobriety, which she saw as a precursor to further domestic chaos. "She just wanted everything to be normal, and it was so not normal," recalls neighbor Kanner, who hosted Jordyn on a near daily basis around this time. At their next lesson, according to Jordyn's testimony, Thor locked the bedroom door and began touching her chest. When Thor hugged her after the lesson, Jordyn testified: "I felt that [his penis] was hard. I felt it that time." In the third session, Jordyn says Thor again locked the door, hugged her and told her that "I make him hard." Jordyn testified that Thor "wouldn't let me leave" even as she was texting her mother.
Thor's lawyer is adamant that these incidents in the house did not occur as Jordyn claims. "I don't believe they're going to come close to proving any of the sex acts — that includes the nonsense in the bedroom," says Blatt. "We're going to be able to prove that nothing occurred in that house, ever."
In court, Jordyn stated that Thor said he wanted to meet for their next lesson, on March 29, a Sunday, in a park; his home wouldn't be available. After a brief consultation with Pattie, who, despite her sobriety, seemed no wiser to the potentially escalating relationship between her daughter and Thor, they agreed that Thor would pick up Jordyn near her house — she says Thor told her he didn't want Dean to see him because he was scared of him. Thor fetched Jordyn in his car around 2 p.m. that day and they spent 20 minutes or so sitting at a picnic table at Morrison Park in Agoura Hills near shade trees and a playground. Jordyn says Thor asked her lurid questions about sex. Had she ever given a man "head"? Had she ever been "eaten out"? Jordyn answered no to all of them. She told him she was a virgin when he asked. She says Thor told her detailed stories of his own extramarital sex, including one tryst with a blonde in a trailer during a movie shoot, boasting that he cheated on his wife, Alice, every chance he could get. Thor then suggested they go to Malibu; the ocean air would do them good and they could work on her lesson. Jordyn texted her mother to ask whether she could go. On the way, Jordyn's phone beeped. It was her mother, who said "not so sure." But Thor persisted, says Jordyn, and Pattie relented. "Just have her home soon," said Pattie. Shortly after that, Jordyn says, Thor took her phone from her and stowed it away.
Thor and Jordyn sat side by side in Thor's four-door sedan, cruising past the bluffs and dark red cliffs of the Santa Monica Mountains along Kanan Road, heading toward Malibu. As they raced along, Jordyn says she was surprised that Thor turned right onto Mulholland Highway and then veered left onto Encinal Canyon Road. She thought he must have taken a shortcut; the hills could be confusing. But then he did a U-turn. Moments later, he pulled onto a rocky turnout and parked. Disoriented, Jordyn looked outside to see mountains soaring around her, rising into a steep cliff on one side and dropping off toward a rugged, sheer slope on the other. He turned to her and pushed a button, automatically locking the doors. In a recent interview, Blatt conceded that Thor and Jordyn had driven into the mountains, but that Thor had obtained "permission" from her parents to do so and that nothing sexual occurred between them.
On the day of the alleged assault, Jordyn says Thor drove her from Agoura Hills up Kanan Road toward Malibu, though they never got that far. This desolate turnout, high on Encinal Canyon Road, is where Jordyn says Thor sexually assaulted her on March 29, 2009.
With the car doors locked, Jordyn says she stared outside, unsure of what was happening. She says Thor reached into the center console and pulled out a clear plastic pipe and a black vial filled with marijuana, asking her, "Have you ever gotten high?" Whereas before he had been chatty, Jordyn says he now turned silent, almost sullen, and began to smoke. According to her court testimony, Thor then grabbed her head, kissed her violently and began to blow smoke into her mouth, yelling at her to inhale. Terrified, Jordyn began to cough and shake. She had never smoked pot before. Then he ordered her to get out of the car and reenter in the back seat. Thor got into the back seat as well, turned on XM Satellite radio, cranked up the heat and relocked the doors. He smoked another bowl out of his pipe, kissed her and ordered her to take off her clothes. He fondled her breasts and penetrated her with his fingers. He placed her hand on his penis. Jordyn told me that Thor then told her to perform oral sex on him. When she refused, he ordered her out of the car. Naked and scared and unsure what else to do, she complied. And so, Jordyn remembers standing naked and alone for a few moments, trapped between a cliff and a smoky car with her agitated tormentor inside. Eventually, she says, Thor opened the door and told her to get back in. Sobbing, she did as she was told.
Jordyn's memory gets hazy after that. She recalls "giving him what he wanted," which was oral sex. She recalls a naked Thor towering above her. She recalls feeling terrible pain between her legs and seeing blood. Later, in court, Blatt asked her if she and Thor had had sex, and she was unwilling to definitively say it had happened. "I remember his pants were off and he was on top of me, but I don't remember. I'm not positive. I remember I was sore the next couple of days and it hurt, but I wouldn't want to say that something happened." To me, she said, "I'm assuming he had sex with me, but I blocked it out — I don't 100 percent know, but I had blood down there and it hurt really, really bad." During one therapy session years later, Jordyn suddenly was overcome with a vivid recollection of having sex with Thor, a traumatic memory that she wrote down. She insisted to me, however, that because her memory was spotty on this detail, she didn't want to make a claim she couldn't always visualize. But on the question of whether Thor used his hands to penetrate her and whether he forced her to have oral sex, Jordyn was, and is, adamant that it occurred.
Thor and Jordyn never made it to Malibu. Instead, they headed back toward Agoura Hills. In the preliminary hearing, this is how Jordyn recalls the ride: "We started to drive home, and I had my face turned away from his, looking out the window, and he had his hands in my shirt feeling my breasts and his fingers in my vagina the whole ride home, and he asked me why I was so quiet, and I wouldn't respond." When they were about two minutes away from Morrison Park, Thor finally returned Jordyn's phone to her. Pattie was waiting for them at the park. Jordyn retreated into her mother's car without saying goodbye, while Thor and Pattie chatted for several minutes. She said nothing on the way home. Inside, she ran upstairs to her bedroom. She felt dizzy, her head was spinning and she was in pain. From his own room across the hall, her brother, Josh, looked at her then slammed his door. Jordyn stayed in her room all afternoon. She opened her algebra book and stared at a single page for three hours: She had a test the next day.
On Monday she failed the test. On Tuesday, Jordyn returned to Thor's house for another acting lesson. In his bedroom, she says, Thor offered an incomplete apology: "Sorry for getting you so f—ed up the other day." Then, she says, he threatened her. "He told me no one would believe me if I said anything. That if I said anything to my mom, she would tell her sponsor and it would ruin her sobriety, and that nobody would believe me anyways." After 15 minutes, Jordyn texted her mother, who picked her up. In court, when Blatt pressed Jordyn about why she voluntarily had returned to her alleged attacker's house, she responded, "I was terrified to tell my parents, and I didn't want to say anything, and they would be upset and I was terrified, and after that he told me it was my fault that — what was I supposed to do? I did not want to tell my parents. I was scared."
That was her last acting lesson.
Jordyn didn't tell anyone what happened to her for more than six months. Nightmares began the night of the alleged assault. Night after night variations of the attack dominated her dreams. In some, Thor killed her after raping her. In one, the assault took place underwater. She was terrified of her parents finding out and blamed herself. Overshadowing it all was her certainty that disclosure would throw her mom back into alcoholism. A fog of doubt, anger and despair descended on her. Sometimes she stayed up all night, unable to sleep due to the nightmares. Jordyn always had been a good student, but now her schoolwork began to suffer. Like many girls her age, she had cherished the notion of being a virgin. But now she stopped caring if boys, like her brother's teenage friends, groped or kissed her — which they did. Though she always had been opinionated, she became pushy, obstinate and desperate to impose some kind of control on her own life. "I had no interest in listening to anyone else," she says. "I was really difficult and stubborn; I didn't want to hear anyone else's point of view. I think that's how I compensated."
Jordyn’s eighth-grade graduation photo, from Lindero Canyon Middle School in Agoura Hills.
Things began to change when Jordyn's cousin Karlie came down from Canada to visit during the winter of 2009. Karlie was six years older than Jordyn, but the two always had been close. Sitting on Jordyn's bed one night after a day of shopping, Karlie talked about how a friend of hers had been the object of an unwanted sexual encounter. Almost casually, Jordyn responded, "That happened to me, too." Karlie pressed her cousin, but Jordyn shut down. Little by little over the next few days, however, Karlie managed to extract more information. Jordyn began to disclose the details about the day in the canyon: the ride in the car, the pot, the assault itself. "I instantly felt sick," Karlie told me. "She wanted to tell somebody, and I think she had been trying to play it off in her 13-year-old mind like it was nothing. I think she didn't understand how wrong it was at the time, being so young."
For months afterward, Karlie, who had returned to Canada, urged Jordyn to tell her parents, but she refused, so Karlie finally called Jordyn's father, her uncle. Dean was in a meeting that afternoon at Brent's Deli in Westlake Village. Karlie was vague about details but said that some kind of inappropriate sexual behavior had occurred between Jordyn and an acting coach months earlier. Dean left his meeting at once and rushed to Jordyn's school, where he pulled her out of class, citing a family emergency. He drove her to a Starbucks, where they ordered drinks. Then Dean quietly said, "I spoke to Karlie."
Jordyn began to sob.
Two more years would pass before Jordyn agreed to tell her story to law enforcement. But people around her exerted constant pressure on her to reveal what had happened. First one therapist, then another, told the Lost Hills Sheriff's Department about the alleged assault after Jordyn and her family sought counseling. Yet when police showed up at her door to take her statement, Jordyn systematically denied that anything untoward had occurred. Her parents pleaded with her to tell the police, but still she refused. Now and again, says Jordyn, Thor reached out to her. She recalls one text she received when she was finishing ninth grade in which Thor said he was passing her school and heard a girl "squeeeaaal," which made him think of her. Around this time, Pattie, in an attempt to bridge the gap with her daughter, confessed that she, too, had been molested by a trusted adult as a child. When she was 8, Pattie said, a friend of the family would come over and routinely molest her while she tried to sleep in her bedroom. When I asked Pattie if her own childhood trauma might have blurred her judgment about what type of adult behavior was appropriate for her 12-year-old daughter to be around, she conceded that she had never made that connection before, but said that was a possibility. One day at the house, a sympathetic male police officer took Dean aside and gave him his business card. "Something happened," the officer gently said. "Give her time, and give me a call when she's ready to talk."
Jordyn did talk to a few people. One was her dance teacher, Anne (who chose not to disclose her last name). One evening, after a class, Anne made a passing comment about wanting to start an acting class. Jordyn, she says, "flipped out" and began telling her about the assault, mentioning Thor by name. In an instant, recalls Anne, Jordyn's whole demeanor changed: Her eyes were overcome by uncontrollable blinking and she started to twitch. Unbeknownst to Jordyn, Anne knew exactly who Thor was: She was a former student. "She launched into this whole nightmare of what happened to her," says Anne recently, audibly distressed by the recollection. "My heart fell through my stomach. I trained with him for so many years. [Thor and Alice] were very good to me and my family, and I never had a bad thing to say about them — ever. I sent people to him to take classes with him and his wife. I about fell over." Anne says Jordyn's disclosure was so honest and lacking in guile that it changed her mind irrevocably. "A lot of people can't believe that he'd do this, but if they saw this little girl break down the way I saw, there's not a person that couldn't believe her. There's no doubt in my mind that he did this." As recently as March, Thor was defending himself during classes, proclaiming his innocence, according to a current student. Anne, who's in contact with many of Thor's present students, concurs: "He has been stating his case and going on about his innocence," she says."His students only know what he tells them."
In the spring of 2013, a therapist told Jordyn that if she was going to file a complaint, she should do it before she turned 18 that June, when the cloak of anonymity afforded to her as a minor would disappear. (There is a 10-year statute of limitations on child molestation in California.) And so began a multiyear legal effort by the Ladells to hold Thor accountable. Jordyn at last told her story to a Lost Hills sheriff, and soon Nick Coulter, the tattooed detective, was a regular visitor to their home. Coulter accompanied Jordyn to Stuart House, which is part of UCLA Medical Center's Rape Treatment Center. During one of her first visits, Jordyn spoke at length about the assault from behind one-way glass while Coulter, DA Shay and a social worker watched to gauge whether her story was true. Before long, the DA decided the case had merit; she would move forward with a prosecution. After multiple interviews, Jordyn was admitted to the program and began a year of intensive therapy and other treatment there.
Telling police what happened turned out to be just the beginning. There was no physical case against Thor, no rape kit, no visible scars or marks left from the alleged crime. So much time had passed since the alleged attack that unless law-enforcement officials could get Thor to confess, they were left with Jordyn's word and that of the experts who had analyzed her account at Stuart House. But they were going to need her cooperation. Jordyn decided to get back in touch with Thor — only now she'd be doing it as part of a police operation. Following directions from the prosecutor, Jordyn sent Thor a text in late spring 2013, asking if he remembered her and inquiring about his life. He wrote back immediately: "Of course I remember you, kiddo." After a few more texts, the two agreed to talk the next day. "Much love and glad you are around and remembered me," he wrote and signed off as he always had: "CT." He sent her a text with another number, which he urged her to use.
Soon, says Jordyn, he was asking for pictures of her, which she supplied after consultation with the DA and police. Being in contact with Thor again left Jordyn shaken and overwhelmed, even with the authorities providing close watch. When his name appeared on her phone, she says she sometimes threw up. During the summer of 2013, her family went to Hawaii for a couple of months — she needed to escape. Jordyn abandoned contact with Thor and Coulter both. When she returned, the DA's office told her they wanted to try again. That December, Jordyn went to a tattoo parlor and had a message inked in large cursive letters up the length of her right rib cage: "My past has not defined me, only strengthened me."
Left: Jordyn says Thor texted this photo of himself and Julianne Hough, during the period in which she was working with authorities to re-establish contact with her alleged assailant. Right: Thor also texted this photo of himself boarding a private jet to Jordyn in that same time frame.
She would need that kind of strength as she sat with her soy chai latte in that Barnes & Noble Starbucks in March 2014, meeting Thor alone for the first time in more than four years. Coulter and another detective sat nearby, ready to pounce if Thor crossed a line. "I was absolutely terrified," she told the court. "I was shaking in my seat the entire time." After Thor sat down, they began to talk and Thor spoke of his latest projects — a new motorcycle, his work on a show called Shameless. When he told her he often drove on Kanan to the beach, Jordyn perked up. "Really?" she asked. It was the in she was looking for. "Remember when we drove over the canyon?" Jordyn's instructions from the DA and the police were to get Thor to admit to sexual activity, but when she tried, Thor would smile demurely and begin to whisper. Meanwhile, she says, he was touching her leg underneath the table. "I was trying to say as much as I could without being too obvious," she told me. Jordyn was convinced that Thor admitted to the sexual assault. But, she says, "he whispered it." And then he stood up abruptly and said he had to leave. He gave her another big hug and then, in front of everyone, kissed her on the lips. In court later, Jordyn said, "He admitted to some things, but they weren't caught on tape because he said them very quietly."
When a friend picked her up later, Jordyn broke down.
The next morning, the DA called her house: She would have to meet with Thor again. The tape from the Starbucks operation hadn't captured enough. Again, Jordyn retreated. For two months, she avoided police and prosecutors. But eventually she returned their calls and agreed to proceed. She had come this far. She refused to see Thor in person again but consented to participate in a "pretext call" — police lingo for a standard phone operation in which officers attempt to lure a suspect into admitting to a crime. In this case, they needed Jordyn to again get Thor talking about the alleged assault in the canyon. Jordyn had recounted her story many times, but the idea of reliving it with Thor left her feeling sick and weak.
Coulter arrived late one night, and the two set up shop in the Ladells' kitchen. With Coulter directing and scribbling notes, Jordyn again steered the conversation back to that day on the mountain. As Coulter gave her explicit instructions, she delved into the past. Coulter urged her to use the word "bad" to get the conversation going because more explicit terms might raise alarm bells. Jordyn recollects that she asked questions about the event and that Thor answered in the affirmative. They were along the lines of: We were bad, weren't we? I was 13, wasn't I? We had sex, didn't we? We smoked weed up off Kanan, right?
Jordyn told me Cameron talked about having an erection and asked if she was aroused, too. Jordyn says Coulter was scribbling notes as fast as he could, shaking his head and making puking motions as he listened to Thor's responses.
In the preliminary hearing, Blatt challenged her repeatedly about what exactly was on the tape and Jordyn repeatedly fended him off, saying she couldn't recall specifics. (The recording of the pretext call will be admitted in court.) When Blatt asked Jordyn to explain the purpose of the pretext call, she said, "Generally, I was supposed to get him to talk about that day and admit what he did." Blatt then asked, "And did he admit to what he did?" To which Jordyn replied, "Yes."
Blatt sees it differently. "If you listen to that pretext call, it's nothing more than a young lady trying to seduce an older man," he says. "Usually in a pretext call, the victim confronts the suspect in an effort to get him to make an admission. In this call, there is not one statement, not one indication that he had inappropriate sexual relations or any time of sexual conduct with her whatsoever. They talk about smoking some marijuana — other than that, nothing. It's ridiculous."
"I was on that phone call," says Jordyn. "I know in my heart what was said and what Cameron Thor meant by it."
Thor was arrested a few weeks later, in June 2014. Cops showed up at an apartment just moments after he and Jordyn had been texting; he apparently had been under the impression that she was about to stop by for a visit.
The trial has not begun, yet the impact of the allegations against plaintiff and defendant is huge. "It is really beyond my comprehension," says Thor's friend Meek, who, like the rest of the public, is unaware of the details from the preliminary hearing. "The whole thing is just terribly sad for everybody — I feel for him and his family and also for this girl who is going through all of this so publicly." The psychotherapist Nicki Monti, who considers herself an "excellent judge of character," believes the allegations against her friend smack of opportunism. "It's just not his area of interest," she says. "Usually you'd see inklings of this sort of behavior, but there was nothing." Says Blatt of Thor, Carter and their two children: "The family seems very loving and they're tight-knit and they're looking forward to getting this matter behind them."
Thor’s mug shot, taken after his arrest on June 3, 2014.
Jordyn is putting her life back together. She attends classes at Moorpark College in Ventura but hopes to transfer to a four-year college soon. She has renewed her Christian faith and met her 22-year-old boyfriend, a minor-league baseball player, through a pastor. She says that she takes action if she sees an adult behaving inappropriately with a child. One day she was at a restaurant when she saw a man yelling at his daughter and yanking her violently on the arm. She stepped in, knocked his baseball cap off and began yelling at him, threatening to call the cops. The man backed off and apologized. "I speak up when I see something wrong," she says. "If you're older and you're with a 13-year-old, you shouldn't be looking at her in certain ways or touching in certain ways. Like calling me sexy. [Thor] said that for a reason. He didn't call me sexy because he couldn't think of a better word."
She continues, "No one spoke up for me. But I say something."
For Anne, the dance teacher, the experience has left her with an unshakable conviction that Jordyn is telling the truth. "This isn't a Hollywood tale," she says. "Jordyn didn't go to Hollywood to be an actress, she went to AA to support her mother." Asked to describe her own feelings, she says, "I held him in such high regard, and to watch this little girl fall apart over him, it's just devastating."
"I believe Jordyn's story," says a woman named Judy who knows both Pattie and Thor from the AA meetings they all attended. "Whatever was happening was not in public view, for sure. I don't think he's stupid, and if he's going to be so off the rails, I can imagine he'd want to protect his business, his family; he had a couple of great little kids, so there was a lot on the table."
Says Dean: "I'd rather be dealing with a daughter telling a fib than a daughter who got raped by a 50-year-old man. But I'm not. If there were a kink in the armor, the DA would have come to us and said Jordyn's changing her story or something, and they never did. If Blatt and I ever had a face-to-face, that's what I'd ask him: 'You don't think she's credible, fine. But what about everybody else? They're all wrong? Everybody's wrong except you?' "
One day recently, Jordyn returned with me to the scene of the alleged crime. Along the way she spoke about how, in the womb, she and Josh had gotten twisted and suddenly she wasn't getting the sustenance she needed. The doctors induced Pattie six weeks early. Jordyn weighed 3 pounds, and her chances of survival were questionable. At one point, in fact, the survival of the entire Ladell family was questionable. But lately they've come together again, and all claim they are closer now than ever before. "Pattie kept us together," says Dean. "She never believed we would fail, and she was right."
Now, as we turned from Kanan onto Mulholland, a few rounded hills covered with the spindly musculature of vineyards emerged. Jordyn grew quieter when the sign for Encinal Canyon Road appeared. She raised a finger to indicate the turnout: "Here." She climbed out and stepped onto a large rock sitting balanced on the cliff's edge. She says it was the same rock where, seven years earlier, when she was 13, naked and terrified, she had stood and stared down to the valley below. "It was deader back then," she says, waving her hands through some recently sprouted wild grass. She noticed that a second large rock that had been there before had fallen down into the ravine. But little else had changed. A few cars passed, and she grimaced. "No one stopped back then," she says. "Not one person."
Standing on the rock, she recalled what had gone through her mind. "I thought about jumping," she says. "Not because I wanted to die — I didn't. But I wondered if I could get away. Then I realized I would just end up hurting myself. But there was nowhere else to go." She looked up and down the road that had gone quiet. The last of the day's light was leaving the canyon. "There was nowhere that he couldn't just chase me down and catch me."