The details surrounding the kidnapping and torture of Mary Stauffer and her 8-year-old daughter were so harrowing and lurid, they sounded, to many, as if they could’ve been ripped from a movie.
The Minnesota high school teacher had just taken her little girl, Beth, for a haircut ahead of the family’s planned four-year missionary trip to the Philippines when the pair was confronted by a man with a gun and a plan years in the making.
Ming Sen Shiue, a student of Mary when she taught ninth-grade algebra, had obsessed over his former teacher for 15 years before abducting her and her young daughter in broad daylight on May 16, 1980.
Mary and Beth would escape Shiue’s grasp after spending 53 days in captivity, a period of time that will be examined in the upcoming Lifetime movie, “Abducted: The Mary Stauffer Story," which airs Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.
Starring Alyson Hannigan, the film will examine Mary’s story of survival.
“We didn't know from minute to minute whether we would be alive the next minute,” Mary told Inside Edition.
Shiue forced Mary to a remote location, threatening violence against her and her daughter along the way.
“At one point there was a police car behind us and we came to an intersection, and I remember him saying, ‘If that police car turns the same way we turn, you're dead,’” Mary said.
Shiue then bound the mother and daughter’s hands, and forced them into the trunk of his car. He drove to an undeveloped area near Roseville and prepared to retrieve a van from a nearby parking lot, opening the trunk of the car and putting its spare tire on top of Mary and Beth.
At the same time, two boys curious about what was going on approached the car. While one stayed at the front, 6-year-old Jason Wilkman walked to the back of the car, where he encountered Shiue.
“I think our abductor panicked and grabbed Jason and threw him in the trunk on top of us,” Mary told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “[The other boy] saw what happened to his friend and ran home. We didn’t know what had happened, and all of a sudden the trunk is slammed, the car is started and it peels out. It was a wild ride out of there.”
Shiue drove around for a while before returning to the area, where he forced Jason out of the trunk and into the woods. He was never seen alive again.
Shiue forced Mary and Beth into his van, took them to the electronics store he owned and then finally drove to his family’s home, where he shackled and chained them together in a back bedroom closet.
“There was a light bulb with a pull chain there was a scatter rug on the floor and two throw pillows and that closet became our home for the next 7 1/2 weeks,” Mary said.
On the second day of the kidnapping, Shiue explained who he was.
“He said do you remember the grade you gave me?” she recalled. “I said, ‘Well, it must have been an F for you to do this to me.’”
Shiue said he had received a B-, a grade that brought down his otherwise perfect grade point average and had led to the spiraling of his life. He claimed it was because of that grade he was unable to receive an academic scholarship and instead was drafted into the Vietnam War and ended up in a POW camp.
None of the stories he told were true.
Shiue finished at the top of his high school class and was voted most likely to succeed by his peers, reportedly attended the University of Minnesota, never served in the U.S. military and instead started a business in the Twin Cities, the Pioneer Press reported.
Unbeknownst to Mary, Shiue had tried to abduct her at least four other times before being successful. Former students would later tell Mary he was obsessed with her while she taught at the school.
But Mary was unaware of those details, and asked what he planned to do for revenge.
“He began to remove my slacks and underpants and pull my shirt over my head and said, ‘I think you can guess. I don’t want your scars to be physical, I want them to be emotional. I want you to feel dirty, debased and degraded,’” she told the Pioneer Press.
Shiue repeatedly raped Mary and threatened to kill Beth unless Mary became more affectionate toward him, the start of a strange dichotomy the mother and daughter would be forced to live through for nearly two months. While relaxed enough to allow Beth and Mary to eat in the kitchen, shower and eventually play games, he also forced Mary to write to letters to her husband.
In the first, Mary was made to try to convince the police that she had just left and was not missing, while in the second letter she had to get the point across that the police had to stop looking for them or else they would never been seen again.
And on Father’s Day that year, Shiue allowed Beth to call her dad in a conversation taped by the FBI.
A little over four weeks into the abduction, Shiue took the mother and daughter on a road trip in a rented Winnebago motor home to a job fair in Chicago. To prepare for the trip, he brought Mary to a shopping mall in Madison, Wisconsin, while leaving Beth in the motor home.
There, both the mother and daughter tried to find ways to escape, but their silent cries for help went unanswered.
“It was a moment when I had some bravery and I called out and said, ‘Hey, can you get some help, I’ve been kidnapped,’” Beth told the Pioneer Press. “They basically laughed at me and told me to stop making up stories and went on their way.”
Then on July 7, after Shiue had gone to work and left Mary and Beth alone, they managed to get the hinge of the door of the bedroom they were allowed to stay in and call for help.
“I said, ‘This is Mary Stauffer, the Arden Hills kidnap victim and I would like someone to come get us,’” Mary told the Pioneer Pres. “I’ll never forget his words. He said, ‘Is Jason with you?’ That’s when I knew that Jason had never made it home and was most likely dead.
“That was worse than the rapes or the initial kidnapping,” she continued. “I had a 6-year son, friendly just like Jason. I could picture it happening to him and I thought about Jason’s parents, and prayed. It was devastating for me.”
The mother and daughter were rescued and Shiue was arrested and he eventually led investigators to Jason’s remains. During his trial for killing Jason, Shiue attacked Mary as she testified.
“As I am answering questions, all of a sudden, Ming jumps up from his chair, runs behind me, grabs me by my neck and holds a knife in front of me and says, ‘Get back or I’ll kill her,’” she said. “Maybe the idea was, ‘If I can’t have her, nobody can have her.’”
Mary needed 62 stitches to close the wound she suffered.
Shiue was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 30 years in connection to Mary and Beth’s kidnapping. After being found guilty of kidnapping and second-degree murder in connection to Jason’s killing, he received a sentence of 40 years to be served concurrently.
The Stauffers traveled to the Philippines in 1981 and retired in the U.S. They declined to file a civil suit against Shiue, even though his business was reportedly worth more than a quarter million dollars.
“We continue to pray for him because God is so merciful,” she told the Pioneer Press. “I have not felt the need to reach out to him. I just felt that would be unwise to make any sort of contact with him."