A Mother and 8-Year-Old Daughter Were Kidnapped for 7 Weeks – Their Escape Was Unbelievable, but Just the Beginning
Mary Stauffer and her 8-year-old daughter endured 53 days of captivity by Ming Sen Shiue in 1980. Here’s the inspiring story of their escape, and what happened afterward.
Mary Stauffer and her 8-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, were leaving a beauty salon in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, on May 16, 1980, when a man appeared, and held them at gunpoint. He forced them into the trunk of his car, and then drove away. Although Mary didn’t immediately recognize their abductor, she soon discovered Ming Sen Shiue was someone from her past.
Mary and Beth screamed from inside the trunk, in hope of drawing the attention of passing drivers. Shiue stopped to reprimand them, covered their mouths with duct tape, and then continued driving. He stopped a second time, at an Anoka County park, and found Mary had partially freed Beth. Shiue’s action attracted the notice of two boys, who approached the car to investigate. Six-year-old Jason Wilkman walked toward the trunk, spotted the Stauffers and said, “Whoa.”
He didn’t have a chance to say anything else before Shiue grabbed the boy, stuffed him inside the trunk with the Stauffers, and then continued his journey. He left behind Jason’s friend, who alerted police.
Shiue drove north to Carlos Avery State Wildlife Park, where he forced Jason out of the car, and beat him to death with a metal bar. He hid Jason’s body in the woods, then took Mary and Beth to his home in Roseville, a suburb of Minneapolis and St. Paul. He bound them and locked them in a bedroom closet measuring 21 inches wide by 4 feet long.
Their abductor revealed his identity to Mary on the second day. Twenty-nine-year-old Ming Sen Shiue had been a student in Mary’s ninth-grade algebra class 15 years earlier. He developed an unhealthy obsession with his former teacher, which had progressed into years of stalking. Shiue made four previous attempts to abduct her, and in 1975 even attacked her in-laws. He threatened them not to tell police.
Shiue continued to work at the Roseville electronics store he owned as he kept the Stauffers locked in the closet for weeks. He raped Mary daily, sometimes for hours, and once tried to suffocate Beth until Mary kissed him to make him stop. He tortured them, played mind games, and threatened to kill them and their family if they didn’t comply.
“Every day we wondered if it was going to be our last day,” Mary recalled. “We had no confidence that we would get through it alive.”
How Mary & Elizabeth Stauffer Escaped Ming Sen Shiue
The kidnapping occurred days before the Stauffers planned to return to the Philippines for a four-year missionary trip. Beth called her father on June 15 to wish him happy Father’s Day before she quickly hung up and returned to the closet.
On July 7, after 53 days of captivity, Mary broke open the closet door. She was chained to her daughter, but nevertheless reached the phone to call police. Mary told them who and where she ways, then left the house with Beth to await police. They initially waited on the front porch, but then hid behind a car, fearing Shiue might return from work. Police arrived minutes later, and rescued them.
Shiue was arrested shortly thereafter at his electronics store. It wasn’t until then police realized Jason Wilkman hadn’t been held captive with the Stauffers. Jason’s body was recovered after Shiue showed authorities where his body was hidden two months earlier
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Shiue faced two trials, one federal for the kidnapping of the Stauffers and the rape of Mary, and the other state, for the murder of Jason Wilkman. Mary testified against him at both trials — and both times Shiue attempted to attack her. The prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Thomas Berg, prevented Shiue’s attack at the federal trial. However, in the state trial, Shiue slashed Mary’s face with a knife that he had sneaked into the courtroom. Her wounds required 62 stitches.
Where Are Mary and Elizabeth Stauffer and Ming Sen Shiue?
Ming Sen Shiue was convicted in both trials, the first in 1980 and the second in 1981. He received 30 years to life on the federal kidnapping charges, and 40 years on the state murder charge. He was eligible for parole in 2010, but that was denied. It was determined that Shiue should be held in prison indefinitely
Mary reunited with her husband, Irv Stauffer, and her son, Steve, and returned to her work as a Baptist missionary. The Stauffers have since retired, and Elizabeth and brother Steve have married, and now have children of their own.
Mary rarely grants interviews. However, he has shared her experience with reporters and church groups, focusing on how faith helped her and Beth endure the ordeal. Faith was crucial to Mary’s recovery. “We continue to pray for [Shiue], because God is so merciful,” she said. “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.”
However, Mary has expressed concern about what Shiue might do if he’s released. According to a 2008 psychologist evaluation, Shiue expressed remorse for his crimes, saying, “I devastated [Mary], I ruined her life.”
But the Stauffers didn’t allow him to do that. “He didn’t get to ruin our lives,” Beth said. “He ruined his life.”
The Stauffers Share Their Story
Mary and Beth’s understanding of what happened, their resilience, and their desire to share their story for other survivors is inspiring. Lifetime released a 2019 television movie, Abducted: The Mary Stauffer Story, starring Alyson Hannigan as Mary Stauffer, Daphne Hoskins as Elizabeth Stauffer, and Howie Lai as Ming Sen Shiue.
Mary said that having her experience portrayed on the screen shows other survivors they’re not alone, and that their traumas don’t have to define them.
“I think many people have gone through really bad things; many women have been raped,” Mary said. “They need to see that there’s life after this.”