Real Crime

The Kidnapping and Torture of Mary Stauffer

Abduction and torture victim Mary Stauffer
Abduction and torture victim Mary Stauffer. Photo: Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune via Getty Images
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    The Kidnapping and Torture of Mary Stauffer

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      Becky Little

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      The Kidnapping and Torture of Mary Stauffer

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      August 15, 2020

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      A+E Networks

The following content contains disturbing accounts of violence and sexual violence. Discretion is advised.

Mary Stauffer and her eight-year-old daughter, Beth, were just leaving a beauty salon in Roseville, Minnesota on May 16, 1980, when a man appeared and forced them into his car at gunpoint. Stauffer didn’t recognize him at the time, but she would soon learn that 15 years ago, he had been a student in her high school math class.

That former student was 29-year-old Ming Sen Shiue, who had developed a dangerous obsession with Stauffer. Unbeknownst to her, he had stalked her family and tried to abduct her at least four other times before the day he forced Stauffer and her daughter into his car. Over the next 53 days, he held them at his house, repeatedly raping Stauffer and threatening Beth until they finally managed to escape.

Watch: Mary and Beth Stauffer discuss their 1980 abduction and how faith, love and family helped them move on.

At the start of the mother and daughter’s ordeal—right after the gunpoint abduction—Shiue demanded that Stauffer drive his car to a remote location and park. He then bound Stauffer and Beth’s hands and shoved them into his car trunk. He began to drive, then stopped the car and opened the trunk to reprimand them for praying too loudly. He covered their mouths with duct tape and continued driving, then stopped and opened the trunk again to find Stauffer had partially freed her daughter. Angry at this, he began threatening them.

That’s when two young boys noticed something was going on. One of them walked over to the trunk, spied Stauffer and Beth, and said, “Whoa.” Before he could say anything else, Shiue threw the boy, a six-year-old named Jason Wilkman, into the trunk and drove away. The next time Shiue stopped the car, he took Wilkman out of the trunk, fatally struck him on the head with a metal rod and left his body in the woods. Police did not find Wilkman’s remains until after Shiue’s capture.

Once Shiue arrived at his house in Roseville, he locked Stauffer and Beth in a closet that was 21 inches wide and four feet long. The next day, Shiue took Stauffer out, tied her up in the living room, and revealed his identity as her former math student. He also told her he’d been looking for her for a long time.

Five years before, Shiue had broken into her family-in-laws’ home in Duluth, Minnesota, because he mistakenly thought she lived there. He’d threatened her in-laws with a gun, tied them up and told them he’d kill them if they reported the break-in. Then in 1979, he learned Stauffer and her family were living in an apartment in St. Paul at Bethel University, where her husband worked. He tried to break into the apartment three separate times, at least once by trying to drill holes in the floor beneath Stauffer’s bed, according to the court filing for State v. Ming Sen Shiue.

Now that he had captured Stauffer, Shiue began to rape her daily. He filmed the assaults, which sometimes lasted hours. Complaining that Stauffer didn’t show him affection during these assaults, he once tried to suffocate Beth until Stauffer kissed him on the lips to make him stop. During all this time, he continued to go to work at the electronics store he owned, keeping Stauffer and her daughter locked in the closet while he was away. The only time they left the house was when he brought them to a job fair in Chicago tied up in the back of a rented Winnebago.

On July 7, Stauffer and Beth finally escaped. Though she was chained to her daughter, Stauffer managed to break open the door and call the police from Shiue’s phone. She told them who she was and where she was, and then made her way outside with her daughter—still chained to her—to hide and wait for the police, who arrived minutes later.

After Shiue’s arrest, there were two trials: a federal trial for the kidnapping of Mary and Beth Stauffer and a state trial for the murder of Jason Wilkman. Thomas Berg, the former U. S. Attorney who prosecuted the kidnapping case, didn’t have much contact with Shiue, who did not testify at the federal trial. However, Berg did witness one of Shiue’s violent outbursts.

“I was questioning Mary Stauffer, the kidnapping victim, on the witness stand from the podium in federal court, and I just kind of sensed that something was going on behind me,” he tells A&E Real Crime. “I turned, and the defendant Ming Shiue had gotten out of his chair on the other side of counsel table and was coming up, going after Mrs. Stauffer, the witness. So I just kind of instinctively grabbed him.”

Shiue didn’t manage to attack Stauffer that day, but he did during the second trial for Wilkman’s murder. While Stauffer was testifying on the witness stand at that second trial, Shiue rushed at her and slashed her face with a knife he’d snuck in (Berg did not work on the second trial and was not present for that attack). The wound required 62 stitches.

Shiue was convicted in both trials and received two sentences to be served concurrently: a sentence of 30 years to life for the federal kidnapping charge and a sentence of 40 years for the state murder charge. He first became eligible for parole in 2010, but remains in prison. On October 5 Lifetime aired Abducted: The Mary Stauffer Story, a drama based on the kidnapping that took place nearly 40 years ago.

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