A￼s Mary Stauffer, 36, and her daughter, Beth, eight, left their local hair salon, a man approached them in the car park outside.
In his late 20s and with thick glasses, Mary assumed the stranger needed directions. But suddenly he held a gun to Beth’s side and ordered them into their car. Terrified, Mary – a much-loved high-school teacher and churchgoer – did as she was told.
After a short distance, the stranger tied up Mary and Beth and put them in the boot of the car. Mary frantically tried to untie her daughter, but when their captor pulled over to check on them, he was furious Beth was almost free.
His rage caught the attention of two young boys, one of whom spotted the mum and daughter. Not wanting witnesses, the man grabbed the boy and threw him in the car boot too. The child whimpered, and Mary found out his name was Jason. He was six years old.
Soon after, their captor pulled over again and removed Jason from the boot. It was the last time the little boy was seen alive.
Meanwhile, as day turned to night, Mary’s husband, Irv, who was at home with their son, Steve, six, called the police. Almost 10 kilometres away, the man had taken Mary and Beth to a small house, shackled them and locked them in a closet. As they huddled together, Mary desperately wondered who their abductor was and why he seemed to know who they were.
They didn’t see him again until the next afternoon. Blindfolding Mary, he took her into his living room and made her lie down on the floor with her hands tied above her head.
For hours, he told Mary about the other times he’d tried to abduct her, saying he’d even cut a hole in the floor under her bed. Then he made a startling confession. He wasn’t a stranger after all. He was one of Mary’s former students – Ming Sen Shiue – and he’d been waiting for this moment since he was 15 years old.
It was in Year 9 that he’d first laid eyes on Mary, then 21, who was his algebra teacher. What started as a schoolboy crush turned into a dangerous obsession and now he finally had her in his clutches.
Unbeknown to Mary, from 1965, Ming had followed her every move until she moved to the Philippines on a church missionary trip with Irv and their children. With Mary overseas, Ming indulged his obsession by writing twisted stories about their imagined relationship.
In 1975, he broke into a house thinking Mary was back, but it was actually owned by Irv’s parents.Years passed before Mary and her family returned to Minnesota. With Mary back in his sights, Ming’s stalking resumed.
But in May 1980, Ming spied big crates in their front room and became worried they were leaving again. It was his last chance to act on his obsession.With Mary still tied up and lying on his living room floor, Ming told her the score she’d given him in ninth-grade was a blemish on his otherwise perfect record. ‘Because of that grade I was denied a scholarship,’ berated Ming.
Meanwhile, Irv was frantic as the police investigation brought up no real leads.‘We just ran out of viable things to do, people to talk to,’ recalled FBI agent, Gary Samuel.As days turned into weeks, Ming resumed his normal life. Working in his electronics store by day, he’d go home and rape Mary every night.
‘You have to show me more affection,’ he’d demand, threatening Beth’s life if Mary didn’t comply. On day 23, Ming took Mary and Beth on a road trip, keeping them tied up in the back of a rented motorhome.
Back at home, Ming acted like they were a happy family, playing board games with Beth in the evenings while Mary cooked dinner, before locking them in the closet again. By day 53, Mary resigned herself to the fact that Ming was never going to let them go. In desperation, she tried pulling the pins from the hinges on the closet door they were locked in.
Incredibly it worked, and they were able to escape. Still shackled together, Mary and Beth hid behind a tree in the front yard until police arrived.
Ming was arrested at work and eventually led police to the area where the innocent six-year-old Jason Wilkman’s remains were found. He’d been killed by a blow to the head.
Charged with the kidnapping of Mary and Beth along with the murder of Jason, Ming faced two trials. At the first, Ming lunged at Mary but was held back by the prosecutor, Tom Berg. Found guilty of kidnapping, Ming went back to court in February 1981 for Jason’s murder. This time Ming smuggled a knife into the court and attacked Mary.
‘The knife must have been very sharp, because I didn’t feel the pain,’ said Mary afterwards. She needed 62 stitches in her face.
Ming was sentenced to life in prison with a non-parole period of 30 years. After Ming’s application for parole was rejected in 2010, Mary bravely recounted her ordeal to ABC News in the US, revealing Ming’s chilling last words to her.
‘He said, “Don’t think I’m going to forget about you. When I get out, I’ll go after you, and if you’re dead, I’ll go after your kids”.’
But, incredibly, Mary has stayed strong after her traumatic kidnapping. ‘We have had a wonderful 30 years of living, so our lives have gone on,’ she said. ‘I’m so thankful for that.
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