Mary Stauffer stalked by former math student Ming Shiue

Mother survives 53 days trapped in closet with her daughter

I don't know what to suggest about getting the rest of our things up to Duluth—perhaps you could go on Monday or Tuesday.

There are still several things in the guest room desk—photos, etc.—that can go up to Duluth along with the photo albums and baby books in the living room. My pink dress and brown coat go to Duluth as well as the sewing machine, afghan, and bag of stuff in the dining room.

I hope you can get it all taken care of.

Top: Ming Shiue's high school graduation picture. Bottom: Staff picture of Mary Stauffer.
Alexander Ramsey High School Yearbook 1965
Top: Ming Shiue's high school graduation picture. Bottom: Staff picture of Mary Stauffer.
Jason Wilkman's first-grade school picture
courtesy of Eileen Biernat
Jason Wilkman's first-grade school picture

All my love,

Mary and Beth

PS – Hi, Steve!

When Irv turned the letter over to the FBI, they knew they had to keep the fact of the letter confidential; otherwise, the perpetrator might panic and kill his captives.


ADDING TO THE OPPRESSIVE atmosphere in the closet was Minnesota's record-breaking heat wave that May and June—temperatures fluctuated between 88 and 100 degrees. With no air circulation in Mary and Beth's confined space, the heat in the closet was nearly unbearable.

In an attempt to distract her daughter from the reality of their horrid living conditions, Mary would hold Beth on her lap, telling and retelling Bible stories. Clinging tightly to each other, they would also reminisce about fun times they'd shared as a family. This would sometimes lighten their mood, but Beth's laughter most often disintegrated into silence, and then came the tears of loneliness—tears for her dad, her baby brother, her friends, and most of all her freedom. Surprisingly, there developed a "normalcy" to Mary and Beth's daily routine—a bizarre normalcy, but a normalcy nevertheless.

Early in their captivity, Shiue would microwave canned food and bring it to them in the closet. Mary, concerned as always for her daughter's well-being, told Shiue that as a growing child, Beth needed healthy food. She asked him to buy meat, vegetables, and fruit, and he complied. As the days wore on, she began preparing meals for all of them. Chained together in the kitchen, with the shades pulled down and under the watchful eye of Shiue, Mary and Beth would cook, and when the meal was prepared, the three of them would sit down to eat.

In many ways, this was Shiue's dream come true. He finally had the family he so desired. He would come home in the evening and the three of them would play Uno together after dinner.

While Mary's life was a nightmare, with rapes occurring almost every night, she never revealed to Beth the horrors she went through when Shiue took her out of the closet alone at night.


ONE NIGHT IN EARLY JUNE, Shiue arrived at the house after nine o'clock and brought Mary and Beth out from the closet. He heated a can of Dinty Moore beef stew. While Mary and Beth sat chained to the kitchen table eating the stew, Shiue told them he'd been invited to attend a trade conference in Chicago the following week.

He went on to tell them that he'd spent that evening at the Roseville Library researching the criminal aspects of kidnapping; he wanted to attend the conference and planned to take them with him. But, he told them, he would be taking a big risk by taking them across state lines. He had learned that, by doing so, he could be charged with the federal crime of kidnapping. Were he caught and arrested, that would add about five years to his sentence.

He also said he'd been studying other abductions so he wouldn't make the same mistakes that other kidnappers had made.

"So, if we were traveling and someone was near the RV, what would you do?" Shiue asked.

Mary replied, "Well, I guess I'd tell them you were holding us against our will."

Shiue sort of chuckled. "Yes, I guess you would," he said.

The next day Shiue rented a fully equipped Winnebago and purchased additional bicycle cabling and duct tape.

That night after dark, they began their road trip. He made Mary and Beth cover their heads with jackets, then rushed them into the motor home and covered each of them with a large cardboard box. Shiue began the drive to Elk Grove, Illinois.

"We were chained together and to a chair that was welded to the floor of the van," Mary later testified. "He drove through the night, and the next day we stopped in Wisconsin for gas. He had a gun and told us if we tried to shout out to anyone while we were in the gas station, he'd kill the people and us.

"That Sunday night at about 8 p.m., we arrived at the Midway Motor Lodge, and I think we were in Elk Grove, Illinois. That night and whenever he left us during the day to go to meetings, he'd park in an isolated area of the parking lot, remove the inside handle of the door, and tape the curtains tight against the windows. Then he would wrap the cable underneath the stove that was attached to the gas line. He warned us if we tried to pull on it that the gas line would break and that we would be breathing in gas."

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