As a drama-thriller living up to its title in every way imaginable, Lifetime’s ‘Abducted: The Mary Stauffer Story’ can only be described as equal parts bewildering, gripping, as well as haunting. That’s because this Jim Donovan-directed original revolves around missionary Mary Stauffer as she and her 8-year-old daughter Beth are abducted at gunpoint by someone they never expected. What ensues is honestly a mess of threats, rape, and violence, making many wonder wheather its whole complex narrative is actually based on some horrific reality — so let’s find out, shall we?
Is Abducted: The Mary Stauffer Story a True Story?
Yes, ‘Abducted: The Mary Stauffer Story’ is a true story; that of the real Mary Sue Stauffer and her then-8 year daughter Elizabeth “Beth” Stauffer’s traumatic May 16, 1980, public kidnapping. Of course, some aspects of this movie are creatively sensationalized or simply implied for both entertainment as well as privacy purposes, but a large majority of it stays true to the actual incident. In fact, the Stauffers’ familial background, the way the mother-daughter duo was taken captive, the unplanned brutal homicide, and their escape following a total of 53 long days, it’s all authentic.
At the age of 36, Mary was admittedly leading a good, happy, healthy, stable life as a wife, mother, teacher, and missionary residing at the Bethel University campus when everything turned upside down. The family had returned from a mission in the Philippines to their hometown of Montana a mere year prior, unaware that there was someone hyper-fixated on having the mother of two all to himself. Therefore, neither she nor her young daughter Elizabeth had any real worries the day they decided to head down to a beauty salon in Rosaelle, just for them to be ambushed at gunpoint while leaving.
The strange young male then tied the duo up before tossing them into Mary’s own truck, following which he made sure to threaten their lives in case of failed cooperation and manically drove away. He did have to stop mid-way a couple of times to re-warn them, only for a 6-year-old boy named Jason to end up unwittingly approaching the vehicle out of pure curiosity owing to the noise. That’s when the stranger forced him into the trunk as well — the film implies this child was later killed through the imagery of him being suspiciously left behind in an isolated wooded area, and it’s unfortunately very true.
The real Jason was mercilessly beaten to death with a metal rod around the secluded Carlos Avery Wildlife Refuge in Anoka County, Minnesota, within hours of being taken captive. Then, the unbothered stranger drove Mary and Beth to his surprisingly normal looking home, locked them up in a narrow closet, set up a camera in an empty space, and dragged his fixation out. It was at this moment it came to light that his name was Ming Sen Shiue, and Mary had taught him at Alexander Ramsey High School roughly 15 years prior — she’d been the core of his obsessions since then.
Now while the Lifetime production suggests Ming always recorded his muse yet kind of took his time before raping her to get what he desired, official records indicate that’s not at all the case. He ostensibly talked to Mary for hours before repeatedly assaulting her on night one itself, just to later threaten to kill her husband Irve and their son Steven should the mother-daughter duo try to escape. He then established a pattern of securing her and Beth up while heading to work, returning at the end of the day, and spending hours lying to, interviewing, and continuously raping Mary on camera.
The truth is there were times Ming locked up the pair at the same place and times when he separated them to raise their level of fear, only for Mary to decide enough is enough on June 7. After 7½ weeks of pure torture and despite being tightly chained to Beth, she somehow managed to remove the hinge pin from the locked closet door while their assailant was at work. The duo then stumbled their way into the kitchen, dialed 911, quickly detailed their ordeal, and went against the dispatcher’s advice of sitting inside because they were afraid Ming would return at any moment.
However, once an officer found a frail Mary and Beth hiding behind a car parked along the street of Ming’s residence, the Taiwanese American was arrested from his workplace; there was little delay. He apparently did try to offer an inmate $50,000 in exchange for killing the Stauffers to prevent them from testifying against him and help him escape, but the inmate went to the FBI instead. Ming later faced two separate trials for the counts against him, with the first resulting in him being convicted of federal kidnapping in 1980, whereas the other found him guilty of murder in 1981.
Ming actually avoided conviction on the charge of first-degree murder by agreeing to divulge the location of Jason’s remains despite the fact he’d misbehaved in court as well. He’d managed to smuggle in a knife, so he jumped over to the witness stand and slashed Mary’s face so deep while she was testifying against him that she needed to get 162 stitches. It’s hence imperative to note Ming has since been deemed a dangerous sexual predator without the contribution of any mental illness, which is why his 2016 parole was denied.
Read More: Where Was Lifetime’s Abducted: The Mary Stauffer Story Filmed?