Lifetime often pulls from real headlines for their movies, and their Abducted: The Mary Stauffer Story movie is no different. The true story behind the movie took place in the 1980s.
The Lifetime movie stars Alyson Hannigan and examines the story of Stauffer and her daughter’s survival under harrowing circumstances.
The details behind the kidnapping of Stauffer and her then 8-year-old daughter may seem like they could have been ripped from a movie themselves. Stauffer and her daughter were on their way to get haircuts in advance of a planned four-year missionary trip to the Philippines when they were abducted in broad daylight by Ming Sen Shiue.
Here’s what you need to know about Stauffer and her Daughter:
1. Mary Stauffer Was a Teacher Kidnapped by a Former Student
In the 1970s, Stauffer worked as a high-school teacher before taking missionary trips to the Philippines where she and her husband would live for years at a time.
After being kidnapped, Stauffer, who was 36 years old at the time, didn’t recognize her captor at first, thinking it could be a random crime that was for money or some other incentive. It turned out, though, that Shiue, then 29 years old, was a former student of Stauffers. He became obsessed with her after being in her ninth-grade algebra class 15 years before. He planned his crimes for years before acting on his obsession.
Shiue was stalking Stauffer by 1975 when he broke into a home owned by her in-laws. There, he tied up her relatives and threatened to kill them if they reported the crime. Though Stauffer wasn’t there at the time, he caught up with her five years later, when he kidnapped her and Beth at gunpoint.
2. They Were Held For 53 Days
After being kidnapped, Stauffer was held captive and raped repeatedly over the span of 53 days. She first learned who Shiue was on the second day of her kidnapping. She told People that she didn’t recall anything alarming about him from when he was in her class.
“Very bright. Very capable student. Just a typical ninth grade boy,” she said.
Over the course of 53 days, Shiue threatened Stauffer and Beth, saying he would kill them and their entire family if they tried to escape. He videotaped his sexual assaults of Mary, saying that he would hurt her daughter if she didn’t comply.
He told Stauffer that she had ruined his life by giving him a B in her algebra class, which cost him a college scholarship and forced him to fight in the Vietnam war, where he told her he was held prisoner. None of that was true. He never fought in Vietnam, and he actually attended the University of Minnesota and later owned an electronics store.
“Every day we wondered if it was going to be our last day,” Stauffer said. “We had no confidence that we would get through it alive.”
Each day, Stauffer would tell Beth stories from the Bible to make sure she was staying optimistic about their escape. She revisited the story of the apostle Peter who was imprisoned and set to be killed the next day, only to be saved when God sent an angel to rescue him. Beth would ask Stauffer if an angel would let them out of the closet and let them go home again.
3. They Escaped While Their Kidnapper Was at Work
On their 53rd day in captivity, Stauffer noticed that they were only being held in place by a cable connecting them to the hinge pin on the closet door. She knew that if she could get that hinge pin out of the door, they would be able to get to safety before their assailant came home.
She said the hinge pin came out easily. She was then able to call the police and identify herself, asking the police to come rescue them. She and Beth waited outside behind an old car in fear that Shiue would come home and kill them before the police arrived.
Soon after the police arrived, they also arrested Shiue at his workplace. While in jail, he offered another inmate $50,000 to kill Stauffer and Beth so they wouldn’t be able to testify against them.
Stauffer testified at Shiue’s trial, at which point he tried to kill her twice. First, he charged her while she was testifying at his trial for kidnapping. Then, when she was testifying during his trial for killing a six-year-old Jason Wilkman, Shiue slashed her across the face with a knife he brought into the courtroom. The wound needed 62 stitches.
Shiue was sentenced to 70 years in prison total for his crimes. He was denied parole in 2010.
4. They Credit Their Faith For Keeping them Alive
During the ordeal, Stauffer and Beth would have prayer vigils every day and share stories from the Bible with one another. Stauffer told Fox News that though they felt discouraged and hopeless, they kept their faith to God.
“It was no insurance policy that we would come out of there alive,” she said. “We knew that, but we knew that He wouldn’t desert us. He would be with us no matter what happens. We had to believe that. We had to let that take precedence over feeling.”
Beth told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press that she knew not to be too difficult and to accept what the kidnapper gave them.
“As an 8-year-old child, it became evident to me really quickly, if we’re difficult, he gets more angry, and things are worse for us. If we’re nice and if we’re pleasant, he becomes more pleasant. The truth of the matter is, the more kind we were to somebody who is being awful to us, the better our situation was.”
5. They Now Share a Message of Hope
Through all their tragedy, Mary and Beth Stauffer share messages of hope.
“I hope that people will put their trust in the Lord because you can’t go wrong…” Stauffer said. “After tragedy, there is hope. Tragedy doesn’t define our lives. We can go on with life. God has been so good to us. We’ve been able to go on with our ministry, with our lives, with our family. We have had a wonderful life after kidnapping too.”
Beth agreed that the tragedy does not define their lives.
“It can be a thing that happened in our life,” she said. “It can be something that helps us grow. But good things can still happen after tragedy and [you] can still have a good life.”
Abducted: The Mary Stauffer Story is available to stream on Lifetime and will be re-run on Lifetime at 8 p.m. on February 25.
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