What happened to Mary Stauffer 30 years ago could have been a scene in a horror film. One of her former Algebra students abducted her for two months, repeatedly raping her while her 8-year-old daughter was kept in the closet.
Her captor also killed a 6-year-old boy who was playing in the park when he saw the abduction. During the murder trial, Stauffer's captor attacked her with a knife while she was testifying, and she needed 62 stitches for a cut on her face and neck.
Her captor, Ming Sen Shiue, could be released from prison on parole in July.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's David Chanen has followed this dramatic story as Stauffer and her daughter (who has three children now) relive some of the details of what took place. With a title like "A woman of faith; horrific crimes wouldn't ruin her life" we're set up to read to a faith-filled story.
Mary Stauffer is motivated by the strong belief that there is a purpose for everything and God is in control.
Over the past two weeks, the man who pushed her faith to the limit 30 years ago brought her to an Anoka County courtroom, where she had to relive that event.
Okay, interesting start. We have some tension here as it appears her strong faith could crumble while reliving what took place. The Star-Tribune's video interview shows that faith is a huge factor that has helped her move beyond the abduction.
Stauffer managed their escape and vowed that Shiue's horrific acts wouldn't destroy her. The intervening years, she says, have been wonderfully ordinary.
She and her husband, Irv, have kids and grandkids. They spent years doing missionary work in the Philippines. Days are now filled with Bible study groups and projects around the house.
It's clear from her story that faith motivates the way this woman reacted to her past. However, the reporters doesn't explain the details of her faith. Is she Catholic? Protestant? Mormon? All we know is that she's a woman of faith who does Bible studies and did missionary work, but we don't know what kind of work she did or where she goes to church now.
Later on, Shiue wanted her to show "more affection," but she told him she loved her husband and promised to be true to him until death. That's when he put a plastic bag over her daughter's head.
"I started praying to God, but my prayers went to the ceiling and fell back down," she said.
Shiue videotaped the rapes, but Stauffer said she was hopeful her daughter would be spared because he said "whatever else I am, I'm not a child molester." Before they escaped, she had already started to forgive him.
The reporter does a nice job of filling in the story with some pretty interesting details. It's evident that this woman's faith guided her reaction to the captivity and then during her recovery. The story says that Stauffer continually prays for her captor and she speaks to women and church groups about once a month, but it's unclear whether she's involved in any official ministries or whether she does this on her own time.
The story ends with a strong focus on her faith, allowing Stauffer to speak specifically about the abduction's impact and her forgiveness.
Stauffer has helped so many people through the years by sharing her experience, her daughter said. There was a rape of several students by a gang at a missionary school in the Philippines in the mid 1990s. Beth Stauffer said her mom was able to talk and share with the girls, "which from what I have heard made a great impact on them."
Mary Stauffer said, "Never in the world would she want somebody to go through what she did," but she believes it enabled her to learn so much about herself and her faith.
"What Ming intended for evil, God intended for good," she said.
Stauffer doesn't know whether she will ever see Ming again.
"If he turned his life over to God, then I will see him in heaven," she said.
Did the gang rape happen at a school where Stauffer was a missionary? How long was she a missionary in the Philippines? Where are they now? Does her daughter hold the same beliefs?
I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for a few more specifics other than she was a "woman of faith." That phrase might sound prettier because it may seem less divisive. Anyone who believes in a higher power can look at this story as inspiration for recovery. But people often want to know what kind of faith is guiding specific actions. In an otherwise dramatic story, the lack of specifics leaves us hanging.