Abducted: The Mary Stauffer Story (2019 Lifetime)
Synopsis (via Lifetime)
On May 16, 1980, the lives of teacher and missionary Mary Stauffer (Alyson Hannigan) and her eight- year-old daughter Beth (Daphne Hoskins), were forever changed when they were held at gunpoint on their way home. With their hands bound and forced into the trunk of Mary’s car, the mother and daughter were held captive by the man, Ming Sen Shiue, who Mary later discovered was her former student from 15 years prior, was obsessed with Mary and had been stalking her ever since. Enduring torture, rape and numerous threats, Mary turned to her faith to sustain her and her daughter while held in captivity for 53 days, before they were able to finally escape their horrific nightmare.
Part of Lifetime’s Ripped from the Headlines series. Read more about the real-life case of Mary Stauffer and her daughter Beth here.
The movie starts with a voice-over while home video footage of Mary with her husband and daughter. The voiceover talks about dealing with the troubles in our lives. Mary Stauffer faced some real difficulties, but her faith got her through it.
May 1980. Mary is a woman of faith and is going on a missionary trip with her family. While she says goodbye to her congregation, a young man approaches her and asks her if she is really going to leave. Mary brushes him off and goes on with her life. Later, she takes her daughter to a beauty salon and is held at gunpoint in the parking lot by the same man.
Driving and following the man’s instructions, Mary asks the man why he is doing this. She tells him she doesn’t know him, and he gets irate. He tells her that if she says that again, he will kill her and the daughter. A little boy and his friend witness the abduction. Jason, the little boy, is also kidnapped and presumably killed. The man then takes them to a van, abandons their car, and takes them to his house. It is there where he locks them in a closet. All of this is a gunpoint, mind you.
The husband, Irv, is concerned and calls the police. The police are too busy looking for the kidnapped little boy to worry about Mary and Beth. Irv keeps calling, and the police officers aren’t too concerned until the piece it together. The man who abducted the little boy also kidnapped Beth & Mary.
The man interrogates Mary. He wants to know if she remembers him. His name is Ming Sen Shiue, and he was one of her students in the 9th-grade math class… 15 years ago. He is angry about a bad grade he got and says that he was not one of Mary’s favorites.
Mary and Beth pray in the closet. Mary immediately begins negotiations with Ming. She asks for bathroom privileges, and when he allows her, she tries to escape but realizes it is hopeless. They then sit at the dinner table and eat TV dinners. (Well Ming eats, and they watch.) Ming then chains the mother and daughter together so they can’t escape.
Mary continues to negotiate with Ming. She asks him if he loves her, and when he admits to it, she asks him why he is hurting her. She asks him to let them go home, and he gets more violent and aggressive, probably because he is feeling rejected. Ming realizes that he needs to call off the police search. He forces Mary to write a letter to her husband, saying that she is taking some time to think about their missionary trip.
Ming takes Mary out of the closet and promises to release them tomorrow, as long as Mary does as she is told. He leads her to his bedroom and rapes her. More voiceover from Mary happens, and she explains God gave her peace even in her most fearful moments. Later, she brings up him raping her, and he tells her that she needs to make love to him as she does to her husband. He then goes into detail about what she says during sex and the sounds he makes. Mary realizes that he has been stalking her. (By breaking into her basement and peeping in the bedroom through the floorboards.)
After 14 days in captivity, Lev receives the letter from Mary. He knows that it is a forced letter and the police learn that Mary and Beth are still in the state for the postmarking on the message.
Later, Ming throws Mary the most pitiful birthday party. They sing a somber rendition of “Happy Birthday” and eat store-bought cake. Beth actually seems to be acclimating, and Mary keeps looking for opportunities to give her a leg up on ming. Mary tells Ming that she has had better birthdays.
24 Days in captivity. Mary still has hope. Hope for because of her faith. Mary shows Beth an address off of a piece of mail that she stole. She tells Beth to memorize it and if she ever gets out to tell them where she is. Ming asks Mary if she needs anything, to which she replies, a bible. They read the text while locked in the closet, and Beth plays a beep boop 80’s game.
When the time is right, Mary and Beth pretend to be asleep. They don’t understand why Ming is home so early, but then they realize that MING HAS A ROOMMATE. It is too late. They bang on the floor, but he is listening to music really loud. The roommate is his cousin, Brian. (Who was away.) Ming kicks his cousin out of the house, he can’t
When offered a chance to go to a job conference, Ming asks Mary and Beth if they would like to go to Chicago with him in an RV. Ming asks Mary what she would do if someone saw them in the RV, and she tells him the truth. He gets angry and interrogates her more. He video records these, by the way. Ming also tells Mary that God has forsaken her. She doesn’t see it that way and sees it as an opportunity, maybe she wasn’t the teacher she thought she was because she failed her students. (Clearly…)
In the RV and heading to Chicago, Mary spots a cop while they are parked at a gas station. Mary tries to call for help, but Ming pulls a gun on her and tells her she will suffer if she tries anything like that again. Once in Chicago, Ming heads off to his conference. He lies to them and says that he has bugged the RV and will know if they make any noise. He leaves them alone, and they begin to make their escape. Mary cracks open a window and asks some punk skater boys to help her; they think she is joking. (Insert Sk8ter Boi by Avril Levigne here.)
Since they don’t get out. Ming believes they were on their best behavior and gives Beth the privilege of calling her father on Father’s Day. Irv asks Beth if she is alright and wants to talk to the man who took them, but that doesn’t happen. He cries. His daughter and wife have been missing for 45 days. Mary is “touched” or pretending to be touched by Ming’s kindness. She tells him he has a good heart
The goodness is short-lived when Beth goes to the bathroom alone. Ming ziplines Mary and Beth together. They are out of the closet but now more trapped than ever.
49 days in captivity. Mary somehow convinces Ming to let her go watch the fireworks at a park for the Fourth of July “as a family.” Ming tells them that if they alert anyone, he will shoot them and anyone else he can until the police arrive. Mary is steps away from the police, but they are too busy looking at the fireworks. (Then we get a Katy Perry “Firework” montage… just kidding.)
53 days and 4 mins left in the movie. It is time for something actually to happen!!!! Mary unhinges the door and yells at Beth that the need to go. NOW! Mary calls the police (on an old Rotary phone.) and tells them the address. The police are on the way.
Outside Mary and Beth are rescued by the detective. Next, the police corner Ming and take him into custody. They cuff his stalker ass. Mary and Beth are reunited with Irv and everyone in the precinct claps, even though they did nothing to solve the case.
Title cards wrap up the story:
“Ming was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He was also convicted of second-degree murder after the remains of Jason were found. Ming claimed he panicked and didn’t mean to harm the boy.
Mary and Irv currently live a quiet life in Duluth, Mn. Beth is married with a family of her own. “
Minority Report: Ming Sen Shiue, Detective, Brian the roommate,
🔪🔪🔪🔪 (4 Knives, added an extra knife for Alyson Hannigan’s superb acting.)
🍷🍷🍷 (3 glasses of wine required)
*Photo Credit: © 2019 Lifetime
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