Mind Games: Dangerous Obsession Leads to Horrific Kidnapping

Photo: Primetime Mind Games Math Teacher Kidnapping

It was May 1980, and the Stauffer family of Minneapolis, Minn., was making last-minute preparations for a four-year stint in the Philippines.

Mary, 36, a former high school math teacher, and her husband, Irv, were Baptist missionaries with two young children, Beth and Steve.

In the mind of the man who'd been stalking Mary Stauffer for years, it was the last chance to pounce. The man had been spying on the family intensively.

"He knew that Beth had a little makeup Barbie that was on the dresser top of her room," said Mary Stauffer. "He knew our son Steve... He knew that my parents had been to visit, he had followed me down the highway one time. In fact, he even knew where the spare key to our apartment was."

What he also knew was that Mary and Beth, 8, were going for last-minute haircuts in Roseville, just a few miles away from home.

"We saw a man walking toward us," Mary said. "And I looked up and thought he wanted to ask directions. But suddenly, he pulled out a gun and put it at Beth's side and said, 'I need a ride.'"

The stranger, an Asian man with thick glasses, appeared to be in his 30s. He ordered Mary to drive.

"I remember thinking, 'This isn't really happening to me,'" Mary said. "'What's going on? Is this a dream?' I was very scared.

The stranger ordered Mary to stop in a remote, wooded area. Without a word, he bound mother and daughter, pushed them toward the back of the car and locked them in the trunk.

"I said, 'Please don't put us in the trunk. We won't be able to breathe,'" said Mary.

A Fateful Encounter

Mary and Beth lay face down in the trunk, praying together. Suddenly, the car stopped and the trunk swung open. The stranger could hear the prayers. He angrily told them to stay quiet. He wrapped duct tape around their faces, gagging them. Then the trunk closed, and they were in darkness again.

Mary Stauffer tried to work to loosen her daughter's bonds. Before long the car stopped again. The man opened the trunk and saw that Beth had been partially freed. He began to threaten them.

That's when two little boys wandered over, curious about what this man was doing.

"Two little boys walk up toward the car, and one stays at the front of the car and one walks to the back trunk," said author Eileen Biernat, who chronicled the story in a book called "Stalking Mary." "And he looks in, and he sees this woman and child duct-taped together, and, and is alarmed. He says, 'Whoa.'"

But before he could finish his sentence, the man grabbed him and put him in the trunk, too.

Mother and daughter did not know what had happened, but they felt something moving at their feet.

"I could hear whimpering," Mary said. "There was a little movement. And I thought, 'This is a child.' ... We found out his name was Jason. He was 6 years old."

Beth Stauffer remembered the moment of 30 years ago.

"I think he said first, 'I'm supposed to visit my grandpa and grandma tomorrow,'" said Beth. "We just talked about being scared."

"Fear was, was at a very high level at that point," said Mary.

Police soon received several calls about a 6-year-old boy named Jason Wilkman seen being abducted by a dark-haired man. But authorities still had no idea that Mary Stauffer and her daughter Beth were missing.

"Then the car came to a stop," said Mary. "And the trunk lid was opened, and Jason was removed from the trunk, and then the trunk lid was closed. And then all was quiet."

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