Ming, who owned an electronics store, returned to his daily routine.
"He ran a business," said Biernat, the author. "He paid payroll. He went to the supermarket. He got his oil changed. ... Life went on as normal." Even his employees didn't have a clue.
T. Kenneth Lewis is a former employee of Ming's. "I would say he was a pretty decent boss," Lewis said. "Ming was very intelligent. As far as his electronics were concerned, he had a good business going."
"And yet," said Biernat, "there was this secret life going on."
On day 23, Ming took Mary and Beth on a bizarre road trip to a job fair in Chicago. Hidden inside a rented Winnebago, mother and daughter were restrained with cables and locks.
"He's a very tormented man, because he is delusional," said Reitman, the psychologist. "He goes from one aspect, of being delusional, being nice, 'Let's go on a family trip.' ... It just represents the moral chaos. ... His psychological life is hell."
Ming bought paper, crayons and board games for Beth. In the evenings he acted out a twisted family fantasy, playing a board game with Beth while Mary cooked dinner.
Meanwhile, the hunt for the missionary and her daughter had nearly come to a standstill.
"It was frustrating, mind-boggling, and we never did go back to when she was teaching algebra in high school," said FBI agent Gary Samuel. "We just ran out of viable things to do, people to talk to."
Back at home, Irv Stauffer described his anxiety and fear.
"I lost about one pound a day, from just, you know, the physical-emotional energy that was being burned up," he said.
Then, day 53 arrived. It was a crushing moment for Mary. Ming told her he planned to buy a new camper for the three to live in. She realized that he would never let them go.
"I was praying, as I had prayed in the morning, as I had prayed every day," Mary said. "Lord, if there's a way to escape, let me see it."
Then, suddenly, Mary did see something. Her eye traveled to the hinge of the door.
"I was looking at how the, the hinge pin and the cable were connected," she said.
Mary realized that the chain connecting her to Beth could be lifted over the door.
"I grabbed the hinge pin and it pulled out like it was greased," Mary said. "The door tilted from the top, and I'm holding the hinge pin and I'm holding the door, realizing that this is our way to freedom."
With every second counting, Mary nervously dialed the sheriff's office.
"I said, and I tried to be calm, lady answered the phone and I said, 'This is Mary Stauffer, the Arden Hills kidnap victim. And I'd like someone to come and get us.'"
Mary and Beth walked out of the house and breathlessly waited in Ming's yard, behind a tree. Minutes later, two officers picked them up. Mother and daughter were still chained together, with cables and bicycle chains wrapped around their waists.
"They were chained together, but what a joy to see," said Irv Stauffer, crying. "We could run together, just throw our arms around each other and hold each other and, I could say how much I loved her. What a, what an exciting, happy day for us as a family."
Police arrested Ming at his office building.
Then the question arose. If Jason Wilkman, the 6-year-old boy from the trunk of the car, was not with the Stauffers, where was he?