Investigating a Haunting: Carlos Avery WMA, MN – part three

I’m in the early stages of my investigation of a suspected haunting in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area, a local nature preserve. So far, I’ve shared the Facebook conversation which inspired me to begin this series, as well as brief sketch of the park’s history (both mundane and murderous) in PART ONE of this series. I’ve shared my personal history with dead things and predators in one area of the park, as well as the preserve’s paranormal legends in PART TWO. Today I’ll provide the details of the most recent murder that occurred on the property.

If you are reading this page because you searched for information about Carlos Avery after encountering something unexplained in or near the preserve, please contact me to share your story. To remain anonymous, send me a PRIVATE message at my Facebook page. Our conversation will be confidential, and you will determine how you will be identified if I quote you or include your experience in this series.

THE SENSELESS SLAYING OF JASON WILKMAN

Finding my location, in both time and place.

I’ve been putting off writing this installment of the Carlos Avery series. The truth is, I don’t want to do it, because the crime itself makes me so sad. In this story, two children and a teacher are the victims of a pathetic, maladjusted man with life-long psychological problems. In this part of Carlos Avery’s history, there is no tragic swashbuckling, and no mystery. Only the brutal death of a six year old boy in a remote, randomly chosen corner of Anoka County.

I’ve been busily collecting resources and pre-writing for the other tragedies that have occurred in or near the preserve, but as I sit down to write this, I realize I have been shying away from what happened in the spring and summer of 1980. Part of the problem is that this time period feels so recent to me. As I look into other events connected to the Carlos Avery WMA — like the O’Kasick manhunt of 1957 and the Dygart murders of 1911 — I am partially insulated from my feelings by the patina of age that surrounds those stories. They happened in what feels like an entirely different world, and they involved people who seem almost like characters in a novel. I don’t feel a sense of personal juxtaposition. How could I? I wasn’t even born when they happened.

On the Friday when Jason Wilkman was being kidnapped and murdered, though, I know I was just getting ready to turn 13. I was finishing up my 7th grade year … my first year of junior high. We were living in the town of Anoka then, in a house directly across the street from the school I attended. According to the records of KMSP’s weather history, it was a seasonably warm day in the 60s, there was a variable wind, and the skies were overcast. By 10 pm that night, a light rain started.

I don’t remember any details from that day, but I do know I had no awareness of the terrible things that were happening within a 25 mile radius of my home … not that day, and not later, as the story unfolded in the news.

NOTE — MAY 16th: I’ve been trying to get this installment done for more than a month. In the last week, I’ve been determined to finish it and move on, so I’ve been chipping away at it every day. I didn’t realize, until I was putting the last pieces in place tonight, that it will go live on the 35th anniversary of Jason Wilkman’s death. The delay was not intentional.

The insanity of Ming Sen Shiue:

Before we get to what happened to Jason Wilkman, in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area on that afternoon in mid-May, 1980, it’s important to understand the history of the man who killed him.

Ming Sen Shiue was born on October 15th, 1950, in Taiwan. He moved to Minnesota with his mother and his two brothers, to join his father, (who was a professor at the University of Minnesota,) when he was eight years old. Starting in his early years, Shiue was reportedly abusive toward his younger siblings.  In adolescence, he severely beat one brother with a broken belt, and put the other in the oven, which he then turned on. Within three years of the family’s move to Minnesota, Shiue’s father died. Shiue exhibited inappropriate, sexualized actions toward his mother throughout his life, and one psychological report describes his behaviors as “indicative of blurred boundaries and psychosexual disturbance.”

Shiue came to the attention of the justice system in 1964, when he started fires in the apartments of three different individuals. (He also threw rocks at cars.) He was ordered into psychotherapy for the arson at the age of fourteen. At that time, Shiue’s mother reported to his therapist that her son was a frequent liar and that he was very concerned with being right. She also revealed that his was out of her control and that she feared him. She said she believed he was someone who was absent of feelings, “like a dog.” For a short time, Shiue was placed in a detention home. He was caught peeping into neighborhood houses while living there. After he returned to his mother’s house, and his juvenile probation was up, he did not continue with therapy.

The genesis of the nightmare:

In the 1965-66 academic year, when Shiue was in the ninth grade at a Roseville, MN high school, he took an algebra class from a teacher named Mary Stauffer. He became obsessed with Stauffer and admitted (in his testimony at his 1981 trial) that he had violent sexual fantasies about her from then on.

Sometime in the next ten years, between 1965 and 1975, Shiue decided to kidnap Stauffer so that he could act out some of these fantasies.

In 1975, Shiue came to believe that Mary Stauffer was living in Duluth, MN. (She was, in fact, living in the Philippines doing Christian missionary work with her family.) He broke into a residence in search of her but found, instead, Stauffer’s inlaws. He tied them up at gunpoint, then threatened to kill them if they every reported his break in. They did not. He continued to look for Stauffer for another four years.

In 1979, Mary Stauffer, her husband and their two children returned to Minnesota from the Philippines. They intended to go back, to continue their missionary work, the next year.

While the family was in Minnesota, Shiue discovered they were living on the campus of Bethel College, in Arden Hills, a town close to his own home. He began to stalk them in earnest. He attempted to break into their apartment three times. (His attempts included burning the area around the patio door and drilling holes into the floor beneath Stauffer’s bed.)

I can’t tell, from the news coverage that I’ve found, if Stauffer knew someone was stalking her, nor can I determine if she was aware that the 1975 break-in at her in-laws’ home was related to her.

May 16th, 1980:

Shiue was living alone in a house in Roseville when he finally decided to go through with his plan to abduct Mary Stauffer. According to newspaper accounts, he saw Mary as she exited a Roseville beauty salon with her eight year old daughter, Elizabeth.

I don’t know if he stalked her to that location or if he just happened to see her exiting a shop while he was going about his business in his own town. As unlikely as the second scenario is, it’s not hard to see how that kind of coincidence could trigger Shiue to act in that particular moment.

Shiue approached the Stauffers with a gun. He instructed them to get into Stauffer’s car, then forced Mary to drive by holding the gun to Elizabeth’s head. When they had reached a “deserted area,” he had Mary pull over so he could bind both females and put then in the trunk of the car. He then continued to drive. Twice he heard noise coming from the trunk as the Stauffers tried to escape or attract attention to their plight. Each time he pulled over to quiet the captives by adding more restraints in the form of ropes and duct tape.

On the second stop,  while he had the trunk open, a six year old boy named Jason Wilkman approached the car to see what was happening. According to a young witness at the scene, Shiue tossed the boy into the back seat of the car and fled the scene. Mary Stauffer later testified that a boy named Jason was put into the trunk with her and Elizabeth.

Jason Wilkman

Shiue then drove to Carlos Avery, which is 30 miles north of the Roseville abduction scene, where he killed Jason Wilkman and dumped his body. After the murder, he returned to his house in Roseville, where he kept Mary and Elizabeth Stauffer captive until July 7th.

I don’t understand where Shiue was going with all this driving. If he had a house in Roseville, and he abducted the Stauffers from a beauty salon in Roseville, how and why did he end up Carlos Avery? Why was he headed away from the home where he intended to imprison Mary and Elizabeth Stauffer? Newspaper accounts indicate that Jason Wilkman was abducted about two hours AFTER the Stauffers. Why was Shiue still driving around with the Stauffers in the trunk? 

Jason Wilkman he was taken from Hazelnut Park, less than one mile from the beauty shop where the Stauffers were abducted. Both the beauty shop and Hazelnut Park are less than five miles from Shiue’s house … which is south of the abduction sights.

So. It appears Mary Stauffer / Shiue drove around the neighborhood for two hours before Jason Wilkman was put first into the back seat of the car, then the trunk. Then Shiue headed north approximately 30 miles to the northern edge of Carlos Avery, where he killed Jason Wilkman. Then he turned around and went back home.

This is a static screenshot, but if you click it, a window will open with an interactive map.

This is a static screenshot, but if you click it, a window will open with a fully functional, interactive map.

Carlos Avery - Jason Wilkman map key

What happened to the Stauffers?

I’ll get back to Jason in a moment, but it wouldn’t be fair to leave the fate of the Stauffers a mystery, even though nothing else in their story is associated with Carlos Avery.

When Shiue arrived home with his captives, he told Mary that he had released Jason Wilkman in a place where he would be found. He then confined Mary and Elizabeth to a small closet he had prepared for the purpose. Later that night, he brought Mary out into the living room and told her that she had ruined his life by giving him a poor grade in Algebra. He claimed he’d lost a scholarship and was consequently drafted into the Viet Nam war, where he was captured and held as a prisoner of war. His entire tale was a lie. He then violently raped her for the first time. During the next seven weeks, the rapes continued.

In order to better control his captives, Shiue sometimes took Elizabeth with him when he went to work at his repair shop. (He would leave Elizabeth bound in his vehicle.) Over time, however, Shiue relaxed into a fantasy that the three of them were a family. Eventually, in order to keep her daughter healthy, Mary requested fresh food and, under close supervision, she was allowed to prepare meals for the three of them. In early June, Shiue took the Stauffers with him to the Chicago area so that he could attend a job fair. (He kept them tied up in an RV.) For Father’s Day, Shiue took the Stauffers to a pay phone so they could call home to let Mary’s husband know they were alright. On the 4th of July, he took them to a park so they could watch the fireworks.

On July 7th, Shiue left both Mary and Elizabeth at his house, confined in a different, slightly larger closet, when he went to work. Mary was able to pry the bolts from the door hinges. The Stauffers were bound together with a cable, but they were able to get to the phone and call the police. They managed to get outside where they hid behind a car until a squad arrived. Officers asked if Jason Wilkman was still in the house. It was then that Mary first knew for sure that the boy had not been found.

The police had no trouble arresting Shiue at his shop. In September of 1980 he was tried in federal court on kidnapping and rape charges. He was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 30 years served before becoming eligible for parole.

In February of 1981, Shiue was tried for the murder of Jason Wilkman. During those proceedings, while Mary Stauffer was testifying, Shiue broke away from the defendant’s table and attacked her with a pocket knife he had somehow concealed. He slashed her face before he was subdued by six men. The cut required 62 stitches to be repaired.

A slideshow of  photos, from ABC NEWS, including the house and closet where Stauffer and Elizabeth were held.

And what about Jason?

In October, 1980, Shiue agreed to show the FBI where he had left Jason Wilkman in exchange for a second-degree murder charge rather than first-degree. (At least one newspaper article indicates that he was still claiming that he’d simply left the boy in the woods alive.)

The Carlos Avery WMA is so large and difficult to navigate that, even with forensic clues taken from the under-carriage of Stauffer’s car and the cooperation of Shiue, several days of searching had to conducted before the boy’s skeletal remains were found.

Shiue was convicted of second-degree kidnapping and murder in 1981. For these crimes against Jason Wilkman, he was sentenced to 40 years, to be served concurrently with his federal conviction for his crimes against the Stauffers. He would become eligible for parole on July 6th, 2010.

On October 16th, 2009, a petition to commit Shiue “as a sexually dangerous person and as a sexual psychopathic personality” was filed. The petition was granted on September 29th, 2010 (and a later appeal by Shiue was denied.) This means that, if Shiue is ever paroled, he will likely spend the rest of life incarcerated in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.

The 25-page, 2010 Anoka County Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order in the matter of the Civil Commitment of Ming Sen Shiue is interesting reading if you want to discover more details about Shiue’s behavior and psychology. I’ve extracted one piece from it below, because it directly speaks about Jason Wilkman.

From the Finding of Fact:

Finding 21.

[Shiue] drove to Carlos Avery Wildlife Refuge in rural Anoka County, removed Jason Wilkman from the trunk and murdered him. An autopsy of Jason Wilkman revealed several fractures to his skull. The pathologist who examined Jason Wilkman’s remains indicated that the cause of death was severe cerebral trauma caused by at least two blows to the head delivered by a blunt instrument with a great deal of force. During [Shiue’s] trail for the murder of Jason Wilkman, [Mary Stauffer] testified that [Shiue] took a one-and-half-foot metal rod with him when he removed Jason Wilkman from the trunk.

Jason Wilkman probably died quickly from the blows. His body was left exposed to the elements.

On the night he was killed, a light rain fell in Carlos Avery. On the day his body was found, the sky was partly cloudy, there was a fitful breeze, and the temperature never rose above 41 degrees. In between those events, 165 nights passed, and the season changed from spring, through summer, to deep autumn. I didn’t know he was out there when I was busy being 13, but I do now. The knowledge makes me terribly sad.

I keep thinking about how cold most of those nights must have been. When I go out to the preserve again, I think I’ll take a blanket with me and leave it in the area where he lay for so long.

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8 Comments on “Investigating a Haunting: Carlos Avery WMA, MN – part three”

  1. Paul Hill says:

    Renae,

    Great journalism. How does one such as your subject become so evil? If not from his own childhood abuse, which does not seem to be the case, then how? I think some people are born that way; mal-wired from the start. They are the proverbial “bad seed.” Such deviants are rarely amenable to being “corrected,” and continue their evil deeds in spite of efforts to punish or change them.

    In the old days, when village culture enforced the laws and norms of local populations, it had ways of dealing with predators. They were rooted out, and let’s say justice was done and the village was relieved. Uncivilized? Perhaps. But what has our civilized society done to keep predators from victimizing again and again? Therapy? Rehabilitation? Prison? The Bad Seed in our midst often continues to flourish in spite of modern attempts to control them.

    Scarier still, what happens when the Bad Seed finally dies and becomes a restless spirit bent on revenge?

    • I wonder about his childhood. There were few details about his home life, but I think I can see a few clues that things were not right. (There’s something about that phrase his mother used to describe him — “like a dog” — that doesn’t sit well with me.) There was no suggestion that he was abused or neglected, but, at the very least, I see evidence of parental incompetence / ignorance. I fear that clear signs of mental illness must have been ignored.

      I don’t know how I feel about the concept of a bad seed. On the one hand, I do see that my own children are entirely unique, and distinct from me and their dad, with obviously inborn traits. On the other, though, I feel like a small child is incapable of deliberate evil.

      I would love to learn more about the transitional phase between accidental cruelty and deliberate cruelty.

  2. So much detail! You’ve worked hard on this post, and it shows. Very informative…good job!

  3. Britney says:

    I can’t stop the tears flowing just thinking about that sweet boy senselessly taken. Please lay that blanket down for that baby. Please. Cuz I’m all the way in Georgia and I can’t. And don’t ever forget him. That’s what we can still do. We can remember him and think of him and hope that somewhere, somehow he knows he is still loved and cared about.


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