Courtroom Sketches For ABC News

This past spring I was hired by ABC News out of New York to do courtroom sketching for a big trial they were covering here in Minneapolis. It’s a fascinating story:

In 1980 a young man named Ming Sen Shiue kidnapped his former teacher, Mary Stauffer, and her 8-year-old daughter Beth. A 6-year-old boy, Jason Wilkman, witnessed the kidnapping so Shiue murdered him and left his body to rot in the woods. Then he locked Mary and Beth in a closet in his suburban home where he kept them as prisoners for seven weeks. During that time Shiue raped Mary almost every night, often videotaping the rapes.

Eventually Mary and Beth escaped and Shiue was arrested. At his trial Shiue smuggled a knife into the courtroom. While Mary was on the witness stand he attacked her and slashed her face. He also swore that if he ever got out of prison he would come after Mary, and if she was dead he would go after her children.

Shiue was sentenced to thirty years in prison for his crimes. Thirty years have now passed. So a hearing was held to determine what should be done with Shiue. Should he be put back in prison? Locked away in a treatment facility? Or be set free?

Shiue is now an old man with gray hair. He needs crutches to walk. He says he regrets his former actions and wishes no harm on the Stauffers. Yet during his thirty years in prison he made almost no effort to get serious treatment or to seek professional help, and the Stauffers are understandably afraid for themselves and for their families.

Mary Stauffer and her husband are life-long missionaries. She credits God with helping them to get through their ordeal and for helping her family to find healing. They have forgiven Shiue for what he did to them. Nevertheless they are convinced he should not be released back into society. The risk of him doing further harm is too great.

The ABC news series “20/20” decided the story would make a good segment for their program. The network people in New York saw a photo on (taken by Richard Sennott) of me sketching for another recent trial. They liked my work and hired me to do a day of sketching for them at this hearing.

Ming Shiue waits for the hearing to start.
Ming Shiue is questioned by the prosecution.
The Stauffer family listens to the proceedings.
Beth Stauffer tells the courtroom why she believes Shiue should not be freed.

I worked out a deal with ABC allowing me to also sell the drawings to the local media. The sketches aired on several local news stations and even made the front page of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Unlike the local news outlets, 20/20 wasn’t in a giant rush to use the sketches so I was able to go back into my studio and touch them up—a luxury courtroom sketching normally doesn’t allow. In the courtroom you have to sketch extremely fast so that you can rush the drawings out the waiting news truck as soon as they are finished. I didn’t really nail the likenesses in my first sketch of the family so it was nice to be able to go back in my studio and use my Cintiq to draw a new, improved version.

My contact at ABC told me that the “20/20” story would probably air in June. I’ve been watching the 20/20 website and recording every episode hoping to see my sketches. Today I learned that, to my surprise, it already has aired—not on 20/20 but on a different ABC News series called “Primetime”. Apparently ABC decided that “Primetime” was a better place for the story and ran it this past Tuesday (June 22). I just missed it! That’s OK I guess. I know that producing an hour-long news story takes a lot of work and the people at ABC are very busy. I know they don’t have time to contact every person who had anything to do with each show. Still, a quick courtesy call or email would have been nice.

For the time being you can watch clips from the episode on the Primetime website, though they probably will only be live for a few more days. Unfortunately I didn’t see my sketches in any of the clips so I don’t know if they were just trimmed out for the web or if they never even made it to air in the first place. I did order a copy of the episode on DVD so eventually I’ll find out for sure one way or the other.

A lengthy but well-written article about the Stuaffer’s ordeal can be read here. There’s also a book about the case, “Stalking Mary”, which can be purchased here.

As far as I know the judge hasn’t yet made a decision about Shiue’s fate. If I had to guess, I think he’ll probably wind up locked away in a secured treatment facility for the rest of his life.