Mei Dickerman planned to testify Wednesday in the civil commitment trial of her son, Ming Sen Shiue. But he suffered a medical problem, clearing the Anoka County courtroom for an unexpected two-hour recess.

Outside the room, Mary Stauffer, one of the victims of crimes for which Shiue has spent the past 30 years in prison, walked over to a shaken Dickerman and introduced herself. The mothers sat down on a couch, heads close together as they shared words of empathy and sorrow both needed to bring closure for years.

Stauffer told Shiue's mother that she wasn't responsible for the actions of her son, who raped Stauffer in his Roseville home and held her captive for nearly two months after kidnapping her and her young daughter. Dickerman said she had felt deeply troubled by her son's crimes. The 20-minute talk ended with hugs and Stauffer's husband, Irv, leading them in a prayer to ask the Lord to give Dickerman's family grace and strength "as they go through this ordeal."

"As a mother, if I had a son who did what Ming did, I would feel so horrible," Stauffer said. "I let her know how much I feel for her. My suffering ended in seven weeks, but it lasts for the Shiue family forever."

Shiue, 59, has the possibility of parole in July, and experts have spent the past three days testifying about whether he should be committed to a secured sexual treatment program if released. Anoka County officials have filed a petition seeking civil commitment.

Rick Mattox, Shiue's attorney, argued that his age, proposed sex offender treatment and intensive supervision while on lifelong parole reduce his risk to reoffend. Mattox also pointed to Shiue's nearly spotless discipline record in federal prison and questioned some psychological tools used in his evaluation.

Since July 2008, Shiue has been evaluated by three court-appointed attorneys. In her report, Amanda Powers-Sawyer diagnosed sexual sadism and antisocial personality disorder in Shiue. Maddox questioned whether she was taking into consideration Shiue's behavior through his life or only the several months in 1980 when he raped Stauffer and kidnapped her young daughter, Beth. He also killed 6-year-old Jason Wilkman, who witnessed the abduction. Shiue received low-risk scores to reoffend on some tests given by Powers-Sawyer.

Dickerman, her son Charles Shiue, a daughter-in-law and granddaughter listened to several hours of testimony, but the earlier medical delay didn't leave time for Dickerman to testify. Paramedics were called to the courtroom when Shiue was spitting up blood; it was determined the trouble was caused by a dental problem.

'I'm so sorry'

As he walked with deputies back to his cell after the medical trouble, Shiue had a quick conversation with his mother. A few minutes later Stauffer, with permission from Mattox, went to talk with Dickerman. At one point, Dickerman's daughter-in-law sat near Stauffer and said, "I'm so sorry."

Later on, Larry Krohn, Wilkman's uncle, approached Dickerman and said Jason's parents and family forgive Shiue.

Like Stauffer, he also let Dickerman know they feared for their family's safety if Shiue is released.

Irv Stauffer said the trial has brought back painful memories, he said. "Those 7 1/2 weeks were the most difficult time in our lives," he said. "Not knowing day to day what was happening to them, and if I would ever see them again."

David Chanen • 612-673-4465