We are lucky enough to be living in an age where most people can go through their entire life without being placed in a life-or-death situation. For those of us who do, it’s probably some kind of car accident or because we’ve chosen a career in law enforcement or the military.
But even in this day and age, there are malicious people out there that want to hurt and even kill ordinary people. As one woman would find out, any one of us can find ourselves in a fight to the death when we least expect it…
After A Long Day
At the end of her daytime shift at Providence Portland Medical Center on Northeast Glisan Street, Susan wanted to do something nice for her self. Before she went home, the 51-year-old emergency room nurse headed to Perfect Look hair salon.
I Will Not Live In Fear
As she waited for her turn, she flipped through an Oprah magazine. She read a poem inside that started with the lines “I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear.” For some reason, those words stuck with her as she was getting her hair done…
An hour later, she pulled into the driveway of her single story home with a grey picket fence. When she walked into the back of the house, she found a note by the microwave from Mike, her husband of almost 18 years saying “Sue, haven’t been sleeping. Had to get away — Went to the beach.”
See You On The Weekend
Mike added that he’d see Susan again on Friday or Saturday. Susan and Mike had been separated since the previous year but were still on relatively good terms. Mike still came by to house sit the cats…
Susan disarmed the beeping security alarm, then walked through the house to the front door to grab her mail. After she flipped through the envelopes in the warm air, under a clear sky on her front porch, she came back inside and kicked off her shoes. She had an odd feeling that something was amiss.
Susan noticed that there was no light coming from her open bedroom door. As she walked into the room, she wondered if she’d forgotten to open the curtains that morning. When she walked into the room, a man holding a hammer suddenly appeared from behind her bedroom door…
Flight or Fight
Most people startled by a stranger with a weapon in hand would run or be momentarily paralyzed by fear. But Susan wasn’t most people. In her 30 years as a nurse, she’d had more than one scuffle with a violent patient. She and all the other nurses at Providence also trained regularly in self defense.
Susan knew that if she could crowd the 5’9, 190lb man, he wouldn’t have the space he needed to generate a lot of force with the hammer. So, still in her hospital scrubs, standing at 5’4, overweight and with her two bad knees, Susan charged the man. He swung the hammer as she came in, hitting her on the left temple…
Stronger Than She Looks
Hoping to push the man over, Susan slammed her body up against his, screaming “Who are you? What do you want?” as loudly as she could. He didn’t fall, instead pushing Susan back up against the bedroom wall. “You’re strong,” he said.
Flash of Insight
When he said those words, a thought struck Susan like lightning: “He’s here to kill me,” she realized. “I don’t know why. I don’t know who he is. But his intent was clear.” With a surge of adrenaline, she pushed into her attacker again and managed to wrestle the hammer away from him…
By the Throat
Susan swung the hammer 3 or 4 times, striking the man in the head each time before he managed to wrestle the hammer back. When he did, she grabbed his throat. “Who sent you here?” Susan demanded as she squeezed his neck with both hands.
As the intruder struggled, his face turned colors, steadily darkening until it was a dark purple tinged with blue. Susan was suddenly frightened that she’d killed the man. “I don’t know what I thought,” she said, “I just had to get out of there.” She let go of his neck and tried to flee…
As she ran into the narrow hallway outside her bedroom, Susan’s assailant caught her, spun her around, and split her lip with a heavy punch. His second punch knocked her to the floor. When her vision cleared, she saw a horrific sight. “He was standing over me with the hammer,” she said.
Tooth and Nail
“I looked at the floor and I thought, I’m going to die today,” Susan said. Instead, she somehow managed to pull the man to the floor and began attacking him with renewed savage desperation. As the two were locked in a mortal struggle for control of the hammer, Susan started biting the man, thinking that her teeth marks might tie her death to him…
Eventually, Susan was able to get on top of the man, pinning him down with a forearm to the throat. “Tell me who sent you here and I will call you a f***ing ambulance!” she yelled inches from his face. When the man only growled in response, Susan leaned forward, applying more force to his neck until he stopped moving.
When he finally did, Susan grabbed the hammer and ran to a neighbor’s house, where they called 911. By the time the emergency responders arrived, Susan’s assailant was dead. Though the tight-lipped attacker had given no clue as to who he was or why he’d attacked Susan, it didn’t take investigators long to get to the bottom of it…
We Have A Name
Investigators found an ID in the man’s back pocket that told them his name was Ed Haffey, a Vietnam veteran with a long criminal history. The day after the attack, Susan went with a friend back to her home to collect some belongings. There in her basement, they found a backpack that apparently belonged to Haffey.
… And A Motive
Inside the backpack, they found a daybook with an entry for 2 days before the attack that said “Call Mike” and a manilla envelope with the new cell phone number for Mike, Susan Kunnhausen’s husband, written on it. That, coupled with the recently discovered fact that Haffey worked for Mike as a floor cleaner in an adult video shop made the situation clear: Haffey had been sent by Mike to kill his wife…
Though he was perhaps bitter about their separation, Mike’s main motivation had been money. Susan’s brother was the primary beneficiary in her will but because his name was still on the deed of Susan’s home, he would have gotten the $300,000 property if she died. Mike, of course, tried to claim he’d had nothing to do with the attack but the evidence against him, including testimony from other men he’d tried to hire for the job, was too strong. He ultimately plead guilty to soliciting Susan’s murder and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
But he would never again taste freedom. Just 3 months before his release, Mike Kunnhausen died of cancer, sparing Susan from the fear that he would be out and free on the streets. There are people who called Susan a hero because of what she did, though she is tormented by the life she took every day. But her boss put it best when he said “they’re not calling you a hero because you killed a man.” They’re calling you a hero because they want to believe… they too might survive.”