When Susan Kuhnhausen found a strange man in her house, she thought she’d disturbed a burglar. The truth turned out to be much worse.
As she walked into her home, Susan Kuhnhausen sensed something wasn’t quite right.
Immediately she suspected her estranged husband had been in the house.
Sure enough, there was a note on the table: “I can’t take it any more and am going to the beach for a walk,” it read.
Susan was angry. He had no right to just let himself into her house. But that wasn’t all that alarmed her.
Looking round she noticed the curtains she opened that morning were now drawn. And her bedroom door was closed.
Susan recalls: “I thought, ‘that’s odd’.” Her curiosity quickly turned to terror.
Opening the door to her bedroom she was confronted by a dirty, long-haired, bearded stranger — a hammer hanging from his hand.
The man looked at her, smiled and lashed out, smashing the hammer into the side of her head. And he kept hitting her, again and again as blood gushed from her skull.
But if he expected Susan to be an easy victim, he was very wrong. She fought back with all her 18-and-a-half stone strength and, minutes later, the man lay dead on her floor, his throat crushed. A&E nurse Susan had used all of her training in dealing with violent patients to defend herself against the maniac.
But it was only later that Susan discovered the truth, he wasn’t a burglar she’d disturbed — he was a hitman sent by the man she’d loved, Michael Kuhnhausen.
Susan had met Michael, 60, in 1986, through a personal ad.
He had been married for 12 years, was divorced with two children and he was charming when they spoke.
“He sounded nice,” she says. “We spoke on the phone every day for three weeks before we met.”
Shy and quiet, Susan thought she’d found Mr Right. “My goal had been to find a life partner,” Susan says.
They married in Christmas 1988 and set up home in Portland, Oregon in the US.
At first, Mike seemed happy but over the years he changed.
“Mike became moody and tempramental. He started to believe everybody was out to get him,” says Susan.
Her husband became increasingly angry, controlling and anti-social. He told Susan he was uneasy in social situations because of his service in Vietnam. Susan hoped seeing an expert would help.
“We would go to counselling and he’d be better for a while and then he’d go back to being miserable,” she says.
Eventually, after spending around Â£10,000 on getting Mike help, Susan had had enough.
“By September 2005 I was tired of our life together. I felt emotionally and physically stressed and we separated,” she says.
Mike moved out but he wasn’t ready to move on.
He wanted Susan to sign papers that said they’d get back together if they went to counselling. “I told him I wouldn’t do that,” Susan explains. “He was furious but I felt more relaxed than I had been in years.”
In July 2006, Susan finally told Mike she wanted a divorce — she was happier on her own.
For Mike, who’d also just lost his job as a janitor, it was too much to handle. He flew into a frightening rage
“Mike had never scared me until then,” Susan says. “I told my friends: ‘I don’t think divorcing Mike is going to be easy.’”
Susan had tried to keep things friendly but her estranged husband’s behaviour become odder and odder. And he kept warning her: “I can’t take it any more.”
On September 9, 2006 the hard-working nurse came home from work to find the note from Mike in her house.”
She remembers: “The house seemed dark and I always left the drapes open — now they were closed. My bedroom door was partially closed.”
And that was when her nightmare began. But as she struggled for her life in her own bedroom, a strange calm over her.
Susan says: “I’d dealt with those sorts of people in A&E and I knew I had to gather myself.
“I remembered that if someone has a weapon, get close to them to limit the damage.
“I also remembered my dad’s words: ‘If you’re using a hammer to hurt someone, use the claw end.’”
By then, blood was gushing out of Susan as the monster struck again and again. Susan screamed for help but none of her neighbours heard.
“I was screaming for someone, anyone, to help me,” she says.
Then suddenly, she managed to get the hammer away from him.
“He looked at me with these evil eyes and said: ‘You’re strong.’ I managed to get on top of him and hit him three or four times with the claw in the back of the head,” Susan says. “But he was like a wild animal.The most terrifying thing were his eyes, I thought: he’s here to kill me.”
Susan’s attacker fought back and regained control, he stood over her, dripping blood.
She says: “Even though I was putting up a fight, he didn’t seem afraid. Instead he gave me an evil smile. I thought: ‘I’m going to die.’
“But before he killed me, I needed to know something. ‘Who sent you?’ I asked. This was definitely no robbery.”
Fearing she was about to die, adrenaline coursed through Susan’s body giving her a strength she never knew she had.
And it saved her life. To this day, she doesn’t know exactly how she did it.
“Maybe I grabbed his leg, maybe he tripped,” she says, “but suddenly, I rolled on top of him, made myself the weapon, and pushed him face down.
“I grabbed his throat and squeezed for my life, yelling, ‘Tell me who sent you! Do it or die.’” But the killer never said a word — instead he turned blue. Susan had crushed his windpipe.
“I knew he was dead. I ran to my neighbour’s house to call the police,” Susan says.
She was taken to hospital and treated for her injuries.
It didn’t take police long to come to realise the courageous nurse had killed in self-defence. And by now Susan was sure her estranged husband was behind the attack.
Investigators soon unravelled Mike’s plot.
He had been planning to kill Susan for months. And the man Susan had killed was Edward Dalton Haffey, 59, who Mike had met at a veterans’ counselling group.
Haffey had spent much of his life in prison for crimes including burglary and conspiracy to commit murder.
Mike was arrested a week later. At first he denied the charge, then he pleadedÂ guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for solicitation to commit aggravated murder.
There had been numerous calls from Mike’s phone to Haffey.
In court, he said: “I’ve hurt a lot of people and I’m sorry.”
But, speaking to Mike in court, Susan said: “If I ever believed that you deserved to be dead, I’d have at least had the guts to kill you myself.”
Now Susan’s divorced from Mike, she says: “When I was feeling sorry for him, he had wanted me dead.
“I had loved Mike, yet he didn’t feel he was loved, and as a result, couldn’t love himself.
“I don’t have a lot of money, but I’m rich in the things that matter.
“You never feel more alive than when someone wants you dead. I chose to live.”-UK Mirror