A Hitman Came for Susan Kuhnhausen. He Didn’t Survive.
February 4, 2021 ~ By Shari Rose
Susan Kuhnhausen fought for her life when a hitman tried to kill her in a murder-for-hire plot. He didn’t survive.
After finishing a shift at Providence Portland Medical Center as an emergency room nurse, Susan Kuhnhausen headed to her home in Southeast Portland. She saw a note from her husband of 18 years, Mike, saying that he had left for the beach. The date was September 6, 2006.
Kuhnhausen, 51, walked upstairs to their shared bedroom when a man hiding behind the door jumped out and attacked her with a claw hammer. The man was Edward Haffey, a 59-year-old with a long criminal record. He had been paid $50,000 by Kuhnhausen’s husband to kill her in a murder-for-hire plot.
Hitman Attacks Susan Kuhnhausen in Her Home
Haffey quickly landed a swift blow to Kuhnhausen’s left temple with the hammer. However, as an emergency room nurse for 30 years, Kuhnhausen knew effective self-defense skills the hitman was not prepared for. She launched into action, tackling Haffey and pushing him against the wall. It was during this moment that Haffey spoke the only words she heard him say that night: “You’re strong.”
Susan Kuhnhausen says that was the moment she realized this man was there to kill her, and her adrenaline went into overdrive. She wrestled the hammer away and hit Haffey a few times in the head. She demanded to know why he was there, yelling, “Who sent you?”
The hitman didn’t respond, and wrested the hammer back. That’s when Kuhnhausen grabbed his throat and squeezed. Haffey’s face turned purple, then blue. Panicked, she let go and tried to run out of the house.
Haffey caught her in the hallway and began savagely punching her face. Kuhnhausen pulled him down to the floor and repeatedly bit him in the arm and thigh, hoping that the teeth marks left behind could at least link her death to him.
But, she didn’t die. Kuhnhausen then managed to climb on top of Haffey and put him in a chokehold with her left arm. He tried to flip her, but her self-defense training allowed her to stay in control. Eventually, Haffey stopped moving. Kuhnhausen grabbed the hammer and ran to her neighbor’s house to call 911.
Police Link Ed Haffey to Susan Kuhnhausen’s Husband
That night, Portland police found the body of Edward Haffey in the Kuhnhausens’ home. Among his supplies was yellow rubber gloves, a bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup, and diabetes pills. Police also found his daily planner. On the date of September 4, he wrote, “Call Mike” with Kuhnhausen’s phone number. As the police would learn, Haffey was a co-worker of Mike’s at the adult video store where they both worked.
Susan Kuhnhausen learned the night of the attack that she had killed Haffey. Speaking on the television show, “I Survived…” she recounted how she felt in those first moments after learning her would-be killer was dead:
“I immediately began to think about his family. Everybody has somebody who loves them. Children, a wife, a mother, a dad … the worst of this is not that somebody tried to kill me, but that I had to kill someone else to survive. But I have no shame because I did not choose this death for him. I chose my life. I chose life.”
One week after the attack, police found Mike Kuhnhausen hiding in Sunnyside, Oregon. The following day, Susan filed for divorce.
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On August 30, 2007, Mike pleaded guilty to soliciting a murder-for-hire plot. He was sentenced to just seven years in prison.
In the years after the attack, Susan said she felt as though someone was always watching her. She decided to move to a new home in Portland, and spent a lot of her time practicing at the shooting range, believing she had to be prepared if Mike ever came back.
But, he never did. Mike Kuhnhausen died in prison from cancer, just three months before his scheduled release.
Crime Victim Advocacy in Portland
Susan, whose last name is now Walters, is deeply involved with victim advocacy work. She has worked closely with justice organizations in the Portland area, including WomenStrength and GirlStrength programs, and the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center.
In 2017, Susan Walters worked with the Multnomah County district attorney’s office in creating Case Companion, a free website dedicated to supporting victims of crime in the area. It answers questions about the justice system, what to expect in proceedings, and resources for victims. Furthermore, as soon as the office files charges, victims can track their offenders’ court dates, sentencing details, and information about offenders when they are released.