A Hitman Came for Susan Kuhnhausen. He Didn’t Survive.
February 4, 2021 ~ By Shari Rose
Updated February 15, 2022
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. At the house, she read a note from her husband of 18 years, Michael Kuhnhausen, 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 hitman 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
On the second floor of the 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 was well-versed in effective self-defense skills the hitman was not prepared for. She launched into action, tackling Haffey and pushing him against a wall. It was at 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 her teeth marks left behind could at least link her death to him.
But, she didn’t die. Kuhnhausen managed to climb on top of Haffey and place him in a chokehold with her left arm. He tried to flip her, but her extensive 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.
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Police Link Ed Haffey to Susan Kuhnhausen’s Husband
That night, Portland police found the body of Edward Haffey in the Kuhnhausens’ home. They discovered yellow rubber gloves, a bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup, and diabetes pills in his possession. Police also found his daily planner. On the date of September 4, he wrote, “Call Mike” with Michael Kuhnhausen’s phone number. The police soon discovered that Haffey and Michael worked together at the same adult video store in the area.
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 hearing that her would-be killer, a hitman hired by her own husband, was dead:
“I immediately began to think about his family,” Kuhnhausen said. “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 attempted murder, police found Michael Kuhnhausen hiding in Sunnyside, Oregon. The following day, Susan filed for divorce.
On August 30, 2007, Michael pleaded guilty to soliciting a murder-for-hire plot against his wife. He was sentenced to just seven years in prison.
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In the years after the attack, Susan Kuhnhausen said she felt as though someone was always watching her. She decided to move to a new home in Portland, and spent much of her time practicing at the shooting range, believing she had to be prepared if Michael ever came back.
But he never did. Michael Kuhnhausen died from cancer in prison, three months before his scheduled release.
Crime Victim Advocacy in Portland
After surviving a violent encounter with a hitman, Susan Walters is deeply involved with victim advocacy work. The former ER nurse 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 provides online 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.
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