In a shocking twist of fate, Susan Kuhnhausen found herself in a life-or-death struggle with a hitman hired by her own estranged husband. The hitman’s mission was clear – to end Susan’s life. But Susan, a woman who had endured 17 years of emotional abuse in her marriage, was no stranger to fighting battles.

In 2006, she had finally summoned the strength to expel her husband, Michael Kuhnhausen, from their home and seek a divorce. Now, she was faced with a fight of a different kind – a fight for her very survival. On that fateful day, Susan returned home from her job as an emergency room nurse, only to be ambushed by a man lurking in the shadows.

This man was Edward Dalton Haffey, a hitman hired by Michael. Armed with a claw hammer, he attacked Susan with the intent to kill. But in this harrowing encounter, it was not the predator, but the prey, who emerged victorious. Susan, drawing on her inner strength and her medical training, managed to turn the tables on her attacker. She fought back with everything she had, ultimately overpowering Haffey and strangling him in self-defense.

Susan Kuhnhausen after surviving the attack
Susan Kuhnhausen after surviving the attack

The Fight for Life of Susan Kuhnhausen

On the evening of September 6, 2006, Susan Kuhnhausen, a 51-year-old nurse working in the emergency room of Providence Portland Medical Center, concluded her workday. Before heading home, she made a stop at the hairdresser, humorously attributing her need for new hair color to her challenging divorce. Little did she know, she was about to face a challenge far greater than a difficult divorce.

Susan's injuries two days after the attack
cSusan’s injuries two days after the attack

Susan had been an emergency room nurse for 30 years, where she and her colleagues were routinely trained in self-defense. She never imagined she would need to use these skills outside the ER, but on this fateful evening, those skills would become crucial.

Upon reaching her home around 6:30 p.m., Susan found her house unusually dark. She vaguely recalled leaving the curtains open in the morning but dismissed the thought. Her sense of normalcy was shattered when she spotted a man she had never seen before inside her house. The man, standing at 5’9″, emerged from her bedroom wearing yellow rubber gloves and wielding a red and black claw hammer. At that moment, Susan knew she was in mortal danger.

red and black claw hammer which the intruder used
Red and black claw hammer which the intruder used

As soon as she saw the intruder, Susan’s training kicked in. The man, later identified as Edward Dalton Haffey, charged at her with the hammer. Haffey had been hired by Susan’s estranged husband, Michael Kuhnhausen Sr., to kill her. What he didn’t anticipate was Susan’s fierce determination to survive.

Haffey attacked Susan, striking her over the head and face with the hammer. Despite the surprise and intense pain, Susan’s instincts and training kicked in. Drawing on the self-defense skills she had learned as an emergency room nurse, she fought back fiercely. She bit Haffey, using her weight and leverage to her advantage.

The struggle was brutal and lasted about 15 minutes. Haffey managed to land a punch that split Susan’s lip and pushed her to the ground, but she refused to be subdued. Summoning all her strength, Susan pulled him down with her and bit him viciously. She continued to fight back with everything she had, determined to survive.

After ensuring the intruder was no longer a threat, Susan fled to a neighbor’s house. Shaken and injured, she explained what had happened. The neighbor immediately called 911, relaying the terrifying incident to the operator. When the police arrived, they discovered Haffey’s body and began their investigation.

Initially, authorities believed Haffey was a burglar who had targeted the wrong house. However, Susan was certain that he had been waiting specifically for her, as he never asked for money or valuables. Her suspicions were confirmed when investigators found a note in Haffey’s backpack that read, “Call Mike. Get letter.” This note pointed directly to Michael Kuhnhausen Sr.

Upon learning of the failed attack, Michael Kuhnhausen Sr. purchased a gun and wrote a suicide note, indicating his awareness of the serious trouble he was in. However, before he could act on his intentions, he was arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy to commit murder. The investigation revealed that Haffey was not the first person Michael had approached about killing Susan. He had solicited three others before turning to Haffey.

Susan's estranged husband Michael
Susan’s estranged husband Michael

Despite being hailed as a hero for surviving the attack and killing the hitman, Susan described herself as “a middle-aged woman in bad shape with bad knees.” She struggled with the idea of being a hero when she had taken someone’s life. However, her boss offered her a different perspective, saying, “They are not calling you a hero because you killed a man. They are calling you a hero because they want to believe that, given the same circumstances, they could do what you did.”

Susan Kuhnhausen Now

Now known as Susan Walters, she has shifted her focus to advocacy. Susan is currently working on promoting and developing a web-based portal for crime victims. This new chapter in her life is a testament to her resilience and her determination to turn a traumatic experience into a force for good.

Susan has put her focus now on advocacy, using her story to inspire and support others who have faced similar threats. She is actively involved in creating resources that provide assistance and guidance to victims of crime, ensuring they have access to the help they need. Her work in developing a web-based portal for crime victims aims to offer a safe space for individuals to find support, share their stories, and access valuable information.

Susan Kuhnhausen now
Susan has put her focus now on advocacy

When Susan was finally given the chance to confront the man who had conspired to kill her during his trial, she said, “You were willing for me to share our small miserable life until death we did part, the sooner the better as it turned out… I am damaged by what you have done to me. I am damaged. But I am not destroyed.”

Michael Kuhnhausen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and was charged with solicitation of aggravated murder. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. After his sentencing, Susan took legal action against her ex-husband, suing him for $1 million. This move was designed to ensure he wouldn’t have the funds to hire another hitman, further protecting her safety.

Michael Kuhnhausen died of cancer while in prison, six months before his release date. Reflecting on the incident after Michael’s death, Susan said, “I didn’t choose his death, I chose my life.” Her story serves as a powerful testament to the human will to survive against all odds.

Susan’s Journey from a survivor of a horrific attack to an advocate for crime victims showcases her incredible strength and dedication to making a positive impact in the world. Through her efforts, Susan provides hope and support to those who need it most, proving that it is possible to turn even the darkest experiences into a beacon of light for others.


  1. A hitman came to kill Susan
  2. Woman who fatally strangled hitman

Now that you’ve read about Susan Kuhnhausen, read about the Texas Dad who will not face charges for killing his daughter’s rapist.

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