updated 4:14 a.m. CT, Sat., Sept. 16, 2006
PORTLAND, Ore. - When Susan Kuhnhausen returned home from work one day earlier this month, she encountered an intruder wielding a claw hammer. After a struggle, the 51-year-old nurse fended off her attacker by strangling him with her bare hands.
Neighbors praised the woman for her bravery, and investigators said they believed the dead man â€” Edward Dalton Haffey â€” was burglarizing Kuhnhausenâ€™s home.
But after an investigation, police now say the intruder Kuhnhausen strangled was apparently a hit man hired by her estranged husband â€” Michael James Kuhnhausen Sr. â€” to kill her.
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The 58-year-old husband was taken into custody Thursday and charged with conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder. He was ordered held on $500,000 bail.
Haffey had worked as a custodian under Kuhnhausen at an adult video store, according an affidavit filed by the Multnomah County District Attorneyâ€™s office.
Kuhnhausen and his wife were in the process of getting a divorce, and she told officers â€œher husband was distraught about the divorce and wanting to reconcile but that she was insisting on the divorce,â€ the affidavit states.
A background check showed Haffey had served lengthy prison terms for conspiracy to commit aggravated murder and convictions for robbery and burglary.
Inside a backpack Haffey left at the scene was a day planner with â€œCall Mike, Get letter,â€ scribbled on the week of Sept. 4, the affidavit said. Michael Kuhnhausenâ€™s cell phone number was jotted on the inside of a folder, it said.
An emergency room nurse who lives in a southeast Portland neighborhood, Susan Kuhnhausen arrived home on the evening of Sept. 6 to find Haffey coming at her with a claw hammer.
She was struck in the head and wrested the weapon away, but the struggle continued and Haffey bit the nurse, according to police. A large woman, she was eventually able to get the slight Haffey into a chokehold and police later found him dead in a hallway. An autopsy revealed the cause of death as strangulation.
Police say she acted in self-defense.
There was no sign of forced entry into the home, but according to the affidavit, Susan Kuhnhausen offered an explanation for the lack of evidence of a break-in: Her estranged husband had the security codes for the homeâ€™s alarm system, and would have been able to disarm it.
Michael Kuhnhausen denies any involvement, the affidavit states.
Susan Kuhnhausen was out of town attending a nursing conference and did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
She left this message on her voicemail: â€œIâ€™m not able to answer all the calls that Iâ€™ve received in the past few days. Iâ€™m being comforted by your concern and your support. I want you to know that our lives are all at risk for random acts, but more likely random acts of love will come your way than random acts of violence.â€