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Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Michael Khunhausen Murder-For-Hire Case

     Michael Kuhnhausen, in the fall of 2006, tried to talk his wife Susan out of divorcing him, but she was determined to end the marriage. Mr. Kuhnausen, the 58-year-old former custodial supervisor for a chain of adult video stores in Portland, Oregon, depended on his wife for support which included the insurance benefits she received from her job as an emergency room nurse. If Susan, seven years his junior divorced him he would end up homeless and broke. Michael had suggested marriage counseling but Susan was finished with him. He felt that his estranged wife had pushed him into a corner and had one option: to pay someone to kill her before the divorce became final. He had to find a hit man, but where does one go to find an assassin?

     In 2005, when Michael worked for the adult video chain, he had hired 59-year-old Edward Dalton Haffey as a part time janitor. Haffey, a heavy cocaine user, had just finished a twenty-year stretch in an Oregon state prison for conspiracy to commit murder. Haffey had also been convicted of robbery, burglary and numerous other crimes involving drugs. Mr. Kuhnhausen had every reason to believe that this lifelong criminal was an excellent candidate for his murder assignment. He offered the ex-con a $50,000 piece of Mrs. Kuhnhausen's life insurance payout. Dazzled by the prospect of so much easy money, Edward Haffey jumped at the chance to kill his former boss' wife.

     On September 6, 2006, Haffey, using the house key Michael had given him, entered Susan Kuhnhausen's Portland home. He deactivated the intrusion alarm, removed a claw hammer from his backpack and waited for his prey. On the kitchen table lay a note from Michael informing his wife that he was spending the day at the beach. The stage had been set for the cold-blooded home invasion killing.

     As six in that evening, Susan Kuhnhausen, having completed her shift at the Providence Portland Medical Center, pulled into the driveway alongside her house. She let herself into the dwelling and was wondering who had turned off the alarm when she received a glancing blow to the back of her head. She turned and came face-to-face with a man with stringy hair and a long beard. He stood about five-foot-nine and weighed 170 pounds. Although two inches shorter than her attacker, Susan outweighed the intruder by eighty pounds. Before Haffey could strike her again, she wrestled him to the floor and managed to get the hit man into a chokehold. Susan squeezed as hard as she could, and within a matter of minutes, Haffey stopped breathing and went limp.

     With a dead hit man lying on her kitchen floor, the slightly injured but badly shaken victim walked to a neighbor's house and called 911.

     The responding police officers sized-up the situation quickly. Mrs. Kuhnhausen had interrupted a house burglar, the two had struggled and the intruder had died; an obvious case of justifiable homicide. As far as the authorities were concerned, this tough woman had eliminated a violent criminal from the community. She was, in the eyes of the police and residents of her neighborhood, a crime-fighting hero. 

     A detective found, in Haffey's backpack, a day-planner with the September 6 notation: "Call Mike." When the investigator came across Michael Kuhnhausen's cell phone number in the dead man's planner, a different picture began to emerge. That Haffey had known Mr. Kuhnhausen wasn't, by itself, suspicious because Michael had been his boss. But it didn't explain Haffey's possession of the house  key and the fact he had known the alarm code. Once detectives learned of the pending divorce and how it would affect Mr. Kuhnhausen, he became the suspect in a murder-for-hire case. 

     Edward Haffey's autopsy helped explain why he had been overpowered by his victim. According to the medical examiner, at the time of this death, Haffey's body contained a near lethal dose of cocaine. He had been too drug-addled to successfully pull off the hit. As it turned out Mr. Haffey had been an unworthy candidate to carry out Michael's murder assignment.

     Barry Somers, a former prison acquaintance of Haffey's, saw the Kuhnhausen story on the local television news and called the police. In August 2006 Mr. Haffey had bragged that a man was paying him $50,000 to kill his wife. Haffey had wanted to know if Somers, for $5,000, would lend him a hand. Somers told Haffey he wouldn't help kill a person for a mere $5,000. A human life was worth more than that.

     Three days before the murder-for-hire date, Haffey told his cocaine dealer that he would be coming into some big money after he killed a woman for her husband. He said the husband was paying him $25,000 upfront and the rest when he completed the job. The drug dealer, when he heard about the case in the news, also called the police.

     According to another police witness named Harold Jones, a few days before Mrs. Kuhnhausen choked Edward Haffey to death, Jones had driven the would-be hit man to an Applebee's Restaurant where Haffey met with Mr. Kuhnhausen. On the way to the restaurant, Haffey told Jones that he was meeting with a man who was willing to pay him $50,000 to kill his wife.

     On September 14, 2006, eight days following the botched hit, police officers arrested Michael Kuhnhaussen on charges of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The magistrate set his bail at $500,000. Kuhnhausen's lawyer, in speaking to reporters, insisted that his client was innocent. According to the defense attorney, Edward Haffey, acting on his own, had entered the house though a window in order to steal drug money.

     In August 2007, Michael Kuhnhausen pleaded guilty to the attempted murder and conspiracy charges. A month later, just before the judge sentenced him to the shockingly light sentence of ten years in prison, Kuhuhanusen said, "I hurt a lot of people over the past year and I'm sorry. That's all I can say, I'm sorry."

     On June 16, 2014, Michael Khunhausen died while serving his time at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, Oregon. He was 65.


  1. I grew up in the same neighborhood as michael. He was a self centered asshole. He didn't get enough time for his crime . Give me a couple of minutes with him and I could get even for the abuse I took as a kid 4 years younger.

  2. Why justice die not kill Michael? ???????? He trink about the wife

  3. In early 2000s I lived the across from the Kuhnhausens. One summer's day I was out in the garden. Susan was out and shouted to Michael that he needed help moving a camelia bush growing in a huge terracotta pot. Michael came out but the phone started ringing so Susan went back inside. Michael must have got bored waiting and had a try lifting it. He lifted it off the ground but was clearly struggling, eyes bulging, and it was obvious he wasn't going to lift it far. Susan came out and shouted to him to put it down as he'd do himself an injury as it was too heavy for one person to lift. It was clear that Michael after putting it down had done his back in and was in a bit of pain. I was going to go over to help her but after checking with Michael that he wasn't too badly injured she wrapped her arms around it and lifted it. Michael was shouting to put it down as it was too heavy but though it was a struggle she managed step at a time to move it around the side to the back of the house - maybe 30 metres - with Michael sitting watching and making alot of gee, whoa, sounds. Susan came back and commented that if she had known he was going to try something stupid like trying to lift it she wouldn't have asked him and would have done it hereself and he wouldn't have stuffed his back. A few years later when I heard of the traumatic attempted murder that went wrong I remember thinking that there was a good reason Michael didn't try to kill her himself. She's a big woman.

  4. Wow, she is definitely NOT the women with whom to attempt rough sex.

    1. Of course HE posted his gross fantasy anonymously.