Victim in alleged hatchet attack: ‘This is not a dream’

Posted 6/14/23

They met on a dating website, and she was everything he ever wanted in a woman.

Delightful, spontaneous, outdoorsy.

As he sat in the witness box in a Jefferson County courtroom, and his …

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Victim in alleged hatchet attack: ‘This is not a dream’


They met on a dating website, and she was everything he ever wanted in a woman.

Delightful, spontaneous, outdoorsy.

As he sat in the witness box in a Jefferson County courtroom, and his wife watched from the nearby defense table, Ronald Stephens recalled a rapidly ripening relationship that found the retired 72-year-old electrical engineer married to someone 15 years his junior after two months of dating.

Two years later, Stephens was in a blood-soaked hospital bed, an emergency room doctor examining a cut on his head that ran from one side of the top of his skull to the other.

Prosecutors allege Stephens’ wife, Anna Young, attacked him with a hatchet as he was sleeping in bed in the couple’s Port Townsend home in early November 2021.

Young, now 61, was arrested roughly eight hours after the alleged attack for felony first-degree assault.

At the close of the second week of Young’s trial in Jefferson County Superior Court on June 8, Stephens took the stand to recount how a loving relationship led him to eventually think the marriage was a mistake. Issues of trust led to marriage counseling.

It started much differently, Stephens told the jury.

They met on and dated about two months before getting married.

Stephens said Young first brought up the idea of tying the knot.

“I said OK immediately,” he said.

“I was really enthralled by her. She seemed to be the type of person I always wanted to be with. Very industrious person. She seemed very honest. She seemed delightful and spontaneous, and the kind of person everybody would like. She seemed interested in the kind of things I’m interested in.”

“She also seemed to be a very curious person. She advertised herself to be very outdoorsy,” Stephens added.

But it was a post she left on that convinced him that she was the one. She wrote she read The Economist.

“That’s my favorite magazine,” he said.

“I was in love with the person I thought she was,” Stephens added.

Their relationship took off, though geography was an issue.

He lived in Port Townsend and she lived in Renton, where she was working freelance by teaching English to people from China. They talked about living together in Port Townsend, Stephens recalled, but she wanted a wedding ring first.

Her family would not look on her, or him, favorably if they did not get married.

“She told me that in previous relationships she had been in, she had not gotten married. And her family really didn’t like that,” Stephens said on the witness stand.

After signing a prenuptial agreement, the couple married Oct. 14, 2019, “in this courthouse,” Stephens told the jury.

Attacked while sleeping

Prosecutors allege that Young went after her husband with a sheathed hatchet as he slept in bed in their Port Townsend home just after 4 a.m. Nov. 2, 2021.

Stephens told police that he woke up to discover his wife hitting him on the head with a camping ax. As she struck him more than 20 times, by his estimate, she repeatedly told him he was dreaming.

Prosecutors claim Stephens, who was 74 at the time, tried to wrestle the hatchet away from his wife, then ran to the garage to get a hammer to defend himself. Young locked the door behind him, prosecutors allege, and Stephens then ran to a neighbor’s home to get help.

Neighbors called 911 after seeing a suspicious man dressed in a T-shirt and shorts at their door, carrying a hammer. Not finding any assistance, Stephens returned home to get his truck and drove himself to the hospital. Police later found the hammer in his truck; Stephens’ blood on the handle.

Officers eventually searched the home and found it empty; troopers with the Washington State Patrol looked for Young at the Kingston and Bainbridge Island ferry terminals with no luck.

Authorities said Young showed up at the Port Townsend Police Department nearly eight hours later, claiming that her husband had attacked her and tried to kill her. She was arrested and booked into Jefferson County Jail.

Julie St. Marie, Young’s attorney, said during her opening argument in the trial that Young was acting in self-defense on the morning of Nov. 2, 2021 and noted that Young had previously called 911 during disputes with her husband.

Young is expected to testify toward the end of the four-week trial.

Opening witnesses

Much of the early testimony in the trial has centered on the recollections of officers and investigators who were called to the crime scene. An expert from the Washington State Patrol’s crime lab detailed the collection of blood samples from throughout the home, as well as the recovery of the hatchet found near the front door.

Earlier this week, Dr. Stephen Churchley recalled examining Stephens in the emergency room, and detailed multiple lacerations found on Stephens’ head. He also had a fractured skull, Churchley said, and a broken left finger that appeared to be a defensive wound, likely when Stephens raised a hand to protect himself. Graphic photographs of Stephens being examined in the hospital were shown on a screen to the right of the jury box; one showed a close-up of the top of Stephens’ balding head and a cut running from one side to the other, the white of the hospital sheet next to his head soaked in blood.

During Stephens’ second day on the witness stand Monday, he continued recounting the day before the attack.

In court the week before, however, Stephens had told of the couple’s visit to their marriage counselor and the agreement that Young would show him a bank statement from the $60,000 account he had set up for her in case they ever divorced.

Continuing his testimony Monday, Stephens said the couple had argued the day before the attack after he showed her a list of problems he was having with her.

“That was a mistake. I should have kept it and brought up each item individually,” he said.

He was interrupted by objections from the defense attorney six times in the span of his first five minutes on the stand, with St. Marie raising concerns that Stephens was offering testimony about Young’s character. She was overruled.

“She got angry about that,” Stephens continued, explaining his wife’s reaction to his list. Stephens said he changed course, suggesting they talk about the problems during the next marriage counseling session.

“She calmed down,” he said.

He said they later went to bed, sharing a familiar sentiment.

“We said, like we did every night, that we loved each other,” he said.


Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tuppence Macintyre asked Stephens about the next thing he remembered.

“I remember pain. Waking up in pain,” Stephens said.

His head hurt.

“My first thought when I woke up was ... Am I snoring? Because I had asked Anna in the past that if I was snoring and it kept her awake, to go ahead and wake me up.”

He added he was not fully awake, though.

“Do you remember what happened next?” Macintyre asked.

“Another hit to the head,” Stephens said.

Asked to describe it, he simply said: “Very painful.”

Stephens said he normally sleeps on his right side, and felt the blows on the left side to the back of his head.

Most of his wounds were there, on the left side of his head, he noted. He then remembered sitting up on the edge of the bed.

“And I believe, before I got up, she hit me some more.”

He added that he was unsure of where he was getting hit, but said it was probably the back of his head.

“I was dazed,” he said, and only awake for a few seconds.

“She said several times: ‘You’re in a dream. You’re in a dream.’”

Stephens said his wife yelled the phrase at him.

In the jury box, at least four jurors picked up the pace of writing notes on court-provided pads.

“I remember saying, ‘This is not a dream.’”

When asked for his wife’s response, he said Young may have repeated again, “You’re in a dream.”

The bedroom and house was dark. Stephens said he first saw his wife when he was running from the bedroom.

When Macintyre asked why he was running, he said: “To escape what she was doing to me.”

He made his way to the front of the house, near the front door by his piano keyboard, finally seeing the hatchet.

“I remember very distinctly; it had the sheath on it,” he said. It was a camping ax that he had owned for years, and was usually hanging on a tool board in their garage.

At one point in the dark house, he said he finally got a look at his wife.

“It didn’t look like her. She was normally loving toward me... She looked more angry than I had seen her before.”

Stephens repeatedly noted his didn’t remember everything from the night, including how the couple ended up wrestling on the floor outside the main bathroom floor, with Stephens trying to get away. “She was holding me by my testicles.”

“Things were very confusing,” he continued. “I don’t think I was fully conscious. My recollection was, I was trying to get the hatchet away from her without hurting her.”

Stephens was then asked what he saw when he returned home from the hospital, in the area where they struggled on the floor.

“That’s where most of the blood was,” he said.

At one point during the attack, Stephens recalled thinking of his cell phone. He said he told his wife that they had to call 911.

“What did she say?” Macintyre asked.

“I think she just hit me with the hatchet,” Stephens answered. “Mostly my head.”

At one point, he couldn’t exactly recall, his finger was broken.

Stephens said he didn’t remember getting up, but recalled trying to make it to the bathroom.

“I had to pee really bad,” he said, adding that his wife came after him. He remembered grabbing a cast-iron frying pan from a nearby counter.

“And as she was coming at me, I hit her on the head. And I believe that was the only time I hit her,” he said.

He didn’t recall what she said, if anything, but when asked if Young told him anything except “You’re in a dream, you’re in a dream,” he recalled something she said earlier.

“She said something like, ‘You tried to kill me.’ I had no idea what she was talking about,” he said.

Young fell down from being hit by the frying pan, Stephens said, and he set the skillet on the sink after he stepped into the bathroom.

But Young came in and the attack restarted. After hitting him a few times, Stephens said, his wife took the skillet. He went to the garage to get something, a hammer, to defend himself.

After grabbing a hammer off the tool board in the garage, he tried to get back into the house but the door was locked.

Dressed in just a T-shirt and shorts, he went to the homes of two neighbors for help.

No one answered the door after he knocked, then rang the doorbell, shouted for help and then called out his name at the first house.

He recalled seeing his reflection on a window next to the door, in the porch light.

“I saw myself. I was covered with blood,” he said.