A Port Townsend woman accused of attacking her husband with a hatchet while he slept was convicted Thursday of first-degree assault and interfering with a report of domestic violence.
A Port Townsend woman accused of attacking her husband with a hatchet while he slept was convicted Thursday of first-degree assault and interfering with a report of domestic violence.
Anna Young, 61, was arrested Nov. 2, 2021 after she went to the Port Townsend Police Department roughly eight hours after the assault and told police her husband had tried to kill her.
Prosecutors told a completely different story. They said Young’s husband, Ronald Stephens, was asleep in bed in the couple’s Port Townsend home when Young started hitting him with a sheathed hatchet sometime after 4 a.m.
The attack continued after Stephens, 74, woke up confused and Young yelled at him, “You’re in a dream. You’re in a dream.”
The assault continued throughout the home as Stephens tried to get the hatchet away from Young. He later grabbed a cast-iron frying pan from off a counter to defend himself.
Stephens escaped from the house and ran to other homes in the neighborhood for help. Unable to get anyone to answer their door, he drove himself to the emergency room at Jefferson Healthcare Medical Center.
Stephens had multiple head wounds, a fractured skull, and a broken finger that prosecutors said was a defensive wound. He was later taken to Harborview Medical Center for treatment, and a laceration on his ear required plastic surgery.
The jury started deliberations at approximately 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
They returned to the courtroom of Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Brandon Mack at 3:14 p.m. to deliver the verdict to a mostly empty room.
Young, who does not have a prior criminal history, was released before her sentencing hearing.
She was ordered to surrender her passport by noon Friday at the Port Townsend Police Department.
The sentencing hearing has been set for Aug. 4.
At the close of the four-week trial, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tuppence Macintyre said the reasons for the attack were simple.
“This was a case about money. And anger. And violence,” Macintyre said.
She recounted for the jury the ups and downs of the relationship between Young and Stephens, who met on Match.com and dated about two months before getting married Oct. 14, 2019.
Earlier in the trial, Stephens had testified how he became intrigued with Young based on her online dating profile. She was curious, outdoorsy, and read his favorite magazine, The Economist.
Young, who was living in Renton at the time, testified earlier about how she was looking to date someone highly educated, and saw on Stephens’ online profile he was a retired electrical engineer.
Macintyre noted during the trial that the couple had signed a prenuptial agreement before they tied the knot, but Young’s financial problems came up repeatedly during the course of the prosecution.
At the heart was $60,000 that Stephens had set aside in an account for his wife, to help make her feel financially secure if they ever divorced. The account was set up during the roughest spell of the couple’s marriage.
But also important, the prosecutor noted, was $90,000 Young’s mother had stored in an account in her own name, an account Young had dipped into during her marriage.
Young’s situation grew dire when her mother, who had been toggling back and forth between living with her son and with her daughter and Stephens in Port Townsend, decided to move out on her own.
During her closing argument, Macintyre told the jury that Young’s mother was going to live with her son, but she wanted the money from her account to buy her own house.
Trouble was, $60,000 was no longer there in the mother’s account.
“The defendant knows she doesn’t have the $60,000 that she spent from Aug. 31, 2018 to Nov. 1, 2021,” Macintyre said.
At the same time, she was at a new low in her marriage. Stephens said he wanted a divorce, and Young said she was done, as well. She was getting a U-Haul trailer, and had a storage facility lined up, Macintyre told jurors.
“And mom says, ‘Yeah, can I have my money back for the house?’” Macintyre said.
The prosecutor noted how that request fit the timing in the troubled marriage, with Stephens now begging Young to stay.
Young suggested a solution; a private account with $60,000 to give herself a bit of financial security in case they eventually divorced. It was Young’s idea, the prosecutor stressed.
“That is an amount that the defendant suggested. Because that is the amount she spent of her mom’s money,” Macintyre said.
Stephens readily agreed, Macintyre recalled.
“He’s desperately in love,” she said. Though his brain was telling him it might be a mistake to stay married, his heart always overruled him.
Still, there was a written agreement between the two that Stephens would be able to review the balance of the new account, and be consulted before any investments were made with the money.
When Young’s mother moved out, a critical point was reached.
“And when mom is moving out and says, ‘I need that money back,’ the defendant is really in a tough spot. She doesn’t have $60,000 and her mom wants her money.”
Young wrote a cashier’s check to repay her mother on Oct. 1 from the account set up by her husband.
“Then Mr. Stephens asks to see the money again,” Macintyre said of the balance in the divorce account. “She puts him off and says, ‘You don’t trust me.’”
Stephens’ suspicion grew. He decided to press the issue when the couple would meet in the coming days with their marriage counselor.
What happened next, however, was the early morning attack on Nov. 2, 2021. Stephens was asleep in bed, and awoke to find Young hitting him on the head with a hatchet sometime after
Julie St. Marie, Young’s attorney, said the prosecution’s view of the case was based on a “far-flung, far-fetched, outrageous theory.” Marie repeatedly stressed that Young acted in self-defense during the early morning confrontation, and that Young had said her husband had threatened to kill her.
The talk that Young’s financial situation prompted the attack was not supported by her husband’s testimony, St. Marie said.
Stephens had said on the stand he didn’t know why his wife attacked him.
It also wasn’t clear how an admission that $60,000 was missing from her own account would somehow prompt the alleged assault.
“How on earth an assault on Mr. Stephens would solve the problem of a difficult conversation is completely unanswered. It makes absolutely no sense,” the defense attorney said.
The theory of a financial motive in the attack was a distraction, she added.
“It’s a red herring. It’s a flash-bang device to make you look over here,”
St. Marie said, so the jury would not consider if the state had met its burden of proof.
“To distract from the deficiencies in the state’s case, all the things that don’t make sense, the state has presented to you a completely nonsensical theory,” she continued.
“Who does this? There is nothing to gain,” St. Marie said.
St. Marie wondered aloud who had the motive to instigate the attack.
Young, she said, was fending off an attack with a hammer by her husband.
“She chose to save herself from injury, or even death, by using necessary force to repel that attack,” St. Marie told jurors.
Stephens had the motive for the attack, the lawyer said.
“Mr. Stephens is losing control,” she said.
St. Marie recounted how Young’s husband tried to control the relationship, from his threats of divorce, to how his wife spent her time, whether it was going to doctor’s appointments or visiting her family, to what she spent money on.
The “last ditch” proposal to set aside $60,000 in an account for Young in case they divorced was another piece of that control.
While he had told his wife the account was under her control, it really wasn’t. It was just a trick he played on her, she said.
That was spelled out in the agreement both signed about the account, a document Young drafted but her husband had revised.
“And his revisions have multiple stipulations that basically say, this really isn’t a gift … I have ultimate control.”
St. Marie described the defense version of the attack, with Stephens holding a hammer and threatening his wife.
“Imagine: There in the door, eyes black with anger, hammer in his hand,” she said.
Young crept out to the garage and grabbed the first available tool she could find, St. Marie said. It was a hatchet that still had a sheath on it.
She also recalled how Young testified she had wrapped the hammer in an olive green bath towel to soften any blow, and secured the towel to the head of the hatchet with two rubber bands, like the kind found on celery bought from the store.
The state never introduced those items as evidence, she added.
“The search wasn’t very thorough,” St. Marie said.
The attorney again detailed the problems in the marriage.
“She’s living in a marriage with a husband who watches every penny that she spends.”
Stephens begrudged her money for gas and ferry fares, St. Marie said. And he was mad when she left to visit family or others, believing his wife was being secretive. There was also that bill from when she ordered cosmetics from Beverly Hills Cosmetics.
“Oh my gosh, they billed her $170,”
St. Marie said. “Ron gets real mad about this kind of stuff.”
St. Marie characterized Stephens’ role in the couple’s relationship as “mentally and emotionally abusive.”
“What we have here is an incredibly controlling man,” she said.
“I don’t know if you ever read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ or have seen the movie. The inference that by using the $60,000 in her sole account … was somehow a violation. Hang on a minute here. This is a dispute between husband and wife. It’s more properly before a divorce court,” St. Marie said.
The attorney again recalled the testimony of Young’s husband, and what he said happened during the alleged attack.
The assault started in the bedroom, moved to other areas of the house, and a struggle ensued on the floor between the pair in mutual combat. Stephens grabbed a cast-iron skillet from a counter and hit his wife on the head.
At one point, St. Marie said Stephens left his wife on the ground and then decided to go urinate.
“Me, I would pee my pants before I turned my back on the situation that Mr. Stephens just described. With this cast-iron skillet in one hand, hatchet-in-the-other-hand woman coming at him, with the strength of some supernatural force. I wouldn’t be turning my back and going to urinate. But that’s what he says,” St. Marie said, recalling what Stephens said earlier on the witness stand.
“He left her there on the floor, injured. He decided to urinate,” she said.
The investigation was flawed because Stephens called 911 first and police went into it taking his version as the truth, she said.
Minds were closed, and everything that didn’t fit into the story as the way Stephens told it was rejected, she said.
Two key features seem off, she said. The first, that Young was loving and kind. And the other, the question of why his loving wife would do something unprovoked — bludgeoning him with a hatchet— when he was sleeping.
“Mr. Stephens does not have an explanation for that,” she said. “He doesn’t have an explanation for it on the stand, other than, she lost it. She was psycho. She didn’t know what she was doing.”
St. Marie also took time to discount evidence presented during the trial.
“The super interesting feature of this case is all of this evidence about the blood. The splatters, the stains, the drips, the drops. All of the physical items of evidence, the documents of the testing, none of that evidence speaks to who struck the first blow,” she said.
“Walls can’t talk. This house can’t tell us what happened.”
Then there is the hatchet itself, and the notion that it was a deadly weapon, she continued.
“Don’t be misled by this horrible word, ‘hatchet.’ Yes, that sounds horrible. But what we are talking about here is a hatchet with a sheath on it. Moreover, wrapped with an olive green hand towel.
“There’s no evidence that that is a deadly weapon.”
“We’re not talking about a bladed instrument. We’re talking about a blunt instrument,” St. Marie said.
The defense attorney listed by number the exhibits the jurors should study during deliberations: the photos of the pillow on the bed; Stephens’s truck and the hammer that was found inside; the photographs showing Young’s injuries; the financial agreement; close-ups of the hammer and the skillet.
“I urge you to pick it up, handle it,” she said of the frying pan.
“Get an impression of the heft of that instrument, that weapon Mr. Stephens said he used against Ms. Young.”
Finally, she asked the jury to consider the impact their decision would have on Young’s life.
“The state’s theory in this case just doesn’t make a lick of sense,” St. Marie said.
“Your decision is incredibly important. You have the power to reach out your hand and rescue Ms. Young; lift her from the roiling waters of this storm. Just this complete mess of a case.
“Put your hand on the lever and stop this runaway train. The buck stops with you. You are the ones,” she said.
The prosecution quickly picked apart the claim of self-defense.
The defense said Stephens came at his wife with a hammer. There was no DNA found on the hammer head from Young, however.
The husband, the prosecutor noted, had blood blisters on the tips of his right-hand fingers, and those couldn’t have happened had he been holding a hammer.
And why did he need a hammer, anyway?
“If you’ve got a hammer, what do you need to pick up a cast-iron skillet for?” Macintyre asked.
She also discounted the claim that the $60,000 set aside for Young in her account was a gift. It’s part of a theme where Young herself is never to blame.
“This money is not a gift,” she said.
“If you get a birthday gift, you don’t sign an agreement for it. Get it notarized. She knows that it’s not a gift.”
“She’s saying, ‘Oh, he tricked me,’” Macintyre said as she recounted Young’s background.
“The woman who reads The Economist. The woman who reads all these legal documents. The woman who worked as a legal assistant. The woman who got a four-year degree. The woman who had an AA degree in criminal justice. She says ‘Yeah, I didn’t understand the prenup. I didn’t use my Google translate. Yeah, I didn’t understand the financial agreement; I was tricked.
“‘Yeah, I didn’t understand these interrogatories in the divorce case. What I wrote there. Didn’t ask the lawyer. Somebody else wrote it for me. Oh, and by the way, I was sick.’”
“Every time there is something in writing, the defendant says, ‘Yeah, I was tricked.’
“The defendant is blaming everybody else. She wants to blame other people,” Macintyre said.
“Mr. Stephens did not inflict those injuries upon himself. Tough to do — with a hatchet, on your own head. Tough to do this, on your own finger,” Macintyre continued.
“And it’s Mr. Stephens’s fault that I didn’t tell him about the $60,000.”
The assault with the hatchet left Stephens with head wounds, a fractured skull, and a broken finger that was snapped when he raised a hand to protect himself.
“She’s not even saying ‘I inflicted all these injuries,’” Macintyre continued. “She’s saying, ‘Yeah … there’s no evidence I did that to the hand.’”
Just because the hatchet had a sheath on it during one part of the attack did not mean it wasn’t a deadly weapon, she added.
“The sharp ends sticking out of the sheath are going to inflict damage. As they did, to Mr. Stephens’ scalp, and his skull, and his finger. And the back of his head, over and over. ”
Look at where the injuries occurred, she asked jurors.
“Not just once, over and over, throughout the house, in different locations throughout the house,” she said.
Macintyre told the jury how Stephens opened his eyes to see the angry look on his wife’s face. He was being hit with a hatchet on the back of his head.
“She’s saying, ‘You’re in a dream, you’re in a dream, you’re in a dream,’” Macintyre said. “And he’s saying to her, ‘I’m not in a dream. This is not a dream.’”
“And she’s hitting him; ‘You’re in a dream.’ She’s angry,” she said.
“I don’t know what the plan was. To say, ‘Oh he was sleepwalking. And so I had to attack him because he was coming after me.’ Or she says he was a ghost on the 911 call. Blaming him for what she’s doing to him?”
Macintyre recalled the argument presented by the defense.
“And this isn’t a deadly weapon because it’s got a sheath on it. ‘And by the way, I wrapped it in a towel.’ That just makes no sense.
“There’s no hand towel found. No broccoli rubber bands found. She put the glove on her hand, not on the handle.
“Because this was something she knew she was going to do,” the prosecutor said of Young. “She had to go into the garage while he’s sleeping to get that hatchet.”
Size does not matter if you are on your side sleeping in bed, Macintyre added, and someone hits you on the back of the head.
“Size ends up not being an issue at all in this assault at all,” the prosecutor said. “She chose to start that assault when he was vulnerable.”
There was also the issue of Young having a separate bank account she didn’t tell her husband about, despite their prenuptial agreement.
“The jig is up. This marriage is effectively over,” Macintyre said.
“She has one of two choices; get the money back and put it in the account and show him it’s there, or she tells him and says it’s gone.”
Stephens would not stay in the marriage once he discovered “he’d been had,” the prosecutor said.
But Young’s mother now needs the money from her account, and Young won’t get the $60,000 from the other account if her marriage is over.
“She is stuck. She doesn’t like the option behind Door Number One. She doesn’t like the option behind Door Number Two, either,” Macintyre said.
Young was cornered, she added, and while her husband was sleeping, Young went to the garage. She was distressed, angry, and panicking.
Stephens had no idea why Young would attack him, she said, because he also didn’t know the $60,000 she was supposed to have in that separate account was gone. Macintyre said Young found herself “completely trapped and cornered in a situation of her own making.”
“She needed that money, she wanted that money. It’s a significant amount of money. And this case is about that money, her greed, and this violence she started.”
The jury reached its verdict June 22 in less than four hours.
St. Marie told the court she would be filing a motion to delay the sentencing hearing while she sought an appeal.
Judge Mack agreed to have Young not jailed pending her sentencing date, noting that she did not have a criminal history or appear to be a flight risk, but ordered that she turn over her passport to the Port Townsend Police Department by the next day.