An armed forces veteran kidnapped his estranged wife from her Washington State home, bound her arms and legs with duct tape, stabbed her in the chest, then buried her alive in the woods, cops say.
The motive? Keeping his pension money out of her hands, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast
But Young Sook An, 42, pulled off a miraculous escape, fleeing the woods after several hours covered in dirt and showing up at a stranger’s door for help.
Chae Kyong An, 53, now faces charges of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree assault, and felony harassment-threat to kill—all of which include a domestic violence enhancement. His court-appointed lawyer, Ahmed Jenkins, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Young’s ordeal began around 1 p.m. on Oct. 16, when police were dispatched to a report of “unknown trouble” at a home in Lacey, Washington, that Young shares with the couple’s two children, ages 20 and 11. She filed for divorce over the summer, civil court records show.
The 911 operator told officers that a woman “was heard screaming, sounded ‘gagged,’ and could not talk,” the affidavit continues, noting that “banging and struggling” could be heard in the background. Suddenly, the screaming stopped and it got “totally quiet,” according to the affidavit.
Authorities used cell tower data to locate the address, but when officers arrived, they found the house empty and the garage door open, the affidavit states. There were “signs of a disturbance” inside, and the front door was unlocked. The address was known to authorities as one with a “previous history of domestic violence,” and a records check showed that Young had a no-contact order against Chae—which turned out had been rescinded by the courts, the affidavit explains.
The warring couple’s two kids returned home while officers were still on the scene. They said Chae stopped by once a week to do his laundry, and that his minivan had been in the driveway when they and Young got back from church. However, they didn’t see Chae in the house, and the kids left to go to Goodwill and Baskin Robbins.
A few minutes after the kids departed, Young’s cellphone sent out an emergency notification to her daughter and to a friend. It would later emerge that Young had used her Apple watch to dial 911 and send notifications to her emergency contacts when Chae briefly stepped out of the room. But Chae allegedly smashed the device with a hammer and dragged her out of the house when he returned.
Young was nowhere to be found when cops got there, and Chae had seemingly vanished, as well.
But at 12:51 a.m. on Oct. 17, Young showed up at an unknown person’s house in Lacey. Following a 20- to 30-minute trek through the woods, she came upon a stranger’s home and pounded frantically on the door.
When cops showed up, she “had trouble recalling an exact account of the events and specific directions of travel,” the affidavit explains, but “recalled coming out of the woods near the home, and Desirae’s house being the first home she found.”
“When Young realized the deputy was law enforcement, she sprinted at them, screaming and crying for help,” the affidavit states. “She grabbed onto the deputy and frantically said, ‘My husband is trying to kill me. Help me.’ She had duct tape still wrapped around her neck, lower face, and ankles. There was extensive bruising to her legs, arms, and head and her clothing and hair were coved [sic] in dirt… Young appeared to be in extreme distresses [sic] and a state of trauma at the time the deputy spoke with her.”
“My husband is still out in the woods somewhere!” she exclaimed.
Young soon revealed that while discussing “their divorce and money” at her home the day before, Chae had become angry and his estranged wife asked him to leave, the affidavit states.
“Young said she went into her bedroom to change and while in the upstairs master bedroom Chae attacked her, punched her in the head multiple times, and threw her to the ground,” the affidavit says. “Young said Chae then tied her hands behind her back with duct tape and taped her eyes, thighs and ankles.”
That’s when Chae left the room and Young used her Apple watch to call 911. She said she “could hear the dispatcher talking and was trying to communicate but her mouth was covered so all she could do was yell,” the affidavit goes on. “Young said then Chae returned and drug her body down the hallway and down the stairs to the floor in front of the garage door. Young said Chea [sic] realized she had her Apple watch on so he struck it with a hammer and then struck her wrists.”
Chae then forced Young into his van and drove her to a secluded area in the woods, according to the affidavit.
“Young said she could hear Chae digging in the dirt and he stabbed her breasts with a sharp object,” it says. “Young said she was drug [sic] and put into the ground. Young said a heavy tree was put on top of her. Young said she could see it was daylight. Young said after being put in the ground she could hear her husband walking around the hole and dirt being put on top of her. Young said she would wiggle around to prevent the dirt from being on her face. Young said she had a hard time breathing and tried to keep the dirt off her face.”
She didn’t know exactly how long she was there, but told investigators she thought she was “in the ground for a few hours.” After dark, Young was able to wriggle out of her restraints and crawl out of the hole. She then found her way to safety.
Chae had often threatened to kill her, but Young never thought he would act on it, she told police.
“Young said Chae told her he would rather kill her than give her his retirement money,” the affidavit says. “…Young told the deputy Chae did intelligence for the United States Military and that he was extremely smart and has traveled all over the world.”
Chae was arrested at 8 p.m. on Oct. 17 after cops received a call about a “suspicious vehicle” located a few miles away on the Chehalis Western Trail. He was booked into the Thurston County Jail on Oct. 18. That same day, police found the location of the grave where Young had been buried, and found “a hole consistent with a grave type design,” according to the affidavit.
Inside the 6-foot-by-3-foot hole, which was 19 inches deep, cops discovered lengths of duct tape and strands of Young’s hair. On the ground beside the hole, police found a piece of duct tape with the broken frame of Young’s Apple watch stuck to it.
In a court hearing on Wednesday, Jenkins, Chae’s attorney, told the judge it is “highly likely” that his client suffers from “some service-related mental health conditions that will end up being addressed probably later on.”
Young pleaded with a judge in a letter read aloud in court by a victim advocate to keep Chae locked up, saying she feared for her life. The request was granted, and Chae remains detained without bond in the Thurston County Jail.
Chae is due back in court next week for a firearms review. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the attempted murder and kidnapping charges on Nov. 1. Young An was unable to be reached for comment.