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Washington Woman Allegedly Escaped After Being Buried Alive In Woods By Estranged Husband

"My husband is trying to kill me,” Young An allegedly told police after they say she dug herself out of a grave her estranged husband, Chae An, had thrown her in.

By Jill Sederstrom
Woman Buried Alive In Woods By Estranged Husband Escapes

A Washington woman made a harrowing escape after she was allegedly buried alive in the woods by her estranged husband.

A Thurston County sheriff’s deputy found Young An — still partially covered in duct tape and dirt — hiding behind a shed just before 1:00 a.m. on Monday. The 42-year-old had stumbled upon a home on Stedman Road in the south part of Olympia and pounded on the door for help, according to a probable cause statement obtained by Oxygen.com.

“My husband is trying to kill me,” An screamed at the officer. “My husband is still out in the woods somewhere.” 

Authorities said An had duct tape “wrapped around her neck, lower face and ankles,” was covered in dirt and had “extensive bruising to her legs, arms and head.”

Her husband, Chae An, was arrested around 7:37 a.m., when someone spotted his van along the Chehalis Western Trail near Stedman Road and called 911.

A police handout of Chae Kyong An

Young An’s terrifying ordeal allegedly began hours earlier, she told investigators, after she'd arrived at her Lacey home from church around 1:00 p.m. on Sunday and found her estranged husband at the house, according to the court records.

Young An sent her two children shopping so that she could talk to Chae An about the couple’s impending divorce and money issues.

During the discussion, Young An told investigators her husband got angry and she asked him to leave, but he punched her in the head multiple times, duct taped her hands behind her back and placed duct tape on her eyes, thighs and ankles, the court documents allege.

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She was able to call 911 with her Apple Watch and send an emergency notification to select contacts while her husband was briefly out of the room.

The 911 dispatcher could “hear muffled screaming and sounds of a struggle” but, by the time Lacey Police officers arrived at the scene they found the garage door open but no sign of the missing couple, police said in a statement about the incident.

The couple’s children arrived shortly after and told officers that their parents had been together when they left to go to the store about 30 minutes earlier.

Investigators also knew that there had been a past history of domestic violence at the home and a no contact order was in place at the time of the disappearance, according to the court records.

Young An would later tell investigators that, after making the 911 call, her husband had dragged her into his van. When he noticed her Apple Watch, he destroyed it with a hammer, also striking her wrists, before removing the remnants, according to the court documents.

Chae An was captured on surveillance footage getting into his van, backing it into the garage and then pulling away and “speeding out of the neighborhood” a short time later.

Chae An allegedly drove his estranged wife to a wooded area about 10 miles south of her home and then stabbed her multiple times in the chest with a small knife, before placing her into a shallow grave and throwing dirt and a “heavy tree” on top of her, authorities wrote.

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“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,” the probable cause statement alleges.

Young told authorities that, as she lay in the hole, she thought about her children and how she didn’t want to die.

She said she was able to survive by wiggling her face to create air pockets that allowed her to breath. She believed she was “in the ground for a few hours," fighting for her life.

Once it got dark outside, Young An told investigators she was able to free herself from the duct tape on her arms and dig out of the grave, authorities said. She saw the van nearby and noticed the windows were “steaming” and a light was on.

She quickly ran to a nearby home, where she was eventually discovered by deputies.

Authorities later found a “hole consistent with a grave type design” in a clearing in the woods. They discovered duct tape and woman’s hair inside the hole, according to the probable cause statement.

Chae An is being held without bail after a brief preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

During the hearing, a victim’s advocate read a statement from Young An — who wasn’t in court — pleading with the judge to keep her husband behind bars.

“Please no bail,” Young An said, according to The Olympian. “I am really afraid for my life. I just want to emphasize that I fear him so much and he will kill me again if he is out.”

Chae An is facing possible charges of first-degree attempted murder, domestic violence, kidnapping assault and felony harassment, although he had not formally been charged as of Friday morning.

Tara Tsehlana, a community engagement specialist with the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, told Oxygen.com that authorities were expecting to file charges on Friday.

His arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 1.