Prosecutor: Money dispute at center of hatchet attack

Posted 6/7/23

Jurors in the first-degree assault case of Anna Young heard two very different versions of an alleged early morning attack with a hatchet that left her husband with multiple head lacerations and a …

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Prosecutor: Money dispute at center of hatchet attack


Jurors in the first-degree assault case of Anna Young heard two very different versions of an alleged early morning attack with a hatchet that left her husband with multiple head lacerations and a fractured skull.

The trial in the November 2021 assault started May 30, and during opening arguments, both sides parted on who was the victim in the case.

Young, 61, was arrested Nov. 2, 2021 for allegedly attacking her husband with a sheathed hatchet as he slept in bed in their Port Townsend home just after
4 a.m. that day.

Her husband, Ronald Stephens, told police that when he woke up to discover his wife hitting him with a hatchet — more than 20 times, in his estimate — his wife repeatedly told him he was dreaming.

The trial for first-degree assault also includes an allegation of interfering with a report of domestic violence. Stephens, who was 74 at the time of the alleged attack, told investigators that his wife would not let him get to the phone and kept hitting him with the hatchet as he tried to call 911.

Authorities had earlier said Stephens fled from the home following the assault and went to a neighbor’s house for help. Emergency dispatchers were called when someone in the couple’s 14th Street neighborhood reported a suspicious man dressed in a T-shirt and shorts who was knocking at their door.

Opening arguments in the trial, expected to last four weeks, were May 31.


Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tuppence Macintyre started with the bare essentials of the case: a domestic violence incident between Stephens and Young on
Nov. 2, 2021.

Stephens was the victim, she said.

But Macintyre then introduced something never previously released publicly: That the attack followed concerns over money that Stephens had given to Young.

“You will hear about a significant sum of money. Sixty thousand dollars,” Macintyre said.

The couple, married two years at the time of the assault, met online and got married after a few weeks or months.

Macintyre said Young would not live with Stephens outside of marriage, because her mother did not approve.

Stephens was in is 70s, Young was in her 50s, and there was a prenuptial agreement before the wedding.

But there was also another written agreement; one that came after the newlywed phase was over and arguments and problems in the marriage ensued.

“Time went on, and the marriage wasn’t doing very well,” Macintyre said, and Stephens began to talk of divorce.

The couple started marriage counseling to work through the problems. Young told Stephens that she didn’t feel secure in the relationship, Macintyre recalled.

Young said she would feel more secure, Macintyre continued, if her husband agreed to transfer $60,000 into a bank account solely in her name.

“Ron loved her, and agreed, as a gesture of trust,” to put $60,000 into an account, with the condition that a written agreement be signed.

The agreement included a provision that if Young wanted to invest money from her new account, the couple would talk about the investment first and avoid anything risky. They also agreed that Young would not take money out of the account, and that she would show her husband the monthly bank statements.

The agreement, which was notarized, said that Young would get the entire $60,000 if her husband sought a divorce. If Young initiated a divorce, she would get $20,000.

Happiness followed, along with loving messages between the two, Macintyre said, until the husband, weeks or months later, asked to see the balance statement for the account.

Young’s response, the prosecutor continued, was: “You don’t trust me. You don’t love me.”

Stephens let it go, Macintyre said.


Questions on the account eventually returned, finally coming up again during a marriage counseling session on
Nov. 1.

The marriage counselor “brokered an agreement,” Macintyre said, that the couple would look at the bank statement during their monthly sit-down together to pay their bills. The counselor said that could happen in a week, on Nov. 9.

Macintyre said Stephens thought the issue was resolved.

“He goes to bed that night, the night of Nov. 1. The clock ticks over to Nov. 2.

“Ron Stephens is asleep. Anna Young is awake, at 4 o’clock in the morning. She’s on the computer,” Macintyre said.

The prosecutor told jurors they will see evidence of that, and more.

“Before 5 o’clock in the morning, Ron is woken up suddenly, being hit in the head with a hatchet by Anna Young. In the back of his head.”

He was confused, tried to get up, but was being attacked by Young with the hatchet, Macintyre said.

The evidence, she added, will also show that splattered blood was found on the wall above his pillow. There was blood on the pillowcase, on a white cloth on a bedside nightstand, and on the floor by the side of the bed, on an armrest of a chair.

“There was blood through the house,” she said.

Stephens was trying to get away from his wife’s attack, Macintyre said, while also trying to get the hatchet away from her.

“It is a struggle. He runs from the bedroom,” she said.

The attack continued, with Stephens trying to reach for the hatchet, when they both fell to the floor.

Macintyre said Stephens was surprised he could not get the hatchet away.

“The fight has not stopped,” she continued, as Stephens tried to find his cellphone to call 911.

Stephens then grabbed a cast-iron skillet from a kitchen counter and hit Young once on the head, leaving a “goose egg” on her forehead, and stopping her briefly.

“Ron thinks, ‘OK. The fight is over,’” Macintyre said.

Stephens put the skillet on the counter and went to the bathroom. Macintyre said Young then grabbed the skillet off the counter and started hitting her husband again from behind.


Blood splatter was found on the bathroom wall, Macintyre said.

A few steps from the garage, Stephens went inside to get something to defend himself with, Macintyre said, and grabbed a hammer. He then discovered he was locked out of the home.

He went to a neighbor’s house, dressed in just shorts and a shirt, and rang the doorbell.

The residents look outside, at about 5 a.m.

“They see some guy, who’s holding a hammer, in his underwear,” Macintyre told the jury.

The neighbors called 911.

With no answer, Stephens went to another home and knocked on the door, also getting no response.

“Ron sees his reflection, in the glass of the window, and he is bleeding. A lot,” Macintyre said.

Realizing he had a spare key to his truck in the garage, Stephens went back home and then drove himself a few blocks to the hospital.

Stephens had seven to nine cuts on his head, including a gashed ear that will eventually require plastic surgery, Macintyre said.

He also had a fractured skull, and a middle finger broken backwards, which Macintyre said was a defensive injury from raising a hand to protect himself.

Macintyre said police were called to the hospital, and officers then go to the home and discover Young is not there and neither is her car. Officers find drops of blood throughout the home, then a latex plastic glove on the floor next to the hatchet, a few feet from the front door.

The skillet was also recovered.

Eight hours later, Young pulled into the Port Townsend Police Department. She had called 911, as well, and was arrested. Her husband had since been transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment.

DNA samples were taken from both the husband and wife.

Macintyre told jurors that evidence includes the DNA samples that were collected from the crime scene. Blood throughout the home was found to be from Stephens. Blood on the hatchet was tested and was also a match to Stephens, and his DNA was also found on the handle of the hammer.

At the close of her opening argument, the prosecutor returned to the money in the bank account.

Detectives got a search warrant, and found that Young had written a cashier’s check to her brother for the full $60,000, she said.

The money was withdrawn exactly a month before the attack, she said.

A memo line on the check, Macintyre said, noted the money was to be used for the purchase of a home for her mother.

Macintyre also told jurors that the couple are in the middle of a divorce, and Young has been ordered to return the $60,000 to a trust account.

Young has not returned the money, Macintyre added.


During opening argument for the defense, attorney Julie St. Marie claimed it was the wife in the couple who fought off an attack.

“Anna Young did what any one of us would do when confronted with a physical attack,” St. Marie told jurors.

Her life was threatened, St. Marie said, and she was attacked by her husband with a hammer.

“The facts are undisputed,” the attorney added.

“Ron Stephens did not like to hear that Anna was losing her love for him, after having threatened so many times divorce.”

Stephens was moody, she continued, and he “awfulized” normal everyday things to the point of threatening to divorce Young.

“And he did this over and over and over again until Anna finally couldn’t put up with it anymore.”

“She just wanted to go,” St. Marie said.

The attorney told the jury that Stephens was very agitated and very angry on the night of the alleged attack.

“And ultimately, there he was. Anna looked up: He is standing in the doorway with a hammer in his hand and advancing toward her ... as if he was going to strike her with the hammer.”

St. Marie noted that Young had called 911 twice in the past about her husband’s verbal threats, to no avail.

“Law enforcement did not have an ear for Anna Young. Law enforcement agreed with Ron Stephens; there is nothing to see here.”

“It’s just blown off,” she added.

St. Marie said Young sought the first available thing she could find to defend herself, “in case Ron Stephens came at her again with that hammer.”

Young crept into the garage, St. Marie said, and found a tool on the wall.

“She didn’t know what it was, exactly,”
St. Marie said. “It turned out to be a sheathed hatchet.”

St. Marie stressed the hatchet was in its case, and said the attack by Young’s husband didn’t stop with the hammer.

“She got in a few blows,” St. Marie said of Young after claiming Young swung at her a second time with the hammer.

“The two struggled. The struggle took them throughout the house. It was combat, at this point.”

She said Young admitted that he “whacked” his wife on the forehead with a cast-iron skillet “weighing more than five pounds.”

Stephens knew he injured Young when he knocked her to the ground, St. Marie said, and also knew he could be arrested for domestic violence.


St. Marie said Stephens “had a huge advantage” by being the first one to report the incident.

She also admitted that Young used physical force that night. She used the hatchet,
St. Marie said, to defend herself against being attacked by her husband, armed first with a hammer, then with an iron skillet.

“Both potentially deadly weapons,”
St. Marie told the jury.

Young’s actions were reasonable and necessary, she added.

The defense attorney then focused on the physical difference between man and wife. “Ron Stephens: 6-feet-2; 195 pounds. Anna Young: 5 foot, 4 inches; 115 pounds.” 

St. Marie said jurors would hear from Stephens himself: “Not a day in her life had Anna Young ever been anything but completely peaceful.”

“To avoid his own arrest, he tells police a story,” she continued.

On its face, it’s a story that makes little sense, St. Marie continued.

“Out of the blue, unprovoked, for absolutely no reason, he says, he is awoken from his sleep, in his bed, by repeated bludgeoning, out of nowhere. Little Miss Anna Young is repeatedly bludgeoning him on the head with his sheathed hatchet. That’s what he’s said.”

St. Marie recounted the account that Stephens shared with police, that his wife attacked him with the hatchet as he was asleep in bed, and her words as he awoke.

“She was repeating over and over again, according to Ron, ‘You’re in a dream. You’re in a dream. You’re in a dream.’”

St. Marie also hinted at what else would be highlighted during the trial; the bed sheets that were not collected as evidence because they didn’t fit her husband’s version of events that night.

“What happened to those sheets?” St. Marie asked. “Gone. Not collected. Not preserved. They didn’t fit in with Ron Stephen’s story.”


She also claimed the investigation was “deeply flawed.”

When asked about the hammer, St.  Marie said Young had claimed he grabbed the hammer from the garage after the attack, after he was locked out of the house.

“She never saw the hammer,” St. Marie said of Young’s recollection.

St. Marie shared her doubts of his timeline, from the attack to the time he went to neighbors’ homes that early morning for help, to eventually not finding any and driving himself to the hospital.

“Who had the hammer? Who had the hammer the entire time?” she asked.

It was found in Young’s vehicle days later, St. Marie noted.

“There will be absolutely no dispute Mr. Stephens had the opportunity to mess with that evidence. Mr. Stephens had the opportunity to wipe his wife’s blood off that hammer.”

St. Marie told jurors the case would come down to the credibility of the witnesses, particularly the version of events from the husband.

“You will hear many, many, many witnesses in this case,” St. Marie said.

The state has 35 or 36 witnesses, St. Marie said.

“None of those witnesses, you will hear, were present. None of them talked to Anna Young. And most of them never spoke to
Mr. Stephens.”