Lacey, WA – A duct-taped woman who had been stabbed in the chest and buried alive managed to claw her way out of a shallow grave to escape to safety last week, according to police.
According to court documents, the horrific ordeal began when the 42-year-old woman and her estranged husband, 53-year-old Chae Kyong An, got into an argument at her residence on Oct. 16 over money and their ongoing divorce proceedings, WKRC reported.
She had a domestic violence protection order against him at the time, the Lacey Police Department (LPD) said in a press release.
The woman later told investigators that Kyong An suddenly snapped during the argument and attacked her, NBC News reported.
She said her estranged husband forced her hands behind her back and duct-taped them, then duct-taped her ankles, thighs, and eyes, court documents read.
When he briefly left the room, she managed to alert police by calling 911 on her Apple watch, but Kyong An soon returned and destroyed the device with a hammer after dragging his wife out to the garage, investigators said.
He allegedly forced the victim into his van, then drove off to a remote area on the edge of a clearing covered with downed trees and limbs, NBC News reported.
The woman said Kyong An took her out of the van and put her on the ground, and that she could hear him digging in the dirt nearby, according to court records.
A short while later, he allegedly plunged a knife into her chest and threw her into a shallow grave, NBC News reported.
“She was drug and put into the ground,” court documents read. “A heavy tree was put on top of her… After being put into the ground she could hear her husband walking around the hole and dirt being put on top of her.”
The victim allegedly told investigators that she was able to squirm around inside the grave to keep dirt off her face for several hours, but that it was still very difficult to breathe, NBC News reported.
She said she ultimately managed to free herself from the duct tape as she writhed around in the hole.
After she pulled the tape from her eyes and dug herself out from beneath the soil and the tree, she was able to see the light from the window of her husband’s van nearby, according to court documents.
The wounded woman said she managed to sneak away and took off running for about a half hour until she reached a house, NBC News reported.
According to court documents, the victim began screaming outside the home at approximately 1 a.m., telling the people inside that her husband was trying to kill her.
The residents called 911, and a Thurston County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) deputy arrived to find the injured woman hiding behind a shed in the yard, NBC News reported.
“She had duct tape still wrapped around her neck, lower face and ankles,” court documents read. “There was extensive bruising to her legs, arms and head and her clothing and hair were covered in dirt.”
The victim allegedly told investigators that her husband had threatened to murder her in the past, and that he told her he would “rather kill her than give her his retirement money,” police said.
The woman was transported to a local hospital and is expected to recover, WKRC reported.
Police began searching for Kyong An and located him several hours later after a bystander happened to recognize his vehicle.
He has since been charged with first-degree kidnapping, first-degree attempted murder, and first-degree assault, according to Today.
The judge ordered he be held without bail.
Lacey police said they responded to the woman’s home the night prior after receiving a 911 call that may have come from the woman’s Apple watch, NBC News reported.
The dispatcher said a woman could be heard “screaming” on the line and that she sounded like she was “gagged,” according to police.
Officers responded to the scene and found the garage door standing open, the LPD said in its press release.
The woman’s children got to the house a short while later and told officers that their parents had been at the home when they left to go to the store about 30 minutes earlier.
Officers searched the house but did not locate anyone inside.
They noted they did find “used duct tape” inside the residence.
The LPD then issued an Endangered Missing Persons Alert for the woman as they continued searching the area for her.
At least one security video obtained from a local resident showed Kyong An’s van pulling into the woman’s garage, according to police.
Shortly before officers arrived at the house, the van backed out and sped away.
According to court documents, investigators were able to use details provided by the victim to locate the grave where she had allegedly been buried alive, NBC News reported.
“The hole appeared to be freshly dug,” police said. “Outside the hole was a piece of duct tape.”