A Louisiana millionaire admitted to planning the kidnapping of his estranged wife — after his two hired henchmen drowned while trying to evade authorities, botching the plot.
Lawrence Michael Handley pleaded guilty on Monday to two counts of second-degree kidnapping of Schanda Handley and her then-14-year-old daughter and one count of second-degree kidnapping of neighbor Michelle Chaisson in August 2017.
Prosecutors said Handley hired Sylvester Bracey and Arsenio Haynes, both 27, to kidnap Schanda from her Lafayette home on Aug. 6, 2017.
The two men busted into the home to find an adult neighbor and Schanda’s 14-year old daughter inside, who they handcuffed and left inside the house before driving Schanda away in a van, according to Donald Landry, District Attorney for Louisiana’s 15th Judicial Court.
Sheriff’s deputies attempted to stop the van for driving erratically, prompting the kidnappers to try to speed off, eventually getting pinned by law enforcement at the end of a dead-end road.
The men attempted to escape by jumping into a canal and drowned, the DA’s office said. Schanda was rescued from the van by Iberville Parish Sheriff deputies.
Handley — who made his fortune in the technology industry, as well as by selling vitamins and other supplements — was arrested at a hotel on Aug. 11 after he tried to charter a plane, according to USA Today.
Detectives from the Lafayette Police Department obtained videos and other evidence of Handley planning Schanda’s kidnapping, such as renting the van and purchasing the handcuffs used by the kidnappers, the DA said.
According to court documents obtained by USA Today, the couple married in 2006, but the relationship soured and Handley filed for divorce in 2017 after multiple restraining orders were filed.
Handley alleged that his wife had tried to hire a hitman to have him killed, while she alleged Handley had tried to track her phone and install spyware on her computer, according to the report.
Documents showed Handley had sent his wife threatening messages before the kidnapping, the outlet reported.
Handley had previously attempted to plead not guilty by means of insanity in 2018, but was deemed mentally competent for trial.
He now faces up to 35 years in prison, a potential punishment he has come to terms with, his attorney said.
“We just feel it’s a fair result. It’s a fair resolution of the case,” Handley’s attorney, Kevin Stockstill, told USA Today, adding that his client “was able to accept responsibility.”
The guilty plea is a relief to the victims, who will not have to relive their ordeal at trial, prosecutors said.