Schanda Handley was at home with her daughter and a neighbor when two men came to the door, dressed in what looked like blue uniforms from a home appliance store.
They had a carpet steamer and asked Handley if they could show it to him. When she said no, the men broke into her house at gunpoint, put a hood over her head and handcuffed her and her neighbor, she said.
Then they pushed Handley into a van and drove off, leaving Handley’s 14-year-old daughter and neighbor behind.
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The kidnappers had been hired by Handley’s ex-husband Lawrence Michael Handley, who planned to have Schanda Handley driven to his camp near Woodville, Mississippi from his home in Lafayette, Louisiana, prosecutors said. It was not clear what he planned to do after that, authorities said.
But as the men drove east on Interstate 10 on August 6, 2017, with Schanda Handley handcuffed behind her back, sheriff’s deputies noticed the van swerving and attempted to stop it, said prosecutors.
The men, Sylvester Bracey and Arsenio Haynes, left the freeway, took a dead-end gravel road and were parked by police, prosecutors said. The two men tried to escape by swimming in a canal, prosecutors said. They drowned.
On Monday, almost four years later, Lawrence Michael Handley, 53, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree kidnapping and one count of attempted second-degree kidnapping, prosecutors said. He faces 15 to 35 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
As part of a plea deal, Handley avoided an aggravated kidnapping charge, which carries a mandatory life sentence, prosecutors said.
Schanda Handley, 50, said in an interview Thursday that he was “really unhappy” that Lawrence Michael Handley – now her ex-husband – did not face the possibility of life in prison.
“My hope is that when he is sentenced he will have 35 years in prison,” she said. “I think my life, my freedom, ends when he comes out.”
A once successful businessman, Lawrence Michael Handley had run software and vitamin companies and had been the CEO of a series of drug treatment centers that were sold in 2015 as part of a deal to ‘worth around $ 21 million,’ said Schanda Handley.
He subjected Schanda Handley to hundreds of threats, telling her once “Armageddon is coming” while they were going through a divorce, she said. For two months, she said, she had home security at her home.
“I knew he was coming to get me,” she said.
Lawrence Michael Handley’s attorney, Kevin Stockstill, said in an interview that his client had been using methamphetamine and cocaine for days when he hatched the plan to kidnap his wife. He said Lawrence Michael Handley planned to “come into heroes” and save Schanda Handley in order to “win her back”.
“It certainly wasn’t a logical thought, but when you take a lot of methamphetamine and cocaine, I guess it made sense to him,” Stockstill said. “It turned out to be a terrible decision. “
Detective Jared Istre of the Lafayette Police Department, who investigated the case, found video of Lawrence Michael Handley planning the kidnapping along with checklists he made and evidence showing he had hired the van and bought the handcuffs used by the two kidnappers, prosecutors mentioned.
“The plea resolves the case without the victims having to relive their ordeal,” said Alan Haney, Louisiana’s 15th judicial district attorney, in a statement, “and the state is eager to present further evidence at the ‘sentencing hearing’.
Stockstill said the case presented a “difficult set of facts” for his client and that he did not want to risk a life sentence for Handley.
“He has helped literally thousands of people with drug addiction,” Stockstill said. “He has to accept the punishment. But he certainly deserves another chance to have some life.
Schanda Handley said it was an off-duty police officer who initially spotted the kidnapper’s van driving on the shoulder of the freeway and decided to follow it, thinking it might be stolen. She said she spoke to him later.
“He didn’t know anything about the kidnapping,” she said, “and he had a moment where he wasn’t sure he was going to chase the van.”
If police hadn’t stopped the van, Handley said, she wasn’t sure what might have happened once she reached her husband’s camp in Mississippi.
“His behavior was very erratic,” she said, adding that she thought he may have suffered from drug-induced psychosis. “He had lost his mind, like he was determined that we were together.”
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