A Louisiana millionaire has pleaded guilty to kidnapping charges after he arranged the kidnapping of his estranged wife in a plot that went wrong after the men he’d hired drowned while the victim was tied up in a van.
In 2017 Lawrence Michael Handley, 53, who made millions through healthcare businesses, orchestrated the kidnap of his estranged wife Schanda, 50.
He hired Sylvester Bracey and Arsenio Haynes to commit the crime, with the two men forcibly entering the couple’s home in Lafayette, Louisiana, putting a hood over Schanda’s head, handcuffing her, and forcing her into a van.
Prosecutors said that Handley had arranged for the kidnappers to drive his estranged wife to a property near Woodville, Mississippi.
The plan went awry when Bracey and Haynes drowned while trying to evade police by abandoning the van and jumping into a canal. Schanda Handley was later found tied up in the back of the vehicle.
Handley was arrested several days later after police found tracked him down to a motel.
Handley’s attorney, Kevin Stockstill, told The New York Times that he wanted to “come in as a hero” and rescue his estranged wife in an effort to “win her back.”
Stockstill added that Handley had been high on methamphetamine and cocaine when he plotted the kidnapping and was not thinking clearly.
On Tuesday, Handley pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree kidnapping and one count of attempted second-degree kidnapping as part of a plea deal. He faces between 15 and 35 years behind bars.
By taking the plea deal, Handley avoided facing life in prison on an aggravated kidnapping charge.
Schanda Handley said on Thursday that it was “really unfortunate” that her ex-husband would not face the possibility of life in prison, according to The New York Times.
“My hope is when he’s sentenced, he’s given the 35 years,” Schanda Handley said. “I think my life, my freedom, ends when he gets out.”
The kidnap plot took place amid a bitter divorce between the couple who were married in 2006.
According to The Daily Mail, multiple restraining orders were filed between them, and Lawrence Michael Handley alleged that Schanda was trying to have him killed.
Schanda Handley said her ex-husband had subjected her to hundreds of threats, once telling her “Armageddon is coming,” according to The New York Times.
“I knew he was coming to get me,” she said.
Lawrence Michael Handley made millions through several healthcare businesses, including a vitamins company and running a range of rehab centers in the South.
The Washington Post described the couple as ” pillars of their Louisiana community.”