Warrant: Lafayette businessman rented van in wife's abduction - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Warrant: Lafayette businessman rented van in wife's abduction

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The two men allegedly hired to kidnap a Lafayette businessman's estranged wife posed as salesmen before handcuffing and snatching her away in a rented van her husband purchased, according to arrest documents released this week.

KATC Investigates obtained Michael Handley's arrest affidavit in the second-degree kidnapping conspiracy that's punctuated months of documented marital discord between the couple and culminated in the woman's rescue, Handley's imprisonment and the deaths of the two Mississippi men he allegedly enrolled to carry out the planned abduction.

Handley had been involved in a bitter divorce for months before someone reported the Aug. 6 kidnapping from the couple's home on Founders Street, where police say two men barged into the home, handcuffed two adults and a juvenile and took one of the women away with a bag over her head.

According to the arrest affidavit, which censors the names of the victims and witnesses in the kidnapping, the two abductors posed as solicitors when trying to gain entry into the Handleys' home.

A woman visiting the home heard Handley's wife answer the door and say, "I'm not interested right now, I have company, can you come back later?" before the men forced entry while brandishing semi-automatic handguns, according to the document.

The two women were handcuffed. A third person in the home — identified in police's initial report of the kidnapping as a juvenile — was forced downstairs by the kidnappers but was not handcuffed, according to the document. Handley's wife was forced into the van, but the second woman refused and the kidnappers fled the scene.

On the day of the kidnapping, the 27-year-old captors, Sylvester Bracey and Arsenio Montreal Haynes of Jackson, Mississippi, caught police attention after driving along the I-10 shoulder during stopped traffic in West Baton Rouge Parish. Police pursued the van until it became stuck in the mud, and the men fled on foot.

The two had extensive and violent criminal records in Mississippi. Their drowned bodies were discovered in the Intracoastal Canal the next afternoon.

Witnesses: Handley bragged about money when renting car

Court documents filed in the Handleys' divorce allege Handley orchestrated the plot against his wife, who claimed that upon her kidnapping, her abductors "stripped, tortured and abused" her, threatening rape and murder while "in route to their destination where Mr. Handley was waiting."

The arrest affidavit further details Handley's alleged involvement in the plot, noting that he paid for the white van rented to carry out the abduction.

Employees of the Enterprise car-rental location in Baton Rouge recalled to authorities their encounter with Handley.

Enterprise employees told an investigator that Handley, who paid for a two-day van rental from Aug. 5-7, "was speaking about his business ventures and bragging about how much money he made," according to the affidavit.

"It should be noted this was a common note received from neighbors" of the Handleys' Founders Street home, the investigator writes in the Aug. 7 affidavit.

Handley co-founded Townsend, a Louisiana network of substance abuse treatment centers for which he worked as CEO. The company, which advertises opioid-addiction medicine Suboxone as part of its treatment repertoire, recently sold for a cash and stock deal valued at $21.25 million.

At the time of the 2015 sale, the company had generated around $10.9 million in revenue in the first nine months of the year.

A judge recently prohibited Handley from accessing their shared assets, instead granting his wife access to their finances to seek shelter, security and mental health care after the ordeal.

Throughout their ongoing divorce, filed earlier this year, Handley had been court-ordered to stay away from his wife, according to restraining orders in the case. 

He had already been accused of violating the restraining order. An offense report dated July 18 documented that Handley had been sending threatening text messages, and his alleged violations continued as recently as Aug. 3, when he tried to make contact, according to the arrest affidavit. 

Some threatening text messages containing explicit photographs were apparently exchanged among Handley's friends, although the affidavit censors the name of who was involved or received the messages.

When authorities tried to contact Handley on his phone, it had been disconnected some time after late Aug. 3, when he was last logged calling someone else's phone.

Handley now faces two counts of conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping and an online impersonation count that's so far gone unexplained by law enforcement. He also faces three counts of violating protective orders — one of them a felony — because of a restraining order granted against him during the divorce proceedings earlier this year.

Records show Handley's been convicted of fraud. He pleaded guilty in 2005 to paying for a private charter jet from Lafayette to Boston with a fake cashier's check worth $22,000, according to records in Louisiana's U.S. Western District.

A court date in the case has not been set, as formal criminal charges have not been filed at this point.

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