Judge denies bail for man accused in kidnapping - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Judge denies bail for man accused in kidnapping

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Lawrence Handley Lawrence Handley

A state district judge on Friday denied bail for a local businessman accused in the abduction of his estranged wife last month.

Judge Jules Edwards said he couldn't set bond for Lawrence Handley because there was "clear and convincing evidence" that he would try to flee if he was released. 

Handley is accused of conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping and attempted second-degree kidnapping in his wife's abduction last month. He also was booked with online impersonation and violations of protective orders. He's been held without bail.

A hearing on Handley's bond began Friday morning. Friday afternoon, after meeting with attorneys nearly two hours in chambers, Edwards made his ruling in court. Handley was there, wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles on his hands and feet. 

Edwards said he was considering setting bail for Handley, but changed his mind after more careful review of the law involved.

Edwards said there had not been clear and convincing evidence that Handley was a danger to anyone now - even though he said there was evidence he was a danger to someone in the past - and he had even gone so far as to attempt to craft conditions that he felt would protect the people who felt they would be in danger from Handley. 

However, Edwards said he's certain now that Handley shouldn't have bond because the risk of his fleeing is "substantial."

Handley's attorney, Kevin Stockstill, asked that those conditions be entered into the record so that he can appeal the judge's decision. 

During the hearing this morning, Stockstill sought to allow him to live at the couple's shared home in Woodville, Mississippi. Another ex-wife in Shreveport offered to let Handley live with her while awaiting trial.

Katherine Guillot, another attorney who enrolled to defend Handley, said the domestic violence surrounding the Handleys “goes both ways.” His wife had been arrested in Mississippi for allegedly discharging a firearm there, a Wilkinson County deputy testified during the hearing.

Kenny Hebert, who's prosecuting the case, argued that Handley would pose a danger if released from the Lafayette Parish jail. Even if he were on home monitoring, he could still hire people to do harm on his behalf, Hebert argued.

"The evidence shows he'll go to great lengths to get what he wants," Hebert said in court.

'Finish the job'

The Lafayette detective who investigated the kidnapping, Jared Istre, testified Handley was found with several burner phones and to-do lists that included things like handcuffs, vehicles and an ominous final remark to "finish the job." Another handwritten note had the Covington address where Handley's wife had been in hiding from her husband.

Istre testified that in Handley's attempts to evade police — efforts that included dying his hair, hiring men to drive him around and pay for hotels in his name and attempting to charter a plane from Baton Rouge to Arizona — he also may have tried to convince both his kidnapped wife and his ex-wife in Shreveport that he, too, had been kidnapped.

Istre testified that both wives received texts that Handley had been abducted, and a $500,000 ransom was sought for his release. Whoever sent the texts was posing as one of the woman's kidnappers — but they were sent after authorities discovered the drowned bodies of those kidnappers in Intracoastal Canal.

Forensic investigators are still working to verify the origin of those texts, as well as other threatening and explicit texts that involved his wife, Istre said.

Handley made his fortune through a couple of ventures, including Townsend, the Louisiana addiction treatment franchise he co-founded and sold for nearly $22 million, and a software venture that sold for about $30 million, Istre testified.

But he was using prescription pills, including Adderall, and possibly meth.

Detective: Handley's hired help extended beyond abduction

The detectives testimony also presented new information about the alleged kidnappers, who not only abducted and stripped down Handley’s wife while she was shackled with a bag over her head, but also grabbed Handley's 14-year-old stepdaughter and threw her phone across the room, forcing her on the ground before abducting her mother from the home while a second woman stayed behind, handcuffed with leg shackles.

The two accused kidnappers, Arsenio Haynes and Sylvester Bracy, were both from Mississippi. Bracy, who’s been convicted of kidnapping before, had been working for Handley in the months leading up to the kidnapping, Istre testified. So had Bracy's brother, Jerome Bracy.

Jerome Bracy told authorities his brother had been traveling to and from Lafayette for work, although the extent of the work hadn't been made clear to him. He said Sylvester Bracy got a black Crown Victoria out of the arrangement.

The homeowners association in the Handleys' neighborhood said they oftwn noticed a black Crown Victoria around the area, and they noted it as suspicious because it started appearing with frequency over the summer.

The company refused when he learned through a news report about Handley's warrant in the kidnapping.

Records: Handley sent threatening messages 

The arrest warrant on the conspiracy charges, obtained by KATC TV3 today alleges that Handley rented the van his estranged wife was found in. 

 Another warrant, which accuses him of online impersonation and violation of protective orders, accuses him of sending various text messages to his estranged wife. All of the alleged messages were sent in July, according to the warrant. 

In one message, he said she was "facing Armageddon and no court order will save you." Another said her "boyfriend is a target." 

Another targeted someone unidentified in the warrant: "We will take you first and let you suffer for awhile before putting you out of your misery."

One message threatened she would "suffer" if she continued to ignore the texts.

The warrant also accuses Handley of logging onto someone else's Facebook page and posting photos of the victim in her underwear. 

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