Former Townsend CEO pleads insanity in wife's kidnapping - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Former Townsend CEO pleads insanity in wife's kidnapping

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The Lafayette businessman charged with plotting to kidnap and kill his estranged wife has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

An attorney for 49-year-old Michael Handley entered the written plea on Monday and requested a sanity commission to determine whether he was "of sufficient mental capacity to distinguish between right and wrong and comprehend the nature and quality of said act," according to the motion.

The written plea claims Handley was exempt from criminal responsibility in the crime "because of a mental disease and/or mental defect."

Handley was set for arraignment on Tuesday, but he'd already entered a written plea of not guilty in September. The new plea of insanity replaces that initial pleading.

Prosecutors allege Handley hired two men to kidnap his estranged wife from their home, where she was bound, stripped, tortured and thrown in the back of a van so her captors could transport her to Handley. Those two men, 27-year-olds from Mississippi — one of whom had been convicted of kidnapping before — drowned in the Intracoastal Canal after running from police.

Evidence shows Handley rented the van, and among the items recovered after he spent days hiding in hotel rooms as a fugitive, police found burner phones, disguises and handwritten notes — including one that said, "Finish the job," prosecutors have said in previous hearings.

Handley co-founded the Townsend chain of medical-assisted drug treatment centers and also had previous success selling a tech business, both of which he sold for tens of millions of dollars.

He and his wife had been involved in a divorce for months before the kidnapping, which his stepdaughter and another woman witnessed. Handley's wife had filed restraining orders against him, which he later violated and for which he faces additional criminal charges for the acts.

He's been held without bail since August on counts of conspiracy to commit second-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping, second-degree kidnapping and attempted second-degree kidnapping.

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