A wealthy Louisiana businessman is accused of masterminding a plot to kidnap and torture his estranged wife.
Michael Handley, 49, is in jail after prosecutors allege he hired two men to carry out the scheme – both of whom are now dead. Authorities charged Handley with conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping, online impersonation and violating protective orders, the Clarion-Ledger reports.
Handley’s wife, Schanda, is safe today, according to police. But on Aug. 6, Sylvester Bracey and Montreal Haynes allegedly broke into Handley’s home with a gun, handcuffed Schanda, put a bag over her head and forcibly loaded her into a van.
The men reportedly began driving to a location where Michael Handley was reportedly waiting, and in route, they allegedly stripped, tortured and abused the woman, including threating to rape and kill her.
Why Michael Handley would want to kidnap his wife is not yet clear, but court documents claim he paid the men and purchased items “necessary to kidnap, bind, torture and abuse Mrs. Handley.”
As the men were in the midst of the kidnapping, their plan hit a snag: a traffic jam. They began traveling on the shoulder of the road, which caught the attention of an off-duty police officer, who started to pursue the van.
Now being followed, the suspects subsequently turned down a dead-end road near a swamp. They tried driving around a fence, but got stuck. The men jumped into the Intracoastal Canal, where authorities believe they drowned. Their bodies were found in the canal days later.
After the chase, police discovered Schanda in the back of the van.
At some point, Michael Handley learned the kidnapping attempt failed and he tried to run. Police detained him on Aug. 11 in a hotel outside of New Orleans as he was allegedly trying to charter a plan to escape capture.
Court records show Handley may have been having financial problems, and while people believed that he and Schanda were happy, documents reveal that their relationship had soured around March, when restraining orders and major allegations arose.
On one volatile day in March, Schanda allegedly barricaded herself in their home, where she destroyed furniture and shot bullets into a wall. She was subsequently arrested and charged with domestic violence.
By April, Michael Handley had filed for divorce and alleged that Schanda had threatened and even attacked him multiple times. He claimed that Schanda tried to hire a hit man to kill him, and that she also threatened to “bite off his genitals and swallow them in front of him,” court records show.
But Schanda has denied many of the husband’s claims and said she never tried to hurt him. She did acknowledge, though, that she was depressed and hostile after learning that Michael had an affair and was abusing prescription drugs.
Schanda also alleged that Michael invaded her privacy by seeking to access her email, tracking her phone, installing spyware on her computer and sending threatening messages.
Authorities have yet to reveal or discover key details of the kidnapping plot, leaving many questions unanswered.
The couple’s divorce case is still pending.
[Feature Photo: Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Dept.]