SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A marijuana grower was convicted Thursday of kidnapping, torturing and mutilating a pot dispensary owner he mistakenly thought had buried $1 million in the California desert.
Kyle Shirakawa Handley was found guilty of a 2012 assault that included burning the man with a blowtorch, shocking him with a Taser, splashing him with bleach and cutting off his penis.
“We hope this verdict provides some solace to the victims in this case,” prosecutor Matt Murphy said.
Handley, 38, of Fountain Valley, is one of three men who were accused of kidnapping the Newport Beach marijuana dispensary owner.
Handley, who had befriended the man, made trips to Las Vegas with him and came to believe that he had hidden profits from his cash-based pot business in the Mojave Desert, prosecutors said.
A scheme was hatched that used surveillance cameras and a GPS tracker to keep tabs on the dispensary owner for months, both at his home and when he made trips to the desert, authorities said.
On Oct. 2, 2012, the kidnappers took the man and his roommate’s girlfriend from their Newport Beach home, drove them to the desert and then tortured the man to make him reveal where he had buried money, prosecutors said.
At trial the dispensary owner testified that they continued to torture him even though he told them he hadn’t buried any cash. Finally, after being convinced he had no money, the kidnappers cut off his penis and threw it from the window of the getaway van. Authorities never found it.
The kidnapped woman eventually was able to cut herself free of her bonds using a knife the kidnappers left her. She walked barefoot to a highway and flagged down a Kern County sheriff’s deputy.
On Thursday, the dispensary owner breathed a sigh of relief as Handley was convicted of kidnapping for ransom, aggravated mayhem and torture. His fiancee held his hand and rubbed his shoulder, the Orange County Register reported.
Handley is facing life in prison without chance of parole when he is sentenced on March 23.
Two other men, Ryan Kevorkian, 38 and Hossein Nayeri, 39, have pleaded not guilty and are facing trial in the case.
Nayeri fled to Iran after the attack. The FBI and Czech authorities arrested him at the Prague airport in 2013 on his way from Iran to Spain to visit family.
Nayeri also is facing charges for escaping from the Orange County Jail in 2016. He and two other inmates cut through a metal screen on a wall, crawled through plumbing shafts and rappelled from the roof. They were recaptured after a statewide manhunt.
The escape was captured on a smuggled cellphone and was made public by Nayeri’s attorney last year.