It happened on Aug. 6, 2017, in Lafayette, west of Baton Rouge in southern Louisiana.
The morbid tale made headlines again last week after the husband, Lawrence Michael Handley, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree kidnapping and one count of attempted second-degree kidnapping.
His cohorts Sylvester Bracey and Arsenio Haynes, both 27, dressed themselves up as appliance store workers and wielded semiautomatic handguns before forcing their way into Schanda Handley’s home, putting a bag over her head and throwing her in the back of a rental van.
The men also handcuffed a neighbor and her daughter who happened to be visiting Schanda Handley at the time, but they were left inside the home, court records state.
Later, an alert off-duty sheriff’s deputy noticed the Mississippi fugitives driving on the shoulder of the road to avoid a traffic backup and attempted to pull the van over.
From there, a high-speed chase got underway.
Schanda Handley survived the ordeal after the crooks hit the dead end, abandoned the van and left her behind.
Authorities say the woman’s husband hired the men to carry out the caper after years of marital abuse and after multiple restraining orders against him, which ultimately soured the marriage.
A meeting was soon in motion between the kidnap co-conspirators at the Handley family’s camp in Mississippi.
Handley was captured on surveillance video that showed him saying he would pay the kidnappers with “19 gold bars,” reports said.
Handley next planned to insert himself in the scheme as an unwitting hero, swooping in to save the day in an attempt to “win her back,” The Washington Post reported.
For his role in the plot, the 53-year-old Handley now faces between 15 to 35 years in prison, according to The Washington Post.
A sentencing date has not been set for Handley, who has been held in a parish jail for nearly four years.
Last Monday’s plea deal allows the defendant to avoid a charge of aggravated kidnapping, which carries a mandatory life sentence, according to Handley’s attorney Kevin Stockstill who called the matter “the most bizarre case I’ve ever had.”
“I think it’s a fair resolution to the case,” Stockstill said to The Post. “Thank God nobody was hurt, except for the people who performed the kidnapping.”
There was no indication that charges would be filed in the death of the two men.
Handley initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but that option was taken off the table when he was found to be mentally competent to stand trial.
Both spouses accused each other of contributing to a dysfunctional marriage, with court records documenting allegations of threats, physical attacks, stalking, and cocaine and methamphetamine use.
Court records show Schanda Handley twice faced charges of domestic violence, further straining the marriage.
Before hatching the plot to kidnap his wife, Lawrence Michael Handley was becoming a name to know in the technology industry and among a who’s who of self-made Americans who seemingly went from rags to riches overnight. He became a millionaire before age 30 by launching companies that sold vitamins, energy supplements and calcium creams, according to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.
A recovering alcoholic, Handley founded the Townsend Treatment Centers, which sold in 2015 in a deal worth more than $21 million.
The Handleys were married in 2006 and prominent members of the Lafayette community. They ran the Handley Family Foundation, which raised money to help poor children and cancer patients.