World's worst criminal hired two men to kidnap his estranged wife in a van he rented

Last week Lawrence Michael Handley pleaded guilty to kidnapping for a plot that left two men dead and his ex-wife terrorized. The plot he initiated is like the script for a Coen brothers film, one where the best laid plans of subpar criminals completely fall apart under the least scrutiny. The Washington Post reports that after Lawrence and Schanda married in 2006 they appeared to be doing extremely well. They became very wealthy but were also heavily involved in charity.


Handley…founded the Townsend Recovery treatment centers. The drug treatment centers located across the South were doing so well that they sold in 2015 in a deal worth more than $21 million.

The couple, who married in 2006, were pillars of their Louisiana community. They ran the Handley Family Foundation, which focused on fundraising for poor children, cancer patients and young professionals hoping to become more involved in the community, according to the Clarion-Ledger

Handley’s Facebook page, in which he described himself as an “eternally optimistic serial entrepreneur who believes that nothing is impossible with God,” featured photos of a happy couple participating in CrossFit competitions and celebrating Mardi Gras.

But not long after their windfall, the marriage fell apart. Lawrence Handley filed for a restraining order claiming his wife had attacked him and that she’d hired someone kill him. For her part, his wife claimed Lawrence had put spyware on her computer and was sending threatening messages to her.

And that’s when Lawrence Handley hired two men to kidnap his wife. Handley offered the men, Arsenio Haynes and Sylvester Bracey, gold bars if they would grab her from her home and bring her to a family camp. The men agreed and on Aug. 6, 2017 they showed up at Schanda Handley’s home dressed in blue jumpsuits and carrying a carpet steamer. The men asked if they could come inside to demonstrate the device. Schanda said no at which point the two men forced their way inside with guns.


Haynes and Bracey handcuffed Schanda’s 14-year-old daughter and a neighbor who also happened to be in the house at the time. They placed a hood over Schanda’s head and put her in the back of a van, leaving the other two women behind in the house. But the kidnapping plan quickly went wrong because of a traffic jam.

As the men were threatening, torturing and abusing the woman at the start of the hour-long drive toward Baton Rouge, their plan hit a snag when an overturned piece of equipment backed up traffic, prosecutors say. The pair’s decision to drive on the shoulder of the road got the attention of police. When the van hit a dead-end road and got caught in a swampy area, the men ditched the van, and Schanda Handley, to try to escape police.

The kidnappers thought they could escape by jumping into a canal to swim for it. Nearly a day later, both their bodies were found in the water where they had drowned. One of the guns they had used during the kidnapping was also found.

When authorities investigated the crime, they quickly discovered that Lawrence Handley had rented the van they used and had also purchased the handcuffs. A Louisiana prosecutor who worked on the case told the Post, “Mr. Handley might have been a good businessman in his day, but he is not a good criminal.”


Schanda Handley was of course terrorized by the whole ordeal. She points out that the police officer who noticed the van she was in almost let it go. If not for the random traffic jam police would likely have never noticed it. She doesn’t know what Lawrence planned to do to her once she was taken to the camp but during their split he had sent her hundreds of threatening messages. She had reason to fear the worst. Lawrence Handley’s lawyer told a different story about his client’s intentions, one which doesn’t make much sense.

Mr. Handley’s lawyer, Kevin Stockstill, said in an interview that his client had been using methamphetamine and cocaine for days when he hatched the plan to have his wife kidnapped. He said that Mr. Handley had planned to “come in as a hero” and rescue Ms. Handley in an effort to “win her back.”

“It was certainly not logical thinking, but when you’re doing a lot of meth and cocaine, I guess it seemed rational to him,” Mr. Stockstill said. “It turned out to be a terrible decision.”

The part about the drugs may be true but the idea he was planning to save her to win her back doesn’t fit with anything else he did. Also, wouldn’t it be quite a coincidence that the kidnappers took her to a family camp where they’d spent time in the past? Even for someone on a lot of drugs, that plan wouldn’t make much sense.


Because Lawrence pleaded guilty he was spared the possibility of a life without parole sentence, one he almost certainly would have received because of the overwhelming evidence against him. In addition to the van and the handcuffs, there was video of him hiring the kidnappers. Now he’ll likely get a sentence of several decades behind bars.

It has taken 2 1/2 years but I think we’ve finally found a would-be criminal mastermind who makes Jussie Smollett look competent.

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David Strom 7:00 AM | May 18, 2024