Lawrence Michael Handley

Lawrence Michael Handley

The two Mississippi men hired by Lafayette businessman Lawrence Michael Handley to kidnap his estranged wife posed as salesmen to gain entry into the couple's home and force her into the back of a van Handley had rented in Baton Rouge, according to an arrest document released Monday. 

The affidavit supporting Handley's Aug. 11 arrest, obtained by The Advocate through a public records request, also says he tried to call his wife two days before her Aug. 6 kidnapping and may have been responsible for several threatening text messages she received prior to the incident. Any contact he made with her was in direct violation of a protective order she filed against him as part of their ongoing divorce. 

Handley, 49, remains in the Lafayette Parish Jail in lieu of $266,000 bail.  He was taken into custody at a Slidell motel four days after authorities found his estranged wife bound in the back of a van in West Baton Rouge Parish. He was booked on two counts of conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping and a count of online impersonation. He also faces three counts of violating protective orders — one of which is a felony because of the restraining order connected to his divorce proceedings. 

Handley's wife has claimed in divorce filings following the incident that Handley wanted to have her kidnapped and killed to keep her from accessing their community property. Since his arrest, a judge has also granted another restraining order barring him from accessing any of the couple's shared assets.  

Handley co-founded Townsend, a Louisiana network of substance abuse treatment centers for which he worked as CEO. The company, which advertises opioid-addiction medicine Suboxone as part of its treatment repertoire, recently sold for a cash and stock deal valued at $21.25 million.

The affidavit for Handley's arrest, in which the names of the victim and several witnesses were blacked out, says two black men wearing red-collared shirts and black pants showed up at the couple's home in Lafayette about 2:30 p.m. Aug. 6.

Witnesses who were later found handcuffed in the house after 9-1-1 was called told Lafayette Police that when Handley's wife answered the door they heard her tell the men, "I'm not interested right now; I have company, can you come back later?"

When she tried to shut the door, the men forced it open and pulled out a semi-automatic handgun, made everyone get on the floor and handcuffed them. A juvenile who was also home at the time was forced to sit with the others, but wasn't handcuffed. The intruders then took Handley's wife to the garage and forced her inside a white van. 

The men caught police attention several hours later while driving along Interstate 10. The affidavit says deputies with the Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office tried to stop the vehicle when they saw two black men with a white female in the vehicle. The Iberville Sheriff's Office previously reported that deputies flagged the van after noticing it driving on the I-10 shoulder during a traffic backup, but that information was not included in the affidavit.

A brief chase occurred when the men wouldn't pull over. Police pursued the van until it became stuck in the mud, and the men ran off near the Intracoastal canal in West Baton Rouge Parish. The drowned bodies of the men — Sylvester Bracey and Arsenio Montreal Haynes, both 27 and both from Jackson, Mississippi — were discovered the following day. 

The affidavit says the license plate on the van had been switched, but Iberville Parish deputies were able to determine it was a registered vehicle for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and that Handley had rented the van for three days on Aug. 5 from the franchise's Siegen Lane location.

Two employees were able to positively identify Handley to authorities as the person who rented the van. The employees told police that while he was at the business, Handley bragged about various business ventures he was involved in and how much money he had. 


Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.