Prosecutors: Man accidentally recorded himself plotting wife’s kidnapping
Schanda Handley and her daughter, Isabella Cumberland, were at their home on a quiet street in Lafayette, Louisiana, on August 6, 2017, when two men appeared at their front door. They looked suspiciously like delivery men, which was a welcome surprise since Handley was anxiously awaiting her clothes steamer.
“I was so excited,” Handley told David Begnaud, CBS News lead national correspondent and “48 Hours” contributor. “I was like, “Oh, my steamer.
Her joy was transformed into terror, when instead of dropping off a package, the two men held Handley at gunpoint, handcuffed her and threw her into the back of a van.
She recounted the details of her near-death experience to Begnaud in “The Kidnapping of Schanda Handley,” an all-new “48 Hours. “
“They hooded me as soon as I went into the van,” Handley said. “It wasn’t a van with the windows in the back.”
Cumberland watched helplessly as the men sped off with her mother.
“As they’re driving away with her, did you think that was the last time you’d ever see her?” Begnaud asked Cumberland.
“I thought there was a chance,” Cumberland answered.
Handley said one of the abductors was straddling her in the back of the van, forcing pills into her mouth, while the other erratically drove them out of town. She described her feeling like she was going to pass out, and that the men threatened to assault her sexually and then kill.
“And I started praying,” Handley recounted.
Her prayers were answered when Deputy Chad Martin with the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office — who had just clocked out of work and was unaware of Handley’s kidnapping nearly 60 miles away — spotted the van and attempted to make a traffic stop. The kidnappers fled the highway. They turned onto a dead-end street and got stuck in the mud. They continued to run on foot. Martin began to investigate the van and found a barely conscious Handley at the back.
“She looked at me,” Martin recounted. Martin recalled, “She looked at me.” “Are you the one who’s going to kill me?” ‘”
Martin assured Handley that she was safe. The remains of her kidnappers were found in a nearby waterway, not far from the van they left behind — they had drowned trying to escape. Handley believed that the mastermind behind this plot was still at large, and that she was in danger.
“She had said that she believed that her husband is the one that had paid them to kill her,” Martin recalls Handley telling him shortly after her rescue.
Investigators began looking into Handley’s estranged husband, Michael Handley, and discovered that in the months leading up to the abduction, Schanda had called the police numerous times on Michael, and had even been granted a restraining order. They also discovered a growing list of evidence that pointed to his involvement in the kidnapping. They discovered that he had rented the van one day prior to the abduction and also bought the handcuffs used during the restraint of Handley. After a four-day manhunt, he was finally arrested. He was arrested after a four-day manhunt.
Then, as prosecutors were building their case, Schanda made a damning discovery of her own while she was cleaning out a remote property the couple owned in Mississippi. It was a camera Michael had been using as security. It turned out that he had accidentally turned on the motion activated recording feature of the camera.
“All put together, what did the camera record?” Begnaud asked Schanda.
“I mean, hundreds of hours,” she responded.
Prosecutor Kenny Hebert watched the months’ worth of video documenting the time leading up to the kidnapping. Hebert stated that Michael was heard on at least one occasion expressing his desire to kill his wife. Hebert stated that Michael was captured on video with Sylvester Bracey two weeks prior to Schanda’s abduction. They were talking in the living room of the Mississippi home and planning Schanda’s abduction.
“[Michael Handley] specifically says, ‘It’s almost impossible for anyone to get in here,'” Hebert said. Bracey replied, “And it’ll almost impossible for anyone to get in here.” ‘”
On top of the other physical evidence, Hebert said, they now had documented proof Michael had plotted Shanda’s kidnapping — theorizing his ultimate plan was to have her killed.
“I thought, ‘I must have done somethin’ right in the world,'” Hebert said about the video evidence.
In July of 2021, Michael Handley pleaded guilty to second-degree kidnapping, and was later sentenced to 35 years in prison. Schanda was relieved to hear that her ex-husband would eventually leave prison.
“I’d rather he never get out,” Schanda said. “Once Michael is out, I’m no more free. “
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I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.