Fountain Valley man guilty of kidnapping and torturing medical marijuana dispensary owner in extortion plot

A bailiff escorts defendant Kyle Handley into Orange County Superior Court, where Handley was found guilty Thursday of kidnapping, torture and mayhem.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

An Orange County Superior Court jury deliberated less than two hours Thursday before finding a Fountain Valley man guilty of kidnapping a medical marijuana dispensary owner and his roommate and torturing the dispensary owner as part of a plot to extort money.

Kyle Shirakawa Handley, 38, stood next to his attorney and shook his head slightly as the court clerk announced that the jury had convicted him of kidnapping, aggravated mayhem and torture, all felonies.

Handley sat and put a hand over his eyes.

He is scheduled to be sentenced March 23. He faces a maximum of life in prison without possibility of parole, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

Prosecutors contended that Handley, a marijuana grower who supplied the victim’s dispensary, and three other defendants kidnapped the man and his female roommate from their home on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach.

Prosecutors said masked captors took the victims from the 25th Street home on Oct. 2, 2012, and drove them to the Mojave Desert.

The dispensary owner — whom the Daily Pilot is not identifying because he was the victim of a sexual assault — testified in December that he was bound and blindfolded, his penis was cut off and he was stomped on, Tased, beaten and burned by his captors, who demanded $1 million dozens of times. Prosecutors said the kidnappers mistakenly thought the man had a large sum of money of money buried in the desert.

The woman also was bound and blindfolded.

The victims testified that they were dropped off, still bound, in the desert about 150 miles from Newport Beach and that one of the captors tossed a knife into nearby bushes.

The woman was told that if she could find it, she could cut herself free. She managed to release herself, but not her roommate because his hands were too swollen.

She walked to the road and flagged down a sheriff’s deputy.

“It still haunts me,” she testified.

In closing arguments Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Matthew Murphy portrayed Handley as a piece of a kidnapping conspiracy that showed unconscionable cruelty.

“What they did … defies the English language,” Murphy told jurors. “The cruelty and viciousness … [all] so they could get money.”

Defense attorney Robert Weinberg, left, consoles his client, Kyle Handley, as Handley is found guilty Thursday in the 2012 kidnapping and torture of a medical marijuana dispensary owner from Newport Beach.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times )

Murphy called the woman a hero who beat the odds by freeing herself and finding the deputy.

Prosecutors said the kidnappers tried to cover their tracks by applying bleach to the van they drove to hide traces of DNA and buying disposable cellphones.

Handley’s attorney, Robert Weinberg, acknowledged the evidence against his client, including surveillance equipment sent to Handley’s house and used to track the dispensary owner. Also, a shirt with bleach stains and zip ties similar to those used in the kidnapping were found at Handley’s house.

But Weinberg contended that others involved in the kidnapping sought to make Handley the “fall guy.”

Weinberg said the prosecution showed no evidence, such as cellphone tracking data, proving that Handley was involved in the post-kidnapping cleanup and other crimes.

Murphy countered that the “mosaic” of available evidence showed Handley at least aided and abetted the kidnapping.

Prosecutors also have charged Naomi Josette Rhodus, 37, Ryan Anthony Kevorkian, 38, both of Fresno, and Hossein Nayeri, 39, in the case. All have pleaded not guilty.

Kevorkian, Nayeri and Handley grew up together in Fresno.

Nayeri and two other inmates temporarily escaped from Orange County Jail in 2016 in a case that made national headlines.

Twitter: @BradleyZint