A high-rolling marijuana dispensary dealer’s penis was slashed off and tossed away in a bloody torture attack by three men trying to find what they falsely believed was $1 million buried in the desert, and now jurors are being forced to hear the grisly details of the alleged crime.
A 38-year-old man teamed up with two high school buddies to abduct the marijuana dispensary owner from his Newport Beach home and tortured him, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday.
Kyle Shirakawa Handley is charged with two counts of kidnapping for ransom, aggravated mayhem, and torture, all felonies, with a sentencing enhancement allegation for inflicting great bodily injury. If he is convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Handley’s attorney, Robert Weinberg, deferred making an opening statement in the trial.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown told the jury that three men wearing ski masks broke into the Newport Beach home on the peninsula and abducted the dispensary owner and his landlord about 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 2, 2012.
The victims were bound with zip ties, gagged with duct tape and blindfolded, Brown said.
The trio spent about 20 minutes “ransacking the home” before stuffing the two victims into a cargo van, where the dispensary owner was “repeatedly” shot with a Taser, beaten with a rubber pipe, burned — possibly with a blow torch — and kicked during a 90-minute drive to the desert, the prosecutor said.
The landlord smelled methamphetamine being smoked in the van, she said.
The trio affected what sounded like bogus Spanish accents as they demanded to know where the dispensary owner buried $1 million in cash, Brown said. But the victim, who worked in a “heavy cash” business because banks won’t accept medical marijuana profits for deposit, had not buried any money in the desert, she said.
Ultimately, the kidnappers slashed off the dispensary owner’s penis and threw it out the window, Brown said. They left behind a knife for the landlord, admonishing her to count to 100 before trying to find the knife so she could cut herself free, Brown said.
The landlord was found about a mile away, walking on Route 14, her hands still zip-tied, Brown said. A Kern County sheriff’s deputy spotted her and came to her aid.
When authorities returned to the off-road site where the two were abandoned, they found the victim covered in bleach and badly beaten, Brown said. The bleach was used in an attempt to erase DNA evidence, she said.
The case was a whodunnit as victim had no idea who might want to rob or attack him, the prosecutor said. Police lucked out, however, when a neighbor spotted a suspicious looking pickup truck with a ladder that arrived at the landlord’s residence, but no one seemed to be doing any work there, Brown said. She gave police a license plate and investigators learned it was registered to Handley, Brown said.
Handley grew up in Fresno with co-defendants Hossein Nayeri, 39, and Ryan Anthony Kevorkian, 38, Brown said. Nayeri made headlines last year when he escaped from the Orange County Jail.
Handley and Nayeri were marijuana growers and the victim befriended Handley earlier in 2012, taking him on two trips to Las Vegas, Brown said. It was on those trips that Handley likely saw the dispensary owner spending $15,000 for posh hotel rooms and gambling up to $5,000 nightly, she said, and came up with the buried loot theory.
Investigators found a zip tie in Handley’s Fountain Valley residence that had Kevorkian’s DNA on it, Brown said. A blue latex glove found at his home had DNA on it matching Nayeri’s, she said.
On Sept. 26, 2012, Nayeri led police on a chase in Newport Beach and got away, but police recovered his vehicle, which had surveillance cameras and GPS trackers in it, Brown said. Videos in the Chevrolet Tahoe showed hours of surveillance of the residence where the dispensary owner lived with his landlord and her boyfriend, Brown alleged.
Another break came when Nayeri’s wife, Courtney Shagerian, went to claim the Tahoe from the Newport Beach impound yard, the prosecutor said.
Shagerian cooperated with authorities and helped them trick Nayeri, who fled to Iran when Handley was arrested, into getting on a plane in the Czech Republic, where he was taken into custody, Brown said. Investigators wanted to lure Nayeri into the Czech Republic because, unlike Iran, it is easier to extradite a suspect from that country, Brown said.
The GPS trackers she helped obtain showed the victim had made trips to the Mojave Desert, so they figured he buried his cash there, Brown said.
Police working undercover picked up a towel Kevorkian used at a health club and used the DNA on it to make a match to the zip tie at Handley’s home, she said.
“I expect you will be saddened and sickened” by the evidence in the case, Brown told the jury. “But, also, you’ll be thoroughly convinced of Kyle Handley’s guilt in this case.”
–City News Service
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