A Fountain Valley man was sentenced Friday to a pair of consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole for his part in the kidnapping of an Orange County marijuana dispensary owner who was tortured and then sexually mutilated by his abductors.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett also tacked on two consecutive terms of seven years to life behind bars for marijuana grower Kyle Shirakawa Handley, 39, who was convicted Jan. 4 of two counts of kidnapping for extortion and single counts of aggravated mayhem and torture.
The victim, whose penis was slashed off by his attackers, described in a statement how the torture has left permanent physical and emotional scars.
“Due to the horrific nature of Kyle Handley’s crime, my family and I have serious physical security concerns,” he said in the statement read to the court by Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown.
“I live with the feeling of always looking over my shoulder, never feeling safe in any one location for any period of time, and fearing for the safety the people I care about,” he said. “This is a constant and ongoing anxiety.”
The victim said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has ongoing issues with “socializing and trusting people, being in crowds and sleeping. My family was emotionally distraught seeing that I was nearly tortured to death, and they themselves share in many of the anxieties and PTSD that plague me today.”
He said doctors have told him that he will “have issues for the rest of my life.”
“The damage to my genital area has not only been physically painful but has caused ongoing mental distress and is a near constant reminder of what happened to me,” he said. “I fear that I will never have the feeling or sense of being comfortable and carefree anywhere ever again.”
Handley’s attorney, Robert Weinberg, advocated for a life sentence with the possibility of parole. But Prickett rejected that appeal, noting that the defendant, who was the driver of the van used to kidnap the victim under one legal theory, could have pulled over and jumped out and run away. And if Handley was not behind the wheel, then he would have been actively participating in the torturing of the victim, who the kidnappers mistakenly believed had buried a great deal of cash in the desert, the judge said.
“After dumping (the victim) outside the van,” the abductors “poured bleach on his open wounds,” Pickett said. That act was done possibly to erase DNA evidence, but also could have been done to further punish the victim, he said.
Weinberg argued that prosecutors did not prove what specific acts Handley might have done in the torturing of the victim. But the judge noted that the victim’s abductors blindfolded him “with military precision,” so quickly that an identification of the participants in the attack was not possible.
Handley befriended the dispensary owner and saw the victim spending a great deal of cash while on a trip to Las Vegas, where they stayed in an expensive suite, according to Murphy. Months later, on Oct. 2, 2012, the dispensary owner and his female landlord were abducted from their Newport Beach home about 2:30 a.m. and taken to the Mojave Desert.
The prosecutor said the abductors believed the dispensary owner had buried $1 million in the desert, since banks do not accept proceeds from marijuana sales. When they realized there was no buried money, they cut off the man’s penis and threw it out the window of the van they used to flee the scene, Murphy said.
The kidnappers left the woman a knife so she could cut zip-ties they had used to bind her feet. She was then able to walk to a highway, where a Kern County sheriff’s deputy spotted her, Murphy said.
A key witness in the trial was Cortney Shegerian, the ex-wife of co-defendant Hossein Nayeri, 39, who was one of three Orange County Jail inmates who escaped from custody in 2016 and sparked a statewide manhunt.
Shegerian cut a deal with prosecutors and helped investigators lure Nayeri out of Iran, where he fled following the dispensary owner’s abduction and mutilation, Murphy said.
Shegerian testified that she heard Handley laughing and playing with a blow torch, one of the tools used to torture the man, two weeks before the victim and his landlord were abducted.
Investigators found a zip-tie in Handley’s home that contained DNA of another co-defendant, Ryan Anthony Kevorkian, 39, and a blue latex glove found at Handley’s home had DNA on it matching Nayeri’s, prosecutors allege.
Nayeri and Kevorkian are still awaiting trial.
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 found in the Chevrolet Tahoe — which belonged to Handley — showed hours of surveillance of the residence where the dispensary owner lived with the abducted woman and her boyfriend, the prosecutor said.
A break came in the case came when Shegerian went to claim Handley’s Chevrolet Tahoe from the Newport Beach impound yard, she said.
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