SANTA ANA – A Fountain Valley man was sentenced Friday to four life terms in prison, two without the possibility of parole, for his role in kidnapping, torturing and sexually mutilating a marijuana-dispensary owner in 2012 and abducting a woman as well.
Orange County Superior Court jurors earlier this year deliberated for less than two hours before finding Kyle Shirakawa Handley, 39, guilty of kidnapping for ransom, aggravated mayhem and torture.
Handley and two friends were accused of abducting and brutally assaulting a man who they mistakenly believed had buried $1 million in the Mojave Desert.
Prosecutors allege the plot was masterminded by Hossein Nayeri, Handley’s best friend. Another friend, Ryan Kevorkian, is also accused of taking part in the abduction and torture.
According to prosecutors, the three men broke into the dispensary owner’s Newport Beach residence, tied him and his roommate’s girlfriend up and drove them to the desert, where they tortured the man with a blowtorch, severed his penis and splashed him with bleach. Police were unable to locate the missing body part.
Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown, during Friday’s sentencing hearing, read to the court a letter written by the dispensary owner describing the life-long physical and mental scars left by his ordeal.
“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 of the people I care about,” the man wrote. “I fear that I will never have the feeling or sense of being comfortable and carefree anywhere ever again.”
The woman was not tortured, but testified that she thought she was going to die and is still haunted. Both were left abandoned and tied up in the desert, until she freed herself and was able to get to a highway and alert a sheriff’s sergeant.
Handley’s attorney, Robert Weinberg, unsuccessfully urged Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg L. Prickett to give his client a sentence that would allow him to at some point be eligible for parole.
Weinberg acknowledged the severity of the crime – which he described as “satanic” and “from the other side” – but noted that it wasn’t clear from the evidence what Handley’s role was. Prosecutors have said that it was likely that Handley was the driver that night.
“This isn’t mercy I’m asking for, it is justice,” the defense attorney said.
Brown described Handley’s request for a lighter sentence as “begging for mercy,” something the prosecutor noted the torture victim had been unable to do with his mouth duct-taped shut.
“The only thing cruel and unusual in this case is what these men did to these two people,” Brown told the judge. “We would ask you to impose every single last second you can.”
In handing down the maximum sentence available, the judge noted that if Handley was driving, he had every opportunity to pull over, get out of the car and run away. And if Handley wasn’t driving, he was directly involved in the torture, the judge said.
Handley did not address the court during the sentencing hearing, and showed no obvious reaction when the judge announced his sentence.
Nayeri and Kevorkian are awaiting trial, along with co-defendant Naomi Rhodus, who is accused of helping plan the attempt to find the $1 million that didn’t actually exist. Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy, who is prosecuting the case with Brown, said Rhodus and Kevorkian are cooperating with the DA’s Office.
Nayeri made headlines in 2016 when he escaped from the Orange County Jail. He was caught in San Francisco eight days later.
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