A man was sentenced today to life in state prison without the possibility of parole for kidnapping, torturing, and mutilating a marijuana dispensary owner. The defendant was found guilty by a jury after less than two hours of deliberation.
Co-defendants, Hossein Nayeri, 39, Ryan Anthony Kevorkian, 39, and Naomi Josette Rhodus (formerly Naomi Kevorkian), 37, face the same charges and maximum sentence as Handley.
strong>Circumstances of the Crime
At the time of the crime, victim John Doe owned a lucrative marijuana dispensary business. After two expensive trips to Las Vegas with John Doe in March and May 2012, Handley devised, and Nayeri is accused of assisting in devising, a plan to kidnap and rob John Doe.
Handley surveilled the victim’s home and parents’ home and followed him as he made frequent trips to the desert. The defendants wrongly believed the victim was driving to the desert to bury large amounts of cash.
Approximately one week prior to the kidnapping, Nayeri is accused of committing a routine traffic violation in Newport Beach, and subsequently leading Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) on a high-speed chase when they attempted a stop. He is accused of crashing his car and fleeing on foot, and was able to escape at that time. Inside the abandoned car, Nayeri is accused of leaving surveillance equipment and videos, which at the time had no criminal significance.
On Oct. 2, 2012, John Doe, along with his roommate’s girlfriend, Jane Doe, were awoken in the middle of the night by masked intruders, kidnapped, zip-tied, and forced into the back of a van.
Handley drove the victims to the Mojave Desert near the area where he and his co-defendants believed John Doe was hiding money. John Doe was tortured throughout the drive with a blow torch, a Taser gun, and a whip. Once in the desert, the victim was mutilated and bleach was poured on him in an effort to destroy any DNA evidence. John Doe and Jane Doe were dumped on the side of the road still bound, blindfolded, and duct-taped.
The kidnappers fled the scene and Jane Doe ran over a mile to a main road in the dark and flagged down a nearby police car.
John Doe spent an extensive period of time in the hospital recovering from his injuries.
Investigation and Arrests
NBPD began investigating this complex case and conducted a canvas of the neighborhood. A witness had been suspicious of a car parked outside John Doe’s home on Oct. 2, 2012, and documented the license plate. Handley was the registered owner of the vehicle.
Handley was also in possession of evidence from the crime in his home. Nayeri is accused of being linked to the crime through DNA found on that evidence. One additional DNA profile was found on the evidence but was unidentified at that time.
After Nayeri was identified as a suspect, NBPD determined the link between the kidnapping and the video surveillance equipment and footage found in the defendant Nayeri’s vehicle a week before the crime. Through extensive investigation, NBPD identified Kevorkian and Rhodus as suspects. After months of investigation, Kevorkian is accused of being linked to the unidentified DNA on the evidence in Handley’s home. Rhodus is accused of participating in the plan to kidnap and torture John Doe.
NBPD investigated this criminal case and Senior Deputy District Attorneys Matt Murphy and Heather Brown of the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) Office prosecuted this case. Deputy District Attorney Erin Rowe of the Special Prosecutions Unit handled Nayeri’s extradition from the Czech Republic after he flew there from Iran.
At the sentencing today, Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown read a victim impact statement submitted to the court by John Doe, stating in part, “I live with the feeling of always looking over my shoulder … The scars on my body from the burning, tasering, and chemical burns are a reminder of the violent crime against me.” The statement concluded saying, “I fear that I will never have the feeling or sense of being comfortable and carefree anywhere ever again.”
Prosecutors: Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown and Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy