Stewart Handte, who served as sheriff of Mineral County for a short period of time, was arrested on Aug. 15 by Reno Police Department (RPD) on the charges of kidnap in the second degree (victim 60 years of age or older) and conspiracy (kidnapping).
Handte, who had served as Mineral County’s top law enforcement officer from Nov. 20, 2013 until January 2014, was arrested by RPD for his alleged role in the kidnapping of Susan Hillygus, age 80, from Stone Valley Care in Reno where Susan resided as a patient in care of the home.
The kidnapping story begins in April of 2016, when guardianship of Susan was terminated from the then care of her son, Roger Hillygus and given to her daughter. Susan was placed in the care of Stone Valley Care as she suffered from severe dementia and anxiety. Susan was ambulatory but not communicative and relied on medication and professional care provided by Stone Valley Care.
On Aug. 8, three men entered Susan’s care facility without proper court documentation showing guardianship. At this time, Handte provided the staff with the false name of “Gus” stating he was there to visit a patient named “Alice”.
In the declaration of probable cause from RPD, it states, “After gaining entry into the care home, Suspect Roger Hillygus located Victim [Susan]’s room and physically removed her from the home and to a vehicle parked across the street.”
Staff of Stone Valley Care contacted Roger by home asking him to return his mother to their care. He refused and told them he would “maintain custody of her.”
On Aug. 14, Handte was contacted by RPD regarding his role in the involvement of the kidnapping of Susan. He waived his Miranda Rights and “admitted to his involvement in the kidnapping of Victim [Susan], per the paperwork provided by RPD.
Handte explained to the arresting officer that he had met Roger a few months prior and had learned that Susan was in the care home and that Roger’s sister had guardianship.
“Handte said he felt sympathetic to Suspect Roger Hillygus, who wished to retain guardianship of his mother,” the paperwork explained.
Even though Roger provided Handte with “legal documentation” from the state of Arizona alleging he was the guardian of Susan and that her estate had been reinstated to him, Handte told the arresting officer, “…he had several concerns about the legitimacy of the documents.”
Despite having concerns about the documents, Handte still entered Stone Valley Care, identified himself as “Gus” and asked to see a resident of a different name. He admitted to gaining entry at Stone Valley Care to help Roger enter the facility and remove Susan from the home without the knowledge of those who worked there.
“Defendant Handte said he understood what he’d done was both wrong and illegal, but said he does not feel the courts made a good decision,” continued the RPD paperwork.
A search of Handte’s phone located several text messages and phone calls between himself and Roger.
On Friday, Aug. 16 in the early morning hours, Roger was arrested in Bellflower, Calif. after a 7-hour standoff with a SWAT team where he had barricaded himself and his mother in an apartment. Roger fell asleep and SWAT moved in without incident or injury to either person.
Roger is being held at the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail on no bail. He appeared in court on Aug. 20.
Handte had been the Chief of Police of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. A statement from the colony reads, “The RenoSparks Indian Colony was notified this morning of the arrest of its former police chief Stewart Evans Handte. Handte, who no longer works for the Tribe, was employed by the Colony for just seven months, from Dec. 15, 2018 until July 15, 2019. He came to the RSIC with nearly 35 years of law enforcement experience including work with at least four other agencies.”
On Handte’s LinkedIn profile, his background in law enforcement is extensive, having worked for Nevada Highway Patrol as a state trooper from 1984-2003; a deputy sheriff for Storey County for two, one-year stints; a private investigator; an adult probation officer and even the chief of police of Yomba Indian Reservation in rural central Nevada.
During his interview with the Mineral County Board of County Commissioners in November of 2013, he told the commissioners that he was a proactive officer and “As a leader of law enforcement agency you want to make sure your community’s safe. That’s paramount.”
Handte was released from the Washoe County Jail on Aug. 15.