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Man Testifies About Alleged Kidnap Ordeal

Court: He says he was held for eight days, sometimes in a box, over a business dispute.

April 04, 2002|JEAN GUCCIONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Houston man allegedly kidnapped in a 1999 dispute over a flying device testified Wednesday he lost 20 pounds during the eight days he was held--sometimes in a box--in North Hollywood.

Bradley Wayne Barker, 47, said he was handcuffed the entire time and could remember eating only one serving of soup and one slice of pizza during the eight days.

"It's the most scared I've ever been in my life," he said.

Barker testified in the trial of his former business partner, Thomas Laurence Stanley, 57, of Sugar Land, Texas, and a former friend, Christopher James Wentzel, 54, of North Hollywood.

The men are accused in Superior Court in Van Nuys of kidnapping, false imprisonment and extortion. They could face life in prison if convicted. Both are free on bail.

The defendants contend that they legally detained Barker, acting as agents of an Arkansas bail bonds company. Barker, they said, had jumped bail in an Arkansas commercial burglary case. The charge against Barker in that case was later dropped.

An employee of the bail bonds company testified last week that she had authorized the defendants to detain Barker but learned later they were not licensed as bail bond agents.

Barker and Stanley were partners in American RocketBelt Corp., which designed and manufactured a single RocketBelt 2000. The Buck Rogers-like jet backpack was designed to lift a person into the air for a few seconds.

Their three-year business relationship deteriorated about 1994 when the men fought over money and possession of the RocketBelt.

Authorities say the belt has been missing since 1995.

Barker testified Wednesday that Wentzel had called him in Texas in November 1999 about a potential buyer for the belt, but Barker said he was not interested. Barker also said he was invited by Wentzel to Los Angeles for three days of work on a movie set that paid $450 a day.

Barker, who was awaiting trial in Arkansas on the burglary charge, said he flew to Los Angeles but that the job never materialized.

He testified he was met at the airport by Wentzel and the two went boating. That evening, Barker said, they returned to Wentzel's North Hollywood home, where Barker said he was held until he escaped through a window on Dec. 3, 1999.

For much of the eight days, Barker was kept in a wooden box or forced to wear a pink velvet hood, authorities say.

Barker said Wednesday he could not recall how long he had spent in the box.

In testimony, Barker said Wentzel had repeatedly asked him to disclose the whereabouts of the RocketBelt.

"I thought he was going to murder me," Barker said.

Barker said Wentzel and Stanley, who held a .40-caliber handgun, forced him to sign a notarized affidavit waiving his legal rights to the belt.

The notary, Elyse Hoyt, a friend of Wentzel, also took the stand Wednesday.

Hoyt said Barker signed the documents with one arm handcuffed to a chair.

Hoyt said she asked Barker whether he was signing the documents of his own free will and that he said yes.

"I did exactly as I was told," Barker said later in court.

Also testifying Wednesday was Nancy Wright, whose brother was Barker's business partner when found slain in his Houston apartment. Wright said Stanley had told her he suspected Barker was linked to the 1998 bludgeoning death of Joe Wright.

She said Stanley had threatened to kidnap, torture and kill Barker if Texas authorities did not charge Barker in her brother's death. Barker has not been implicated in the killing.

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