Former sheriff, defendant in kidnapping case, faces a new charge

Stewart Handte (r) and Roger Hillygus
Stewart Handte (r) and Roger Hillygus(Ed Pearce)
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 6:59 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -The strange case of a man charged with kidnapping his own mother from a Reno care facility has taken another unexpected turn.

The story has it’s origins in a family dispute over the guardianship of 80 year old Susan Hillygus. Suffering from dementia, she was living at the facility in 2019 when her son, Roger Hillygus, who did not have legal custody, took her from the home without permission. They were located days later in Bellflower, California where, after a standoff, Hillygus was arrested on kidnapping charges. She died two months after her return.

A surprising detail to the case was the alleged involvement of Stewart Handte, the former sheriff of Mineral County and police chief of the Reno Sparks Indian Colony. Handte admitted his role, but said he was inspired to help Hillygus because a similar dispute had happened in his family. The two men have appeared together in court, both recently seeking to represent themselves.

Handte, charged with conspiracy, was free on his own recognizance, but last week was ordered to wear a GPS monitor after allegations he still was in possession of a firearm in defiance of a court order.

He recently recorded an interview with a California cable access show host charging local officials with corruption and conspiring against Hillygus, saying he feared for his life.

Monday, he failed to show up to be fitted with the monitor and Judge Barry Breslow issued a bench warrant for his arrest setting a $100,000 dollar cash only bail.

We talked with him by phone the next day. He repeated his refusal to wear the monitor and again alleged he was fearful for his life.

Authorities were already looking for him and Wednesday night, a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper spotted him outside Carlin in Elko county. He turned south on Highway 278 was stopped and arrested.

He’s now in custody in Elko, awaiting a return to Reno, a hearing seeking to represent himself, a new charge and eventually trial.

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