12 Hours of Terror: Conn. Woman Held Hostage by Arsonist Ex

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Divorce Leads to Frightening Threats

"I thought, I can accommodate his behavior and protect the kids and nobody needs to know," Tyler said. "I think a lot of women react that way because they think if I rock the boat, it may get worse."

It definitely got worse in the Tyler household. The simmering tension behind closed doors was escalating. With her daughter now away at college, Tyler's teenage son was bearing the brunt of Shenkman's verbal abuse. Tyler stayed in the relationship for the children, but ultimately it would be a fight between Shenkman and her son that would give her the strength to leave.

"He was worse than I'd ever seen him with my son," Tyler said. "He was so abusive and said such horrible things that I was not going to allow that to happen again."

Tyler says it was then that she saw Shenkman was destroying her son and that was the last straw for her.

"You don't hurt someone's children and think things are going to stay status quo," Tyler said.

Tyler moved out of the house she had shared for 12 years with Shenkman. Along with her son, Peter, she stayed with relatives and then filed for divorce.

Tyler said Shenkman was determined to win back his family at all costs.

"The month between when we left the house and I filed were up and down craziness," said Tyler. "There was a period of time where he was very threatening, and we stayed away and then there was a period of time when he came back and announced that he had cancer."

Shenkman persuaded Tyler to drop the divorce filing and let him move in with her again because he did not want to go through his supposed cancer battle alone.

"I don't know to this day if he had cancer but I fell for it," Tyler said.

One thing was for sure: Shenkman's abusive attitude had not changed.

"He became very abusive again and threatening. He followed me around. He called me multiple times during the day. I wasn't really allowed to be away from him," Tyler said.

Tyler eventually obtained a restraining order against Shenkman and again, in 2006, filed for divorce.

"He spent that day telephoning family and friends and talking about the fact that he was going to kill himself and he was going to take me and the children with him," Tyler said. "He told my friends that they should prepare to go to funerals."

The divorce proceedings seemed to drive Shenkman over the edge as he continued to harass Tyler and her family. He called their split, The War of the Tylers, a nod to the dark comedy "War of the Roses," in which a vengeful couple has a bitter divorce battle over their property. Shenkman, obsessed with the movie, did not want Tyler to get their homes in the divorce settlement and waged a campaign of destruction.

"He would say this is going to end up the way the movie ended and, of course, they both died at the end of the movie," Tyler said. "There were things that he did that came right out of the movie."

Halfway through their divorce proceedings in 2007, Shenkman was on a weekend visit to their 120-year-old Victorian beach home and allegedly burned it down. Tyler had most of her belongings in that house and lost everything. Shenkman was charged with arson.

"Just seeing the house go up in flames was devastating. It was a part of me," said Tyler. "But the bright side of that is that neither my children nor I were in the house, so we still had each other."

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