Divorce Drama Nearly Turns Deadly

Conn. man accused of holding his ex-wife hostage before burning down their home.

ByABC News via logo
July 8, 2009, 4:07 PM

July 9, 2009 — -- A disgruntled Connecticut man allegedly took drastic measures following his divorce, including taking his wife hostage, burning down the home they once shared and engaging in a 13-hour standoff -- all to avoid the breakup.

Richard Shenkman, 60, who is accused of abducting his ex-wife Nancy Tyler, 57, in Hartford, Conn., Tuesday and holding her hostage for several hours in the couple's South Windsor, Conn., home, was arraigned in his hospital room Wednesday on kidnapping charges.

Bond was set at $12.5 million on charges including kidnapping, arson, the unlawful discharge of a firearm and reckless endangerment. Shenkman is due in court July 14.

These criminal charges are just the latest in a long list Shenkman faces that began during his divorce proceedings. Other pending criminal charges against him include threatening, violating protective orders and forgery.

The couple's appellate court file includes a cassette tape of more than a dozen voice mail messages from Shenkman to Tyler that contain numerous threats.

"We are not getting divorced," he said in one message. "It is not going to happen. Listen to my words. We're not divorced. We're not getting divorced. We were married 'til death do us part. We made vows in front of God. He was our witness, and you can only get your divorce one way, and that's death. You can only be unmarried by death."

The newest accusations against Shenkman result from a tense standoff that served as a pique for three years of contentious divorce proceedings between Shenkman and Tyler.

Shenkman, an advertising executive, and Tyler married in 1993.

Tyler is a medical malpractice lawyer who worked for Shenkman's advertising firm in Bloomfield, Conn.

A judge granted the pair a divorce last year, though Shenkman had been appealing. The state appellate court, in a decision released Tuesday, rejected Shenkman's appeal.

The divorce drama began when Shenkman allegedly burned the couple's beach home in East Lyme, Conn., in 2007 just hours before he was to hand it over to Tyler. It reached a fevered pitch this week when Shenkman allegedly held Tyler hostage in their South Windsor home.