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Shenkman arraigned with no plea

By Karin Crompton

Publication: The Day

Published July 15. 2009 4:00AM
cloe poisson, the hartford courant/ap
Richard Shenkman, right, accompanied by his attorney, Hugh Keefe, is arraigned at Hartford Superior Court on Tuesday. Shenkman is accused of kidnapping his ex-wife, holding her hostage and burning down their South Windsor home last week.
Suspect in hostage drama remains silent; bond held at $12.5M

Hartford - Richard Shenkman did not enter a plea in his first court appearance Tuesday morning, one week after allegedly kidnapping his ex-wife and then holding her hostage during a 12-hour standoff with police.

Unshaven, his hair mussed and appearing to have a shiner and bruise on his left eye and cheek, Shenkman, in an orange prison jumpsuit, was shackled at the hands and feet and accompanied into the Hartford Superior Court courtroom by a pair of judicial marshals wearing bulletproof vests.

Shenkman did not speak during the arraignment, his only interaction with Judge David P. Gold coming when Shenkman shook his head no to a question.

Shenkman's attorney, Hugh Keefe, did not argue for a lower bond but reserved the right to do so later. The case was continued to July 22 in Hartford Superior Court.

Shenkman is being held on $12.5 million bond for an array of charges lodged against him by Hartford and South Windsor police. He remains in custody at the MacDougall-Walker state prison in Suffield.

Shenkman, 60, allegedly abducted his ex-wife, Nancy P. Tyler, on the street outside her office in Hartford's City Place office tower on July 7 before barricading himself and Tyler in his home in South Windsor.

Shenkman then held a swarm of police, SWAT and explosives teams and federal negotiators at bay late into the night after officers stormed the house with tear gas shortly after Tyler managed to escape at 8:27 p.m. He then allegedly set fire to the house before being taken into custody. The house was destroyed.

Shenkman was also charged in 2007 with burning down a summer house in Niantic the couple owned.

Ties to the region

Tyler and Shenkman became well known in southeastern Connecticut for public relations work for the Eastern Pequot tribe and as co-owners of Prime Media, the company that helped organize the New London celebration of OpSail 2000 and subsequently ran the city's Boats, Books and Brushes festival.

Hartford police charged Shenkman with four more crimes Tuesday morning: first-degree kidnapping, criminal possession of a firearm, first-degree reckless endangerment, and criminal violation of a protective order.

During the approximately 10-minute arraignment Tuesday, Shenkman alternately turned to look over his right shoulder and peruse the crowd, repeatedly settling his gaze upon a row of his ex-wife's family and friends, standing with his head down beside defense attorney Hugh Keefe, or cocking his head to the side and squinting at Gold.

At one point Shenkman also looked to his right and scanned the television and still photographers - there were one of each who were granted access to the courtroom - standing against a side wall alongside courtroom staff and attorneys.

Tyler arrived at the courthouse at about 9:10 a.m., along with her children and about seven other friends and family. Though most of her friends and family sat in the third row, Tyler did not sit in the main courtroom area during Shenkman's appearance and reportedly waited in a side room.

An appeal for privilege

Keefe asked the judge to lift the suicide watch Shenkman has been under since his arrest. The judge complied. Keefe later said the suicide watch "worsens the situation," affords Shenkman no privacy and is "not conducive to good client-attorney privilege."

Keefe also told the judge that Shenkman has not been receiving his medication since being incarcerated and asked for corrections staff to evaluate him. He said Shenkman has taken Adderall (prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) for the past 10 years and is also taking two anti-depressants.

"He's very difficult to talk to and communicate with legally," Keefe said of Shenkman, referring specifically to a visit he paid his client Friday afternoon. "I'm not a psychiatrist, but I feel it may have something to do with the medications he's been on for years."

Outside the courtroom after the appearance, Tyler's South Windsor neighbors said they were there to support her. Beth Cvejanovich, who lives immediately next door to the Tumblebrook Drive house that Shenkman allegedly burned down, said she's known Tyler for 15 years.

"I saw her Friday and spoke with her again yesterday, and she's coping better than one can possibly expect," said Cvejanovich, who attended the arraignment with her husband, John, and daughter, Amanda.

Added John, "Nancy is one of the nicest neighbors we've had."

Just inside the front doors of the courthouse, one of Tyler's sisters and three other people who declined to be interviewed paused and glanced at a row of television cameras on the sidewalk. The sister, Beverly, started shaking as the two women standing near her spoke very briefly of the proceedings, and the four looked for and found an alternate route out of the courthouse.

Detailed affidavit

The Hartford affidavit describes Tyler's alleged kidnapping the morning of July 7:

Tyler arrived at work at about 6:30 a.m., then left to pick up her dry cleaning at about 8 a.m., at which point she spotted Shenkman's minivan on the street. Thinking it odd to see Shenkman's vehicle so close to her workplace - Shenkman was under a protective order that barred him from contacting or coming within 100 yards of Tyler- Tyler called a friend.

Tyler walked into the parking garage and was talking on her cell phone when Shenkman came up quickly from a "hidden location," police said, held a semiautomatic handgun to her head and "said something to the effect of, 'You're dead!' "

Tyler yelled to the friend to call police before Shenkman grabbed the cell phone and disconnected it, telling Tyler he would kill her if she tried to signal to anyone.

Shenkman told Tyler to get in her car and drive to the South Windsor house, where, he said, "all of this will end." At the house, Shenkman fired the gun at least once to prove it was a functioning weapon, police said.

The South Windsor incident report describes in detail the hostage situation and says more reports are forthcoming from hostage negotiators, the bomb squad, and other police officers, among others.

k.crompton@theday.com

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