Published August 11. 2009 4:00AM Updated August 11. 2009 9:36AM
Nancy P. Tyler was relieved to hear Monday that the state Supreme Court upheld a New London judge's revocation of bail for her ex-husband, Richard J. Shenkman, who is accused of burning down two houses during the couple's bitter divorce proceedings and kidnapping Tyler at gunpoint on July 7.
"That's excellent news," Tyler said when she heard of the Supreme Court's decision. "My family and I feel safe again."
Though Shenkman is being held on a $12.5 million bond in the kidnapping case, Tyler feared that he would be released with help from his brother, a wealthy financier who has been paying Shenkman's legal costs.
In the wake of the kidnapping incident, Judge Susan B. Handy granted the state's motion to revoke Shenkman's $575,000 bail in criminal cases pending in New London Superior Court. Shenkman is accused of burning down Tyler's Niantic beach home in March 2007 and had been charged with violating court orders that prohibited him from having contact with Tyler.
Defense attorney Hugh F. Keefe petitioned the Supreme Court to review the bail revocation, saying Judge Handy abused her discretion and that it was unconstitutional to deny a defendant a reasonable bail. The state argued that a defendant who violated the conditions of release while out on bond was not entitled to bail.
As a result of the high court's decision, Shenkman will be incarcerated for the foreseeable future while Tyler, a Hartford attorney, continues to grapple with a barrage of legal and financial problems stemming from the divorce. She said that last week she paid $25,590 out of pocket to have a contractor clean up the charred remains of Shenkman's South Windsor home.
Shenkman allegedly torched the Tumblebrook Road property after Tyler escaped from his custody. She said he had kidnapped her at gunpoint from a Hartford parking garage and taken her to the South Windsor home, where he held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her while providing police with a list of increasingly impossible demands. She said she escaped by using her handcuff to unscrew a bolt that held her to a wall in the basement of the South Windsor home.
South Windsor officials had notified Tyler, who assumed ownership of the property in the divorce, that she could be fined up to $100 a day under the town's blight ordinance if she didn't clear the property. Shenkman had let the insurance lapse on the house and Tyler said he stopped paying the mortgage and property taxes when the couple split up in 2006. Tyler said she would like to sell the South Windsor property before it is foreclosed for about $80,000 in delinquent mortgage payments and more than $30,000 in liens that have resulted from Shenkman's failure to pay taxes and other bills.
On the day that he allegedly kidnapped Tyler, Shenkman was to vacate the Tumblebrook Drive house. Family Court Judge Jorge Simon had ordered Shenkman to sign over the home to Tyler or pay $100,000 to cover her legal fees and other expenses incurred during the divorce.
Tyler has been staying with family members for the past three years. She still hopes to rebuild the Niantic home that Shenkman is accused of torching in March 2007, but insurance proceeds have been held up because Shenkman claimed in a lawsuit that he was entitled to part of the proceeds. Though the Crescent Beach property was in Tyler's name and she removed him from the insurance policy when their marriage faltered, Shenkman added himself to the insurance policy without her knowledge.
Meanwhile, Shenkman has appealed the divorce decree to the state Supreme Court. Though the high court acted quickly on the bail matter, a court official said Monday that the divorce, a civil matter, would be handled like other civil cases - in the order in which it was received.
Judge Simon had issued the divorce decree in July 2008. The judge granted Tyler the Niantic property and the proceeds from the insurance company. Shenkman appealed the divorce, which automatically stayed the decree. The state Appellate Court upheld the decree on June 29.
In the divorce, Judge Simon ordered that Shenkman's South Windsor home be put in Tyler's name and sold to cover legal fees and other costs.
The judge did not award Tyler alimony, child support or payments for their two children's education. She was ordered to carry health insurance for Shenkman and the children. She received a 1994 Honda and the 1997 Oldsmobile that was destroyed in the fire. Shenkman was awarded a 2001 minivan, a 2000 Lexus, a Mercedes, all his business interests and any retirement he may have had.
Tyler has been responsible for paying the mortgage and taxes on the Niantic property.
Shenkman is scheduled to appear in Hartford Superior Court Friday in the South Windsor case and is due back in New London Superior Court on Sept. 15.