Video: Police: Man held ex-wife hostage

updated 7/9/2009 11:20:23 AM ET 2009-07-09T15:20:23

An advertising executive who handcuffed his ex-wife and held her hostage inside their home was on a "suicide mission," printing out piles of papers on how to kill himself before setting the house on fire when the woman escaped and refusing to leave, police said.

Richard Shenkman spent most of Tuesday handcuffed to his hostage, ex-wife Nancy Tyler, and had downloaded piles of paperwork from the Internet on how to kill himself, according to a report by Michael Prescher with the South Windsor Police Services' criminal investigations unit that was released Wednesday night.

The paperwork included a variety of means for committing suicide, including carbon monoxide poisoning, hanging and blowing up a house with explosives, the report said.

Suspect hospitalized
Shenkman, 60, was arraigned Wednesday while shackled to his hospital bed in a Connecticut emergency room. He was heavily sedated and surrounded by police, corrections officers and security guards as Judge Brad Ward set bond at $12.5 million, defense attorney Hugh Keefe said.

"He's been fading in and out of consciousness," Keefe said. "But he was mentally alert enough for Judge Ward to arraign him."

Shenkman was in stable condition at Hartford Hospital and was expected to be transferred to a prison Thursday. He is due in court July 14.

The bedside arraignment took place less than a day after Shenkman held police at bay for 13 hours, telling negotiators he would blow up the two-story house with 65 pounds of explosives, authorities said.

Tyler escaped at about 9:30 p.m. with handcuffs dangling from one wrist and marks on her face from "the barrel of a handgun being pressed hard against her," Prescher said.

Taunting police
Shenkman then allegedly set the house ablaze and used the cover of the growing flames to dart in and out of view, taunting police.

Police said he would point his handgun at himself or outside to fire off shots, at one point shouting "Shoot me! Shoot me!"

He was taken into custody after police shot beanbag rounds at Shenkman and knocked the gun out of his hand at around midnight, authorities said.

He has been charged with kidnapping, arson, reckless endangerment and the illegal discharge of a weapon.

'Threatening' husband
The standoff was just one of many chaotic episodes in the history of a man described by authorities as a threatening, angry ex-husband. He already faced charges of setting fire to another Connecticut house in 2007 rather than turn it over to Tyler.

Court records say Shenkman frequently violated a protective order and repeatedly threatened Tyler's life and his own, saying the only way they would become divorced was if one of them died.

Voice mail messages, e-mails and handwritten notes in the divorce case file show Shenkman's intense mental anguish.

"I am totally broke. In money. Mind and spirit. All I have left is the ability to shout to the world what you and Nancy have done to me, her children and herself," Shenkman wrote in a July 2007 e-mail to Tyler's attorney.

At times, he used those messages to paint himself as a needy, groveling victim: "I need help praying. You and I could say a prayer together ... Please call me, please call me, please call me. Please," he begged in a voice mail to Tyler.

Frequently, he alluded to suicide: "Nancy, I want to call you back and give you a location. You can call the police and have them go there and find me," he said in another voice mail message.

Often, however, he was menacing: "My goal is to destroy everything because she has destroyed my family and me," Shenkman wrote in a May 2007 e-mail to Tyler's attorney.

Shenkman and Tyler, 57, married in 1993. Court records show it was a third marriage for him and a second for her.

After three years of contentious divorce proceedings, a judge granted the divorce last year, but Shenkman has been appealing. On Tuesday, the state Appellate Court rejected Shenkman's appeal.

Later that day, a Hartford Superior Court judge was expected to evict him from the home

On Wednesday, Tyler returned to the rubble of the home and walked the property with a police escort and her two children.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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