By Calvin Palmer
The Connecticut woman held hostage by her ex-husband since 9:00 a.m. today escaped from her captor this evening as the house was surrounded by police and a SWAT team.
Nancy Tyler was debriefed by police and was taken away in an ambulance to St Francis Hospital in Hartford.
Twenty minutes later, power was cut to the neighborhood and shots were fired. Smoke was pouring out of the house on Tumblebrook Drive, South Windsor, a suburb of Hartford, and police used a bullhorn to tell Richard Shenkman the house was on fire.
The drama began this morning when the 60-year-old Shenkman was waiting on the parking lot of Tyler’s workplace in downtown Hartford.
South Windsor Police Commander Matthew Reed said she called a friend and asked them to call the police but by the time they arrived, Tyler’s car had gone.
A blue van believed to be her husband’s was found nearby. Police believe Shenkman took Tyler by force to South Windsor either forcing her to drive at gunpoint or putting her in the trunk.
Police say the abduction took place after Shenkman missed a Hartford Superior Court hearing this morning. His attorney says the hearing was related to a court order that he vacate the home in South Windsor.
Shortly before 11 a.m. Shenkman telephoned the police to way that he wired up the house with explosives and was holding some people hostage. Gunshots were heard coming from the home and police cordoned off the area.
Hostage negotiators began talking with the man and shortly afterwards a black armored vehicle and the Hartford bomb squad arrived at the scene
“He did make a threat to use explosive devices, and threatened that the house was wired,” Reed said.
Police believe the two shots fired from the house were warning shots to show he meant business.
Shenkman’s attorney, Hugh Keefe, said he was scheduled to meet with Shenkman this morning at Hartford Superior Court. Keefe said the issue was Tyler’s motion of contempt against Shenkman for failing to vacate the South Windsor home.
Keefe said a judge had ordered Shenkman to leave by today. “Today was D-Day,” Keefe said.
Shenkman had run a Bloomfield-based advertising agency with Tyler while they were married, but the business has been inactive for several years, Keefe said.
Court records show Shenkman named in a number of civil cases and criminal charges.
Police charged him with arson for allegedly burning down his 115-year-old Victorian beach house in East Lyme moments before he was supposed to give it to Tyler in 2007.
Shenkman was inside the home on March 5, 2007 when the fire started and was rescued from the porch roof.
State police learned that Shenkman had court orders to vacate the home the morning he allegedly set fire to it. The case is pending in Superior Court in New London.
In April, he was charged with forging Tyler’s signature on life insurance documents. Shenkman took out a $9,000 loan against his wife’s policy.
He turned himself in on an arrest warrant charging him with a single count of second-degree forgery.