When a shaken and distraught Nancy Tyler finally escaped from the South Windsor house where her ex-husband had held her hostage for 13 hours Tuesday, she bore a visible mark of the terror she endured.
In addition to numerous small marks, there was an impression from the barrel of a handgun that had been pressed hard into her face.
After allegedly being kidnapped by Richard Shenkman at 9 a.m. in Hartford and taken to 96 Tumblebrook Drive, the home they once shared, she had spent much of the day handcuffed to him, the latest chapter in a bitter and increasingly bizarre divorce.
Shenkman, in custody Wednesday with bail set at $12.5 million and facing more than a dozen charges, told police early in the standoff Tuesday that he and Tyler were “going to go together” and they “better have body bags ready,” according to a court document presented at his bedside arraignment at Hartford Hospital, where he was placed on a suicide watch.
During one of his phone calls with police on Tuesday, Shenkman allegedly pointed a gun at Tyler’s head and began counting down from 10.
“I truly don’t know why he didn’t kill me at that point,” she told the New London Day Wednesday, the paper her husband had called four times during the standoff. “I was lying against the wall thinking, ‘I’m going to let him do it.’ “
She told police he fired a round past her head, so close she had trouble hearing for an hour.
Later, she told police, Shenkman handcuffed her to an eye hook in a basement wall, which she was able to work loose and escape about 8:30 p.m.
Police believe that Shenkman set fire to the house about an hour after Tyler escaped. He had warned police that the house was booby-trapped and wired with explosives. It was soon engulfed in flames and veteran firefighters at the scene assumed no one could survive such a blaze.
But Shenkman was spotted inside and shortly before midnight he appeared at the back door of the house, “taunting police to come in and get him,” according to the court document.
“Shoot me,” he shouted. “Shoot me,” the document says.
He went back inside, but when he returned and fired at least two rounds from a handgun at police, they returned fire with “Less Lethal” baton rounds, knocking the gun out of his hand and giving officers their opening to rush in and subdue him, police said.
During Shenkman’s arraignment Wednesday, Hartford Hospital Chief of Psychiatry Dr. Harold Schwartz said Shenkman was “in the midst of a psychotic illness” and should be placed on a suicide watch. Hospital officials did not allow reporters to attend the arraignment, but court officials provided a transcript.
The arraignment, scheduled for 3:30 p.m., was delayed about 20 minutes because it was initially unclear if Shenkman was able to participate, said his lawyer, Hugh Keefe.
“He’s in and out of consciousness,” Keefe said. “He’s asleep one minute, he’s awake the next.”
Medical personnel twice gave Shenkman drugs before it was determined that the arraignment could begin with Superior Court Judge Bradford J. Ward presiding. Shenkman said nothing during the arraignment, according to the transcript.
Keefe said Shenkman was in pain from internal injuries. It was unclear when he would be released from the hospital to the Department of Correction.
He faces 11 charges by South Windsor police, including arson, threatening, unlawful restraint and violating a protective order, one of several his ex-wife had lodged against him. His bail on those charges was set at $2.5 million.
A Hartford warrant carries four more charges including kidnapping, and his bail for them was set at $10 million.
Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Donna M. Mambrino said during the arraignment that Shenkman had been free on more than $675,000 bail stemming from previous cases involving Tyler, including allegedly setting fire to a 115-year-old Victorian beach house in East Lyme in 2007 the day he was supposed to turn it over to Tyler.
The two had been due in Family Court in Hartford Tuesday morning, where he was to have agreed to surrender the Tumblebrook Drive home to her or go to jail on contempt charges, Keefe said.
Only two chimneys, one brick, and one stone, remained of the house Wednesday. Firefighters returned to the house several times Wednesday to douse flames that occasionally popped up.
Before fire investigators began their work Wednesday, Hartford and FBI bomb technicians clad in thick helmets and protective gear swept through the rubble. South Windsor Police Cmdr. Matthew Reed said late Wednesday afternoon that no explosives had been found.
Reed said a handgun was recovered late in the day Wednesday near the back door.
Tyler returned to the Tumblebrook Drive address Wednesday afternoon and provided investigators a diagram of the house.
Some neighbors returning to the homes they had been forced to evacuate Tuesday said the couple were private, but some had seen disturbing developments recently.
Neighbor Beth Cvejanovich, an attorney, like Tyler, said she didn’t want to “waste any energy” talking about Shenkman, but described Tyler as ethical and honest.
“She is an extremely upbeat, positive person,” she said.
Another neighbor told police he had seen Shenkman cutting pieces of metal pipe in recent days, as if he were making pipe bombs. Neighbors also noticed numerous video cameras had been installed on the house. Tyler told police Shenkman had numerous monitors inside and was observing police movements.
Shenkman told hostage negotiators that he had been planning the kidnapping for eight months, according to the documents filed at his arraignment. He is accused of abducting Tyler at gunpoint at about 9 a.m. Tuesday in the parking lot of CityPlace, where she worked, and forcing her to drive to the house.
Police said that during the standoff, he demanded at various times a priest to give Tyler last rites, that The Courant remove its coverage from its website, and that he be allowed to remarry Tyler in a ceremony using Skype, which allows voice calls to be made over the Internet.
Tyler was taken to St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center after escaping and was released Wednesday.
Her attorney, Norm Pattis, said he hoped she could now move on to a new phase in her life.
“Nancy had been through hell during the process of this divorce,” he said. “Yesterday was a public and violent culmination of the storm that has been imposed upon her.”