Conn. man’s trial in attempted-murder case begins today
HARTFORD - The trial of a former Connecticut advertising executive accused of trying to kill his former wife and of burning down the suburban Hartford home they once shared is to begin this week.
Richard Shenkman, 62, whose Bloomfield firm once produced “The Gayle King Show,’’ starring Oprah Winfrey’s best friend, was scheduled to go on trial today in Hartford Superior Court. He has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, kidnapping, and arson charges in the July 2009 abduction of former wife Nancy Tyler, an attorney.
His lawyer plans to pursue a mental-illness defense.
Police say Shenkman, whose brother Mark Shenkman is founder and president of one of the nation’s largest money management firms, Shenkman Capital Management, kidnapped Tyler in Hartford just before they were due in state Family Court for a hearing related to their divorce.
Lawyers said Shenkman was supposed to pay Tyler $100,000 for legal fees or turn over the South Windsor home they once shared.
Shenkman then took Tyler to the South Windsor home in what became a nearly 13-hour standoff with police, who heard gunshots and what sounded like explosions going off in the house, authorities said.
Tyler managed to escape without serious injury about an hour before Shenkman surrendered to police as the house went up in flames.
Shenkman and Tyler married in 1993. They divorced in July 2008 after two years of court proceedings. But the court case continued as Shenkman filed appeals.
As part of the divorce, Tyler was awarded the couple’s beach home in the Niantic section of East Lyme. Police say Shenkman burned that house down in 2007 hours before he was to hand it over to Tyler. Shenkman awaits trial on an arson charge in that case.
Tyler declined to comment about this week’s scheduled trial. Prosecutor Vicki Melchiorre and Shenkman’s lawyer, Hugh Keefe, also declined to comment.
In an interview with The Day of New London in 2009, Tyler said she had not expected to survive the ordeal.
She told police that during the standoff, Shenkman monitored video feeds that were wired into televisions in three rooms, talked of suicide, and had stacks of paperwork downloaded from the Internet on how to die from carbon monoxide poisoning and hanging, as well as how to blow up a house with explosives. She also said he rigged a propane tank to create propane pockets conducive to explosion.
“I truly don’t know why he didn’t kill me,’’ Tyler told The Day.
Court records also allege Shenkman frequently violated a protective order and repeatedly threatened Tyler’s life and his own, saying the only way they would be divorced was if one of them died.