SOUTH WINDSOR—A tense standoff with police ended early today when Richard Shenkman emerged from his burning house on Tumblebrook Drive, hours after his wife escaped from the home where she had been held hostage since Tuesday morning.
Nancy Tyler, who was taken hostage by her ex-husband about 9 a.m. Tuesday in Hartford, escaped from the house at 8:27 p.m.
As the house burned police called to Shenkman to leave. By 9:55 p.m., the house was engulfed in flames, and gunshots rang out again.
"He keeps yelling, 'Shoot me, shoot me,' as if he wanted someone to kill him," South Windsor police Cmdr. Matthew Reed said.
Police put Shenkman into an ambulance after he left the house.
Shenkman is expected to appear in court in Manchester this morning.
Police believe Shenkman, 60, took Tyler hostage around 9 a.m. Tuesday in the parking lot of her workplace at CityPlace in downtown Hartford. He allegedly brought her to the house at 96 Tumblebrook Drive, and by 11 a.m., police had cordoned off the house and evacuated the neighborhood as Shenkman threatened to harm his hostage and blow up the house.
Tyler made it out of the home safely around 8:27 p.m., into the arms of police officers who whisked her out of harm's way. It was initially unknown whether she escaped or was set free, but she was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Hartford after police debriefed her.
Shenkman and Tyler were scheduled to be in Superior Court in Hartford Tuesday morning for yet another round in their protracted divorce. He had repeatedly refused a judge's order to vacate 96 Tumblebrook Drive and turn it over to Tyler.
"Today was D-Day," said his attorney, Hugh Keefe, on Tuesday.
Instead, police said, he kidnapped her from the parking lot of CityPlace in downtown Hartford, where she works as an attorney at the law firm of O'Brien, Tanski and Young, and took her to 96 Tumblebrook Drive to make his stand.
He was armed and warned police the house was wired with explosives.
Up to 50 officers surrounded the house, which police said had six cameras that looked as if they had been hastily mounted on its exterior.
"It looks like it had been fortified, quite frankly, to keep people from seeing in, as if he was preparing for some sort of standoff," Reed said.
Shenkman allegedly set fire to a 115-year-old Victorian beach house in East Lyme in 2007 moments before he was supposed to give it to Tyler. In April, he was charged with forging Tyler's signature on life insurance documents, police said.
"I want Nancy to walk out of here," Shenkman said in a telephone call to a New London Day reporter during the standoff on Tuesday. "I know I'm never leaving this alive. I'm going to leave in a body bag. I've lost everything in my life."
Police said a woman, who sources later identified as Tyler, called a friend about 9 a.m. Tuesday and said she had seen her ex-husband in the CityPlace parking lot and asked her friend to call police. When police responded, Reed said, the woman's car was gone, but a blue van believed to be her ex-husband's was found on Haynes Street, outside CityPlace.
Police tracked the woman's cellphone signal to South Windsor, Reed said, and shortly before 11 a.m. Shenkman called police.