Published January 19. 2010 4:00AM Updated January 19. 2010 12:48PM
Nancy J. Tyler is still trying to get out from beneath the rubble that remains from her nightmare divorce.
Her ex-husband, Richard Shenkman, is being held without bond in a Suffield prison, charged with kidnapping Tyler, holding her hostage and burning down his South Windsor home on July 7, 2009. He also is awaiting trial for allegedly burning down Tyler's beach home in Niantic on March 5, 2007.
The divorce has left Tyler, a Hartford attorney, with the two properties that her husband allegedly torched, a pile of bills and no home. She has been living with her sister since the Niantic fire. She wants to rebuild the Niantic house in Crescent Beach, but has been unable to do so because of Shenkman's claim in a civil lawsuit that he is entitled to half the proceeds from the homeowner's insurance. The property had been granted to Tyler in the divorce, so her attorneys asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
New London Judge Emmet L. Cosgrove dismissed Shenkman's claim on Dec. 22, finding that Shenkman lacks any interest in the property and does not possess standing to sue Tyler. Shenkman's attorneys immediately appealed the ruling, preventing Tyler from collecting the insurance proceeds and further delaying construction. Her attorneys may request that the state Appellate Court lift a stay that prevents her from moving forward while the case is pending.
In the meantime, Tyler continues to pay the mortgage, taxes and insurance for the vacant lot.
Attorney Hugh F. Keefe, who represents Shenkman, said last week that he could not comment on Shenkman's criminal or civil cases.
Tyler has placed the South Windsor property on the market and has received an offer from a potential buyer. She is eager to sell the site of her horrific ordeal - she managed to escape from Shenkman, who has been charged with holding her at gunpoint for hours - but she may have to borrow more money before it can change hands.
Shenkman had let the homeowner's insurance on the South Windsor property lapse, and Tyler was forced to borrow $26,500 for the site cleanup, which the town required for safety reasons. Meanwhile, Tyler also is responsible for the mortgage, taxes and insurance on the South Windsor property and, before it changes hands, she must pay off a mortgage as well as a $7,000 lien placed on it by a veterinarian who cared for Shenkman's dogs.
Tyler and Shenkman had paid off the mortgage on the property while they were married, but Tyler learned during the divorce that he had taken an $88,000 equity line of credit mortgage on the home. Shenkman had stopped paying on the loan, and the balance has grown to $100,000.
Tyler approached Sovereign Bank last week to explain the situation and ask for a compromise on the mortgage, but a bank official promptly told her, "Absolutely not." Contacted by The Day last week, Ellen Molle, the bank's vice president of Corporate Affairs, said she could not comment on customer information.
Shenkman had also stopped paying property taxes, so Tyler owes the town about $32,000. To make matters worse, a piece of heavy equipment crushed the property's septic system after the fire, and Tyler will have to pay for repairs or help the new buyer connect to the city sewer system before she can sell the lot.
Following three years of bitter divorce proceedings, Shenkman was supposed to turn over the South Windsor home to Tyler or pay her more than $100,000 for her legal fees, personal property he had kept or destroyed and payments she had made for his health insurance. Shenkman and Tyler were due in court for a compliance hearing in family court on July 7. Instead, police say, Shenkman kidnapped his ex-wife and held her hostage.
Shenkman said in a phone interview during the hostage ordeal that day that he feared the judge was going to incarcerate him on contempt charges.
In the fall, a Hartford judge found Shenkman in contempt for failing to comply with court orders in the divorce. Judge Jack W. Fischer ordered Shenkman to pay $179,942 to Tyler within 30 days and, if he failed to do so, to be held in custody until he complied. Interest on the amount is accruing at the rate of 8 percent per year. Shenkman, whose family has been paying his legal fees, has also appealed the contempt order.