Tyler Says She Thought She'd Die

Nancy Tyler speaks for the first time about the alleged ordeal

When Nancy Tyler escaped from her South Windsor home, she said, she did not know whether she’d survive but she had to take the chance.

Her estranged husband kidnapped her on July 7, held her hostage in their South Windsor home for 12 hours, and made repeated threats that he would kill one or both of them, police said.


Tyler, a Hartford attorney, appeared on the Today Show Monday morning and told Meredith Vieira that she’s been lucky since the alleged ordeal.   

“I’m doing well because I’ve had incredible support. I have an incredible family and friends and colleagues at work, and the police have been amazing,” Tyler said. “I’ve been very, very lucky.”

In 1993, Tyler married Richard Shenkman, a successful advertising executive who produced a television show starring Gayle King, Oprah’s best friend.

In 2006, Tyler filed for divorce. Shenkman fought her over it and said the only way they would part was death, Tyler said.

Prior to the alleged kidnapping, there were problems, according to court records.

In July 2006, Tyler got a protective order from Shenkman.
“There were references to death, even then,” Tyler said. 

But things escalated on July 7, 2009.

Tyler said she was going down to a Hartford garage to get her car to go to court when she saw Shenkman’s vehicle. The two were due in court for a hearing in their ongoing, bitter divorce case.

Tyler did not know why his car was there are called a friend.

“I came out of the elevator, talking on the phone, and he came up and grabbed me with a gun and I screamed into the phone, ‘He’s got a gun, call the police,’” Tyler said. 

Shenkman took the phone from Tyler, she said, forced her into her car and to drive to their house in South Windsor.

“He said, ‘Don’t try to signal anybody. Don’t try to get help. I am sitting behind you with a gun. I’ll kill you where you sit,’” Tyler said.

Tyler tells a story that sounds like something out of a horror movie. 

At the house, Shenkman spent most of the day telling her that one or both of them, and police officers were going to die, Tyler said..    

Tyler said she kept him calm by taking to him all day.

“I talked all day because that kept him calm,” Tyler said. “But when he got angry and enraged, that’s when the gun went to my head and there were several instances where there were countdowns.”

If police did not do something, Tyler said, Shenkman was going to kill her.

At one point, he took her down to the basement, where a bunker was set up, and attached her to an eye bolt, she said, but she was able to loosen it and eventually free herself.

Then, Tyler said, the opportunity to escape arose.

Shenkman was counting down from 20 and demanding police remove robots from the yard when he ran from the room, Tyler said.

She too ran, but that came with a risk, she said.

Shenkman had monitors set up in all areas of the house to see everything going on around, and he said the building was booby-trapped, Tyler said.

“I did not have a clue where to go because everything was supposedly wired up to explode. He was going to blow the house,” Tyler said.   

But, she said, she took the chance.

“I ran out of the room, across the basement to a door, a little used door that we had in the back, and I went out,” Tyler said. “I didn’t know if it was wired to explode, but at that point, it didn’t matter. It was either going to die with a gun to my head or maybe go out a door and die that way.” 

The door was not wired with explosives and she was able to escape safely. That evening, fire started in the house. Police said Shenkman set it.

He was arrested, arraigned on several charges, including kidnapping and arson, and his bond was set at $12.5 million. 

Shenkman is due back in court on Wednesday for a bond revocation hearing regarding allegations he set fire to a separate house, a beach home, the couple owned. The state's attorney will ask a judge to revoke Shenkman's $600,000 bond. Tyler’s attorney plans to argue that Shenkman should be held until the trial.

“He has told me over and over again the only way this will end is by death, either his, mine or both of us and whoever else has to go,” Tyler said.

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