Shenkman won't be tried for arson

State's attorney Michael L. Regan announced Thursday in New London Superior Court that he won't prosecute Richard J. Shenkman for the alleged arson of his wife's Niantic beach house in March 2007 in the midst of their contentious divorce.

Shenkman, a 63-year-old former advertising and public relations executive, is serving a 70-year prison sentence for kidnapping his ex-wife, Nancy Tyler, and holding her hostage at his South Windsor home on July 7, 2009.

The state's attorney said that nothing the state could do in the Niantic case would make a difference.

"He's not going to outlive his sentence," Regan said. "He's going to end up dying in prison."

Regan discussed his decision to "nolle" or not prosecute the case with Nancy Tyler before Shenkman's court appearance. Tyler sat near the back of the courtroom during Shenkman's brief appearance and said she is relieved the case would not be going to trial.

"I'm done," she said.

Defense attorney Hugh F. Keefe moved for a dismissal of the case based on the state's decision not to prosecute. Judge Patrick J. Clifford granted the motion, noting that Tyler and her family would be spared another trial.

"He's doing 70 years," Clifford said. "There's not much more we can do."

Shenkman, also known as Richard Tyler, had dubbed their contentious divorce "The War of the Tylers" after his wife filed for divorce in 2006. Shenkman then stopped working and filed a barrage of legal motions.

He was charged with setting fire to the home in the Crescent Beach section of Niantic in March 2007 and filed a lawsuit to stop Tyler from collecting the insurance proceeds. She eventually collected though, and rebuilt a replica of the house, a gingerbread Victorian, on the original footprint.

A Hartford jury found Shenkman guilty last year of kidnapping Tyler at gunpoint from a downtown Hartford parking garage, holding her hostage at his South Windsor home and setting the house afire after she escaped. At his sentencing in January, Shenkman announced that he had hired a hitman to kill Tyler.

A Niantic firefighter who risked his life to rescue Shenkman and his dogs from the roof of the burning South Washington Street home in 2007 said he was not upset to hear the case would not go to trial.

"I'm happy the way everything worked out," William "Wick" Haylon said. "The guy's in jail for the rest of his life. The state doesn't have to spend the money (for the trial). I'm happy Mrs. Tyler doesn't have to live this nightmare anymore and can get on with her life."

East Lyme Fire Marshal Richard Morris said the state already has proved its case against Shenkman.

"What more are they going to do, tack on more years?" Morris said. "I think the biggest thing was that we saw the outcome of what went on in South Windsor."

k.florin@theday.com

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