Shenkman considering using insanity defense

By Karen Florin Day Staff Writer
Results of mental evaluation awaited

The attorney for Richard J. Shenkman is considering an insanity defense and will make a decision once he receives a report from a doctor who is evaluating his client.

Shenkman, 61, is facing a slew of criminal charges related to his divorce from ex-wife Nancy Tyler, which police said turned violent on several occasions. In March 2007, he allegedly burned down Tyler’s house in Niantic. In July 2009, police said he kidnapped his ex-wife at gunpoint and held her hostage in his South Windsor home. He torched the home after Tyler escaped, police said.

Shenkman may pursue the insanity defense in the hostage case, which is being heard in Hartford Superior Court. During an appearance Thursday, defense attorney Hugh Keefe said he would be receiving a report from the doctor who is evaluating Shenkman’s mental condition and would notify the court before Shenkman’s Aug. 26 court date if he plans to pursue the “not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect” defense. Should Shenkman pursue the insanity defense, the state may want to order its own psychological evaluation, according to proscutor Vicki L. Melchiorre.

To be found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in Connecticut, a judge or jury must determine the defendant “lacked substantial capacity, as a result of mental disease or defect, either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to control his conduct within the requirements of the law.” Once that finding has been made, the person is committed to a mental facility – usually the Whiting Forensic Institute in Middletown – and is under the care of the Psychiatric Security Review Board.

Also Thursday, Judge David P. Gold authorized the release of $37,500 put up as collateral for bail by Shenkman’s brother in one of the divorce-related criminal cases. Tyler, who has not been able to collect $180,000 that a judge ordered Shenkman to pay her as part of the divorce proceedings, had objected last month to the release of the money. Melchiorre said she spoke to an attorney for Mark Shenkman, who confirmed that the money belonged to Mark Shenkman and not his brother, “even though it is being funneled to (Richard),” Melchiorre said.

New London judge Susan B. Handy revoked Shenkman’s bail in the Niantic arson case following last summer’s hostage incident. In Hartford his remaining bonds are $12.5 million for the hostage case and $100 cash for an earlier case alleging he violated a protective order that required him to have no contact with Tyler.



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