Bethenny Frankel Says She Was Told Dennis Shields 'Fell and Hit His Head' the Day Before Dying
Appearing in court for her ongoing custody case with ex Jason Hoppy on Tuesday, the Real Housewives of New York City star was questioned by Hoppy’s attorney Robert Wallack about her on-off boyfriend Shields, who died last summer at age 51 of a suspected overdose.
Frankel revealed to the court that in the wake of Shields’ death, she tried to get answers and learned from his friends “that the day before he was with a group of his friends on a boat and that he jumped and fell and hit his head and didn’t deal with it. That’s what his friends told me.” Frankel said the boat ride took place in Montauk.
Shields was found dead in his Trump Tower apartment on Aug. 10. After his death, the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office announced that an autopsy was not performed on his body due to a “religious objection.” Thus, his cause of death has been ruled “undetermined.” (Frankel declined to comment via a rep following his death.)
When Shields died, his daughter was the one to call Frankel and inform her of the news, the RHONY star told the court. “She said he had a heart attack,” said Frankel.
“I think he had a murmur or something,” Frankel told Wallack when asked if she was aware of Shields having any heart issues. “I do remember he had some issue.”
During her testimony, Frankel was also questioned about whether she knew if Shields had an opioid addiction. Frankel said she never saw Shields take opioids, and she said he never told her he was taking them. “I don’t know,” she told the court about whether Shields had an opioid addiction.
“Did the reports mentioning opioids come as a shock?” Wallack questioned.
While Frankel said “yes,” she added that she’s “not sure” if she believed them “because I don’t trust everything I read, I wasn’t there, I don’t know what happened in the middle of the night. And I had so many different things going through my mind about what could have happened.”
Wallack went on to tell the court that Shields told responding officers that “he took a combination of oxycodone, vicodin, and a sleeping pill” before he died.
While Frankel admitted to knowing about Shields having a back injury, she couldn’t confirm whether or not he was taking medications for it. Frankel told the court she “assumed, maybe, but know? No.”
“Did you know that his assistant carried Narcan?” Wallack asked Frankel, who replied: “No.”
Also during the testimony, Frankel shared details about their years-long relationship, including his proposal last year.
Frankel first met the New York City-based banker almost 30 years ago when he dated (and later married) one of her high school friends, Jill. Though she didn’t stay in touch with her classmate, Frankel and Shields shared other mutual pals and began dating in 2016, several months after he separated from his wife.
The Skinnygirl mogul told the court that her “sexual and romantic relationship” with Shields began three to four years ago.
Frankel told the court that on April 24, 2018, Shields proposed — with a mega-carat rock — and confirmed that he gave her and Hoppy’s 8-year-old daughter Bryn a silver ring with a heart.
“When he gave me a ring he asked me to marry him,” she told the court.
“The answer I gave him was, ‘It’s amazing that you did this and it’s beautiful and it’s romantic, but we have to work out some issues before we can make this kind of commitment,’ ” shared Frankel, who said she didn’t give him a “yes, no answer.”
While Frankel said she “sort of” considered herself to be engaged to Shields, she admitted that she didn’t tell Hoppy that Shields proposed.
“Yes I loved him and he felt like family,” Frankel said of Shields.
Although Frankel and Shields discussed engagement, she told Wallack that she and her late boyfriend didn’t spend a lot of time together because he had five children, businesses, charity organizations and he was “stretched thin.”
She also clarified that Bryn, who spent time with Shields and his children before his death, spent “less time than I did” with Shields.
Currently, Frankel is dating real estate developer and film producer Paul Bernon, who supported her in court on Tuesday.
The two made their relationship Instagram-official in December when Frankel shared two photos of the couple celebrating Christmas together in the Dominican Republic. Frankel and Bernon went on to ring in the New Year together in Mexico, joined by Bryn and his two kids.
Similar to Shields, Frankel told Wallack that she didn’t tell Hoppy about Bernon, who she confirmed she started dating “a year and a half ago” in December 2017 — months before Shields’ proposal, at a time when she was broken up with Shields.
The businesswoman said that she stopped dating Bernon “maybe a month later … because I wasn’t ready for that.”
But “maybe a month after” Shields died, Frankel said that she and Bernon started dating again in September 2018.
Back in August, Frankel spoke to PEOPLE about her loss. “It’s been very, very hard, I love him very much,” she said at the launch of her SkinnyGirl Jeans line. “He’s very much a part of me and he’s very much a part of this [launch]. He was very involved in my endeavors.”
“He would be so excited. I can hear him saying, ‘How many did you sell?’ and ‘I can’t believe you sold out.’ And he would be checking the numbers and checking the website,” she continued. “He’s here and I just know he would be so proud and a cheerleader.”
Of the grieving process, Frankel said: “It’s like [Hurricane] Florence, it’s a storm and you must go through it. It’s not one of these things you can avoid and you have to go through it and deal with it and hopefully, you come out stronger on the other side.”
The Real Housewives of New York City airs Wednesdays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.