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Alabama minister Shahan arrested, charged with wife’s murdercomment (0)

January 9, 2014

By Neisha Fuson


Alabama minister Shahan arrested, charged with wife’s murder

After more than five months of near silence, investigators in the Karen Shahan murder case made a bold move Jan. 1 when they arrested her husband, Richard Shahan, at the Nashville International Airport.

Richard Shahan, former children and families pastor of First Baptist Church, Birmingham, was attempting to board a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, reportedly on his way to work with Bible Mission International (BMI) for three years. 

The Alabama Baptist and other news sources had previously reported Richard Shahan’s plans for departing the country to develop teaching materials and discipleship resources through BMI to be distributed throughout former Soviet countries. 

But on Dec. 31, 2013, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office had enough recent developments in the case to obtain a murder warrant for Richard Shahan’s arrest, according to myfoxal.com. Homeland Security ICE agents then arrested Richard Shahan the next day before he boarded his flight, fearing that he may try to avoid murder charges by fleeing to Russia from Germany. Officials did not say why they believed he would flee Germany but they did note that there is no formal extradition treaty between the United States and Russia.

Charles T. Carter, interim pastor of First, Birmingham, said Richard Shahan “was not ‘fleeing’ the country. His plans had been known and publicized ever since early November … to provide leadership to BMI’s children’s ministry in Kazakhstan (where he had served on two previous missions trips while at FBC).”

On Dec. 29, 2013, Carter said the church held a public commissioning and prayer time for Richard Shahan at the conclusion of the morning worship service. 

“At my suggestion early on he received a written statement from his legal counsel that in their opinion he was free to leave/return to the USA,” Carter said. “He was not fleeing; he was en route to assume a new position as a missionary.”

But Homewood Police Chief Jim Roberson said he is confident that the police have obtained the warrant for the person responsible for the murder.

Details as to why Richard Shahan was arrested at this point in the investigation are limited but Roberson did confirm in a press conference Jan. 2 that investigators had established a motive and have physical evidence. 

“It will become readily apparent as we move into the trial process,” Roberson said in the conference. “There are very few new details of which we can go into great elaboration because it is an ongoing investigation.”

Richard Shahan’s attorneys Wendell Sheffield and John Lentine said statements about Richard Shahan’s fleeing the country were misleading.

“Some of the inferences that were put out there in the news conference made it sound like Richard was trying to leave the country and never come back,” Lentine said, according to al.com.

“The chief is saying, ‘We’ve got our man,’ then saying it’s an ongoing investigation. … The reality is they’ve always looked at Richard, and they didn’t bother to look any further than that,” Lentine said. 

Karen Shahan’s body was discovered July 23, around 11:15 a.m., inside her home in Homewood. Police still have not confirmed exactly how she was killed although some reports state she was stabbed to death.

Richard Shahan was jailed for investigative purposes Aug. 7, 2013, and was released Aug. 9 without being charged. 

First, Birmingham, released a statement Jan. 2 that read in part, “All of us are saddened by the unexpected news that Richard Shahan was arrested.” 

He is currently being held without bond at Davidson County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee, and at press time a Jan. 7 extradition hearing was scheduled in Nashville. 

Roberson said he does not have a timeline for Richard Shahan’s return to Alabama but estimates within a week to 10 days. He also emphasized the purpose of the press conference was to reassure Homewood citizens that their neighborhood is “a safe place to live and work” and to bring some closure to the family of Karen Shahan. 

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