Prosecutors: Alabama pastor charged in wife’s stabbing was fleeing US to marry his boyfriend
An Alabama pastor who was arrested in his wife’s slaying as he tried to board a plane was headed to Germany to marry another man, prosecutors said.
A judge set bond Thursday at $100,000 for 53-year-old Richard Shahan, who was arrested Jan. 1 at a Nashville airport and charged with murder.
Shahan’s wife was found stabbed to death July 23 at their Homewood home, and the pastor was taken into custody but released 48 hours later because detectives could not find enough evidence to charge him.
Police, however, said at the time of his arrest that they had a solid motive but declined to elaborate.
Shahan told investigators that he’d been out of town visiting one of the couple’s two sons when his wife was killed.
Shortly after his release, Shahan took a paid administrative leave from his job as children and families pastor and facilities director at First Baptist Church. He resigned Dec. 31.
Prosecutors revealed at Shahan’s arraignment that they developed information from more than 3,000 emails that the pastor intended to go to Kazakhstan via Germany and ultimately move to the United Kingdom.
“He planned to become a citizen there and begin a new life with his boyfriend … who he intended to marry,” said Leigh Gwathney, deputy Jefferson County district attorney. “He had no intention of ever returning to the United States. He had no home to return to and he had said his goodbyes to his family.”
Shahan’s attorneys disputed those claims and asked whether prosecutors had “direct evidence” of the pastor’s involvement in his wife’s homicide.
They claimed that Shahan had made plans months ago to travel and conduct mission work, and they asked investigators to return luggage, a phone, computer storage devices and $27,000 in U.S. and foreign currency seized during the arrest.
Customs officials, who had been alerted by Homeland Security to watch for his passport, pulled him out of line at the airport.
A judge ruled that the American currency should be returned to Shahan, but the British pounds, euros and Kazakhstan currency would not be turned over.
Prosecutors declined to offer additional details about the man Shahan supposedly planned to marry, and they have not released information about evidence that led to the charges against the pastor.
Shahan was released Thursday on bond and will live at his mother’s house, where he must remain under house arrest and wear an electronic monitoring device.
Watch this video report posted online by WSFA-TV: