News Articles

Minister pleads innocent to wife’s murder

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — A former church staff member accused of murdering his wife entered a not guilty plea in a mid-January hearing.

Richard Shahan, 53, entered the plea in a Jefferson County circuit court in Birmingham, Ala. Reports of the Jan. 16 hearing were carried in such media as the New York Daily News and People magazine’s website.

Shahan, former children and families minister at First Baptist Church in Birmingham, was arrested for the murder of his wife, Karen, on Jan. 1, 2014, at the Nashville International Airport prior to boarding a plane for Germany.

Karen Shahan was stabbed to death on July 23, 2013. Her body was found around 11:15 a.m. inside the couple’s Birmingham-area home.

Richard Shahan was jailed for investigative purposes on Aug. 7 of that year and released Aug. 9 without being charged. Shahan has stated he was out of town at the time of his wife’s murder to visit one of their two sons, according to news reports.

Prosecutor Leigh Gwathney, in comments to the al.com news site, alleged that Shahan planned to “begin a new life with his boyfriend … who he intended to marry.”

Shanan defense attorney John Lentine countered that Shahan had publicly stated his plans to work with Bible Mission International for three years in Germany and Kazakhstan. First Baptist had a brief prayer time for Shahan at the conclusion of morning worship on Dec. 29, 2013, three days before his arrest.

Lentine was quoted as claiming that prosecutors “are doing everything they can to try to manufacture a murder case.”

First Baptist Church released a statement on Jan. 2 of last year that read:

“All of us were saddened by the unexpected news that Richard Shahan was arrested by Homeland Security just moments before his planned flight departure for Frankfurt, Germany. There he was to assume his new role working with the Children’s ministry of Bible Mission International, primarily in Kazakhstan.

“As we know, on November 29 Richard announced his plans to pursue this mission ministry. His resignation from First Baptist Church of Birmingham was effective December 31, 2013.

“Our Prayers go out to Richard and his family. We trust that eventually truth and justice can prevail.”

Shahan continues to be held at the Jefferson County Jail in Birmingham.

    About the Author

  • Staff