By Bob Allen
A former Baptist minister charged with his wife’s July murder was released late Friday afternoon from jail in Birmingham, Ala., on $100,000 bond.
Local media reported that family members raised the bond amount set the day before to secure release of Richard Shahan, former children and families pastor and facilities director at First Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Shahan, 53, spent nearly two weeks behind bars after his Jan. 1 arrest in an airport in Nashville, Tenn., while attempting to board an international flight bound for Germany.
Video carried live by ABC 33/40 in Birmingham showed Shahan being escorted through a crowd of reporters at the Jefferson County Jail around 5:21 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17. Shahan did not speak. His attorney John Lentine said Shahan was going home and asked reporters to move back so they could leave.
A man identified as a family member who placed his arm around Shahan and helped steer him to a waiting vehicle ignored a barrage of questions before responding to one about what would happen to money that Shahan had raised for missions by saying, “Jesus loves you, brother.”
Shahan was fitted with an electronic monitoring device and taken to his mother’s home. He must remain there, according to NBC affiliate WVTM-TV, except for outings that include doctor appointments, court appearances and attorney appointments.
The electronic monitoring includes “intensive supervision” of a radio frequency device 24 hours a day, and “any infraction, however slight, elicits a response from an EM officer,” the order explained.
Shahan was held by police for questioning for 48 hours about two weeks after his wife, Karen, was found stabbed to death in the couple’s home near First Baptist Church, where Shahan had been on staff since 2009. The church put him on paid administrative leave “to give him the time and space to focus on his family and healing at this time.”
Shahan resigned his church job in December, after announcing plans to travel overseas for three years of mission work in Germany and Kazakhstan. Authorities in Alabama issued a warrant for his arrest Dec. 31. The following day an airport computer at Nashville International Airport flagged his passport, and he was taken into custody by Homeland Security.
Shahan’s attorneys say their client didn’t know he was wanted for arrest, and if he had they would have advised him to turn himself in. They accused prosecutors of staging the arrest as a publicity stunt to bolster a weak case by making it appear that he was trying to flee.
Already widely reported by media across the country and overseas, the story grew even more sensationalized during a Jan. 16 bond hearing, when prosecutors alleged that Shahan concocted the three-year mission trip story as cover so he could get out of the country, after which he intended to marry his boyfriend and start a new life in the United Kingdom.
First Baptist Church in Birmingham posted a new statement on the church website Jan. 17 saying: “The First Baptist family is saddened by the news and circumstances surrounding the murder of Karen Shahan. We trust and pray that truth and justice will prevail.”
“At this difficult time, First Baptist Church is seeking to be the church of Jesus Christ,” the statement continued. “We continue in our ministry to the members of our congregation, service to our community and proclamation of the gospel.”