Baptist minister arrested in wife’s murder

Homeland Security officials nabbed murder suspect Richard Shahan trying to leave the country at an airport in Nashville, Tenn., on Jan. 1.

By Bob Allen

Richard Shahan, until recently on administrative leave as children and families pastor and facilities director at First Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., since his wife was found slain in their home July 23, was arrested New Year’s Day in Nashville, Tenn., as he tried to board a plane for Germany.

richard shahan tennShahan, 53, was booked into the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Justice Center at 10:53 p.m. Jan. 1. He is being held without bond and charged as a fugitive from justice without warrant.

His arrest affidavit said a “customs lookout” was issued for Shahan in the event he tried to leave the state or country. He booked a flight from the Nashville International Airport to Frankfurt, Germany, that was red flagged in the computer system. He was arrested by Homeland Security agents.  

Homewood police Chief Jim Roberson told media in Birmingham Thursday afternoon that he thought Shahan was “shocked” when he was pulled out of line and detained after he had checked in at the airline desk and checked his luggage.

“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,” said a statement on the First Baptist Church in Birmingham website. “There he was to assume his new role working with the children's ministry of Bible Mission International, primarily in Kazakhstan.”

The statement said Shahan announced plans Nov. 29 to pursue his mission ministry and his resignation at the church was effective Dec. 31. “Our prayers go out to Richard and his family,” the statement said. “We trust that eventually truth and justice can prevail."

Lawyers for Shahan told the Birmingham News it was common knowledge their client was planning his trip, and called it misleading for police to suggest he was trying to flee. Attorney Wendell Sheffield said the method of arrest was intentional so he could be held without bond as a flight risk.

Karen Shahan, 52, was found dead during a welfare check after she failed to show up for work on the morning of July 23. Her husband, whom police detained for questioning but did not charge, claimed he was out of town visiting one of the couple’s two adult children.

Roberson said inconsistencies in interviews kept leading investigators back to Shahan, and that police were able to establish a motive but unwilling to elaborate at this point.

Recently media reported that newsletters and prayer cards indicated Shahan was planning a three-year mission trip with Bible Mission International, an organization formed in 1984 to evangelize in the former Soviet Union.

An extradition hearing is scheduled Jan. 7 in Tennessee. The Homewood police official said if Shahan had made it to Germany and then into Russia, the chances of extradition would have been “nil.”

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Minister in custody in Ala. murder

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Ala. minister’s wife slain in home