Prosecutors allege Richard Shahan had been seeking to live in Europe with a boyfriend he planned to marry

By Ken Lee
Updated January 17, 2014 04:30 PM
Credit: Metro Nashville Police Department/AP

The murder case against Richard Shahan, the Alabama children’s pastor accused of stabbing his wife to death, took a surprise twist with allegations of a motive – and a secret life.

Shahan, 53, had been seeking to live in Europe with a boyfriend he planned to marry, Jefferson County prosecutors alleged at a bond hearing on Thursday. Shahan had $27,000 in cash including euros, pounds and Kazakh money when he was arrested on Jan. 1 at Nashville International Airport, in what they say was an attempt to flee the country.

Police reviewed 3,000 emails that showed Shahan planned to travel to Kazakhstan via Germany and ultimately planned to settle in the United Kingdom, the Alabama news group reports.

“He planned to become a citizen there and begin a new life with his boyfriend who he intended to marry,” prosecutor Leigh Gwathney said in court. “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.”

Karen Shahan, 52, an arts and crafts store manager, had been “violently” stabbed with a knife in their Homewood, Ala., home in July 2013, it was confirmed Thursday.

Judge Sheldon Watkins granted Shahan, who appeared in shackles and wearing a jail jumpsuit, a bond of $100,000 on the condition he’ll be placed under house arrest with electronic monitoring.

On Jan. 2, the First Baptist Church of Birmingham, from which Shahan resigned on Dec. 31, released a statement that read: “Our prayers go out to Richard and his family. We trust that eventually truth and justice can prevail.”

Shahan previously told police he was visiting one of his two sons in Kentucky on the day of the crime, and his attorney John Lentine told PEOPLE it’s “absolutely untrue” the pastor was trying to flee. Lentine says Shahan’s planned missionary work in Kazakhstan to help children had been publicly known for some time. He adds Shahan would have voluntarily surrendered had they known an arrest was imminent.

Lentine declined to comment on the new allegations, saying Shahan’s defense will be handled in court.