Murder charges dropped against former pastor
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP) -- The prosecution of former Southern Baptist associate pastor Richard Shahan should be dropped for lack of sufficient evidence to prove whether he stabbed to death his wife in 2013, Alabama Attorney General Steven Marshall announced Monday (April 10).
Marshall filed a motion in Jefferson County Circuit Court to "nolle prosequi without prejudice" -- drop the prosecution without prejudice -- of 55-year-old Shahan, thereby preserving the right to prosecute if and when additional evidence becomes available.
"A thorough review of the evidence and comprehensive attempts to discover new evidence led to the conclusion that the evidence currently in the State's possession is insufficient to move forward with prosecution," according to Marshall's press release.
"Today's action effectively preserves the State's opportunity to prosecute the case at a later date if additional evidence is developed," the release noted. "There is no statute of limitation for the prosecution of murder, so this may be done at any appropriate time in the future."
The circuit court judge had not ruled on the motion as of today (April 11), Alabama attorney general spokesperson Joy Patterson told Baptist Press, but the judge's ruling is considered a formality.
Shahan, former children and families pastor of First Baptist Church of Birmingham, was arrested Jan. 1, 2014 in the death of his wife Karen, found stabbed to death in their Homewood residence in July 2013.
At the time of his arrest, he was at Nashville International Airport in Nashville, Tenn., attempting to board a plane to Frankfurt, Germany. A prosecutor in the case, Leigh Gwathney, had accused Shahan of attempting to "begin a new life with his boyfriend … who he intended to marry," the news site al.com reported. Shahan had resigned his post at First Baptist Church on Dec. 31, 2013, saying he was taking a children's ministry assignment in Kazakhstan.
Marshall's latest motion means Shahan, who had been under house arrest with electronic monitoring, can move forward with his life, his attorney John Lentine told al.com.
The attorney general reached "the same conclusion we knew from the beginning," al.com quoted Lentine.
Shahan was originally indicted by the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office. But the office recused itself from the case in December 2016, requesting that the Alabama attorney general assume the prosecution. A trial date had already been set for this May.