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HOMEWOOD, AL (WBRC) -
Homewood Police Chief Jim Roberson says former pastor Richard Shahan appeared "shocked" when Homeland Security Agents pulled him out of line as he was attempting to board a plane for Germany.
Chief Roberson said they feared Shahan wanted to use his mission trip to get to Russia to avoid murder charges in the death of his wife, Karen Shahan.
Homewood police been investigating Karen Shahan's murder for months, ever since she was found dead inside her home in a quiet neighborhood on July 23, 2013.
Police detained Richard Shahan for about 48 hours early on in their investigation, but released him without filing any charges.
"That put into motion the process of finding Richard Shahan...determining where he might try to board a plane to leave the country," Roberson said. It had been widely reported that Shahan planned to leave the U.S. for a lengthy mission trip to Germany, but authorities weren't sure which airport he planned to depart from.
Shahan was detained the next day, Jan. 1, at the Nashville International Airport as he was trying to board a plane to Germany. Homewood police believe Shahan was planning to travel from Germany into Russia.
"Obviously once he got over to Germany and ultimately to Russia, the chances of extraditing him are pretty nil. If we can't get Snowden back, we probably wouldn't get him back either," Roberson said.
Shahan had already checked his luggage and passed security, but never made it onto the plane. He was red flagged by the computer system and Homeland Security agents took him into custody.
However, Shahan's attorney John Lentine said the allegations that Shahan planned to skip the country are "totally bogus." He said Shahan would have turned himself in at any time if he had been notified by the police department of the charges. The attorney says they plan to waive extradition to Alabama.
Wendell Sheffield, another attorney representing Shahan, adds that they didn't even know about the murder warrant. He says if they had, they would have told Shahan he couldn't go on his mission trip.
"And that was done for no other reason that to leave the impression with people, the way it was left at the news conference with Homewood PD, [is] that [Shahan] had done something he shouldn't do and that's just not the case, it's just not," Sheffield said.
Chief Roberson said he saw a picture of Shahan just after he was pulled out of line at the airport, and he looked "totally shocked."
Shahan was arrested on a charge of murder and is being detained in the Davidson County Jail in Tennessee. He is awaiting a Jan. 7 extradition hearing in Nashville.
Roberson said that Shahan is their only suspect in this case at this time, and he is confident that they obtained the warrant for the person responsible for killing Karen Shahan.
Roberson said the evidence didn't support a burglary gone wrong and Shahan's inconsistent statements made him the top suspect in his wife's slaying.
"Certain inconsistencies...in his interviews kept leading us back to him," Roberson said.
In today's news conference, Roberson referenced media reports that Karen Shahan had been stabbed to death, but would not confirm or deny that information. He said it will become "readily apparent" how and why Karen Shahan was killed as the case moves toward a trial.
However, Chief Roberson noted that "an arrest is a long way from a trial and a conviction." Roberson said the case remains an ongoing investigation.
Police say they have evidence and a motive in the case but say they can't release that information at this time.
The police chief said he hoped the arrest would bring some closure and consolation for Karen Shahan's family. He added that he hopes it will also reassure the residents of Homewood that it is still a safe place to live and work.
Homewood's police chief said depending on the outcome of Shahan's extradition hearing, Shahan could be back in the state in a week to 10 days.
Police aren't saying why they think Shahan would flee to Russia. FOX6 News has learned that Shahan did go to Russia in May 2012 for mission work. But according to recent flyers, this time he was planning to go to Central Asia.