On September 16, just before dawn, the Shawnee, Kansas, police and fire departments responded to a disturbance and a house fire on Goode Drive. Within moments, firefighters put out a fire in the basement of the house. Inside the residence, six victims were discovered, all of them had some sort of “laceration injury.” The victims were identified as Matthew Lee Richards’ wife and kids, who was also present at the scene. For medical attention, all seven of them were taken to the hospital.
Richards, 41, is charged with attempting to knife his children and wife before attempting to set fire to the family home. Since 2016, Richards has served as the youth pastor at Crossroads Christian Church in Shawnee. The church directory on the internet claims that Richards is a “big kid” who likes to share Jesus with young people.
After being wed in 2003, Richards and Stephanie had five children together, the eldest of whom is now 19 years old. In addition to one attempted arson allegation, Richards is charged with five counts of attempted murder.
On Monday, September 18, the accused appeared in court for the first time. Richards seemed disheartened and bowed his head during the proceedings. He did not make a request. He will be assigned a public defender to represent him.
Kurt Witten, the senior pastor of Crossroads Christian Church, had a conversation with FOX4 reporters. Witten conveyed the shock the “church family” had been feeling after discovering Richard’s heinous acts against his family. Witten described the event as a “tragedy,” adding that the victims’ loved ones are “hurting” along with them and acknowledging the “long and painful journey” that the Richards family has ahead of them.
Two of the kids and Stephanie Richards are still in the hospital. Two of the younger kids and the 19-year-old have been released. Authorities have not yet disclosed to the public the reason(s) for this attack.
The state claims in court filings that the attack was planned.