Facing eviction, Johnson County youth pastor stabbed family and set fire: affidavit

A Johnson County youth pastor told police detectives he stabbed his wife and children and set fire to their home earlier this month as the family was about to be evicted, according to a court document unsealed Monday.

Matthew Lee Richards, 41, of Shawnee, allegedly went room to room before dawn on Sept. 16, attacking his family members with a knife after starting the fire in the basement. His wife and two of his children suffered serious stab wounds, while three other family members, a 19-year-old and two youths, were released from the hospital the same day.

During a police interview last week, Richards told detectives he planned to set the fire, though could not recall certain details of the stabbings, according to an affidavit filed in support of criminal charges in Johnson County District Court.

He said the family was going to be evicted that day and he had not been honest about the seriousness of their financial troubles. Richards also admitted to thinking “it would be better if they all died” rather than his family “find out the truth,” the affidavit says.

“I stabbed my family,” Richards said during the interview, referring to himself as a “monster,” according to the affidavit.

A defense attorney for Richards declined The Star’s request for comment Monday.

Matthew Lee Richards, 41, has been charged in the attempted murder of his wife and children following a Saturday morning fire, attack in Shawnee, Kansas, according to police.
Matthew Lee Richards, 41, has been charged in the attempted murder of his wife and children following a Saturday morning fire, attack in Shawnee, Kansas, according to police.

Details behind the possible motive for the attack come as Richards faces five counts of premeditated attempted first-degree murder and one count of arson. He is being held in the Johnson County jail on a $5 million bond.

Firefighters and police officers were dispatched to the home around 3:45 a.m. Sept. 16 for 911 calls reporting a disturbance and fire. Police spoke with one neighbor who recalled hearing someone bang on the door and looking out to see the children, who said their dad had stabbed them.

At least one of the 911 calls came from one of Richards’ children, whose name and age are redacted from court documents. The youth told police he witnessed his mother being stabbed and was then chased to the garage as his father wielded a knife, according to the affidavit.

Court records did not detail the injuries suffered by the wife. Two of the children had stab wounds that affected internal organs, including one who was stabbed in the chest and cut across the abdomen.

Other evidence reviewed by investigators included blood stains that indicated the family was stabbed in “multiple locations throughout the house,” the affidavit says. The fire was determined to have originated in the basement, where a pile of clothes and wood was found.

Civil court records show a foreclosure petition was filed for the home in the 6600 block of Goode Drive in November. It shows Richards and his wife owed $155,429 on their mortgage at the time.

The case was later dismissed. Online property tax records in Johnson County listed Richards and his wife as co-owners of the home as of 2022. As of Monday, a different person was listed as the owner.

Richards was until recently a children’s pastor at Crossroads Christian Church in Shawnee. A statement shared by the church on Facebook following Richards’ arrest said the community was “shocked” and “sickened” to learn of “a tragedy beyond what any of us could have imagined.”

In addition to youth ministry, Richards was employed by Christ Preparatory Academy in Lenexa. He was listed on the school’s website as a seventh-grade English teacher since 2020.

Richards’ bond has been set at $5 million. The next hearing in his criminal case is scheduled for Friday.

Here’s a list of domestic violence resources in the Kansas City area if you or someone you love is facing a domestic violence situation.

The Star’s Anna Spoerre and Sarah Ritter contributed to this report.