SHAWNEE, Kan. (WDAF) — A Shawnee children’s pastor who police say tried to kill his wife and four of his children before setting the family home on fire made his first appearance in court Monday.  

For much of that hearing, the man at the center of this investigation held his head down. He did not enter a plea and will be appointed a public defender.

In an interview, the senior pastor of the church where Matthew Richards worked shared the community’s shock over what happened.  

“Our church family is shocked, were sickened, were saddened by the events of early Saturday morning involving our former children’s pastor,” Pastor Kurt Witten of Crossroads Christian Church said.  

In his first court appearance, 41-year-old Matthew Richards appeared defeated as now he must answer to the charges he has been accused of.

Richards was charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of aggravated arson.

“This is a tragedy beyond anything any of us could have ever imagined,” Witten said.

Witten relayed how devastating it was to hear the news about a family and a man he worked with for years.  

“This is a very long and painful journey ahead of them. We have a lot of kids and families who are hurting for their friends that were hurt,” he said.

The call to the Shawnee Fire Department came just before 4 a.m. Saturday. 

When firefighters arrived at the house, there was a fire in the basement that crews were able to put out. They then took Richards, five kids and his wife to the hospital.

The state alleges in court documents that Richards not only planned this but then stabbed his wife and four of his kids before setting fire to the home.

Kevin Carter, a neighbor to the family for nearly a decade, is still in disbelief.

“It’s very shocking, and we’re left wondering what we could have done or if there’s something we still could do to help,” Carter said.

“We turn to God in times like these. Sometimes things don’t make sense, and we turn to him anyway,” Witten said. 

Witten said they need prayer, and a lot of it right now. At last check, Richards’s wife and two of their children are still in the hospital while the other three have been released.  

Richards will be back in court on Sep. 29.