22-year-old Holden Matthews was arrested in April, 2019 for burning three primarily black churches in rural St. Landry Parish. The son of a St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy burned St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church, and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church on March 26, April 2, and April 4, respectively. The three churches were completely destroyed.
Matthews appeared in court today and plead guilty to three counts of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act, and one count of using fire to commit a federal felony. During today's plea hearing, Matthews admitted to the crimes, because of the religious nature of the buildings. He said he tried to raise his profile as a black metal musician, copying the church burning crimes committed in Norway in the 90s.
Matthews also admitted to posting photos on Facebook of the first two churches burning. He admitted to taking and posting the photos and video in real time on his phone to post to Facebook in an effort to boost his cred. He was an admitted fan of Burzum's Varg Vikrenes, and was active on black metal communities online.
"Today, the defendant has taken responsibility for the burning and destruction of three of our churches," said U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph of the Western District of Louisiana. "The freedom to safely congregate and worship in our churches is a fundamental right of all Americans and will be vigorously protected by my office and our law enforcement partners. I want to thank the ATF, FBI, St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office, St. Landry Parish Fire Department, Louisiana State Fire Marshal, Louisiana Attorney General's Cybercrime Unit, Louisiana State Police, and the Florida State Fire Marshal for their hard work and seamless collaboration on this case."
"Holden Matthews made a conscious decision to randomly target and destroy churches within his own community. His atrocious actions inflicted severe pain and grief upon these congregations, as well as all of St. Landry Parish," said Special Agent in Charge Bryan Vorndran of the FBI's New Orleans Field Office. "Throughout this investigation, the men and women of the FBI, ATF, Louisiana State Fire Marshal's Office, St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office, St. Landry Parish District Attorney's Office, Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry's Cybercrime Unit, and the Florida State Fire Marshal's Office worked tirelessly to bring Holden Matthews to justice."
Matthews was caught when a gas can at the scene of one of the crimes was traced back to a local Walmart and linked to Matthews' credit card.
According to a former friend, Matthews was upset that his parents were not supporting his band and the friend noted that Matthews had been discouraged in the months leading up to the crimes when Matthews' friend criticized his recordings.
Matthews is scheduled for sentencing on May 22nd, and is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of 70 years in prison.
A news report from ABC can be seen below: