A Louisiana man has been sentenced to 25 years behind bars after he burned down three predominantly black churches in 2019.
Holden Matthews was arrested after admitting that he was responsible for setting fires at St Mary, Greater Union, and Mt Pleasant Baptist Churches between March 26th and April 4th.
Matthews told investigators that he intentionally set the fires to raise his profiles as a “Black Metal” musician, copying similar crimes that occurred in Norway in the 1990s.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband released a statement about the incidents saying in-part:
“These churches trace their origins to the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and, for generations, were a place for predominantly African American Christians to gather, pray, worship, and celebrate their faith,” the AG said. ” The churches survived for nearly 150 years but did not survive this defendant’s warped act of hatred. I extend my sympathy to the victims of this defendant’s arson spree, the congregants of St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church, and Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. The Justice Department will continue vigorously to protect their right to worship and live in peace,” the statement read.
Matthews has since been sentenced to 15 years behind bars for intentional damage to religious property and received another 10 years for using fire to commit a felony.
In addition to the sentencing, Matthews has been ordered to pay a restitution of $590,246 to St. Mary, $970,213.30 to Greater Union, and $1.1 million to Mt. Pleasant. A judge has also asked the Bureau of Prisons to place Matthews in a facility that is close to his family and to ensure that he receives counseling for his substance abuse problems and mental health treatment.
Matthews has been in jail for 18 months and will get credit for time served.