23-year-old Holden James Matthews of Opelousas has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after he admitted to intentionally setting fire to three African-American churches in St. Landry Parish in the Spring of 2019.

The fires were set over a ten-day period beginning March 26 at St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church in Port Barre, then on April 2 at the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, and lastly to the Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Opelousas. A press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Shreveport says Matthews "admitted to setting the fires because of the religious character of these buildings, in an effort to raise his profile as a “Black Metal” musician by copying similar crimes committed in Norway in the 1990s." Matthews also admitted to taking photos and videos of the first two churches burning, then posting them from his phone to Facebook as a way to promote himself in the Black Metal community.

In addition to three years probation, Matthews has also been ordered to pay restitution to each of the three churches - $590,246 to St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church, $970,213.30 to Greater Union Baptist Church, and $1,100,000 to Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church.

In February, Matthews pled guilty to three counts of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act, 18 U.S.C. § 247(a)(1) — one count for each church — as well as one count of using fire to commit a federal felony.


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