Deputy’s son arrested in fires at 3 black churches in Louisiana

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ST. LANDRY PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The son of a St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s deputy is in custody in connection to recent church fires in Louisiana.

Holden Matthews - State Fire Marshal's Office

The suspect is identified as Holden Matthews, 21, the son of a St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s deputy. Matthews’ father surrendered his son to authorities Wednesday evening.

The fires began on March 26, when St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre burned to the ground. A second church fire within St. Landry Parish happened a week later, on Tuesday, April 2, at the Greater Union Baptist Church. On Thursday, April 4, Fire District #3 responded to a fire at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church on Highway 182 in Opelousas. The church’s pastor told KATC the front of the church is the only portion still standing.

Governor John Bel Edwards has released a statement about these fires, and another church fire in Caddo Parish.

“Our churches are sacred, central parts of our communities and everyone should feel safe in their place of worship. We do not know the cause of these fires in St. Landry and Caddo parishes, but my heart goes out to each of the congregations and all of those who call these churches home. I have directed the State Fire Marshal to work with local law enforcement to aggressively investigate the cause of these fires. If you have any information that may help determine who or what caused these blazes, you may submit tips anonymously by calling the Arson Hotline at 1-800-256-5452. In times like these, it is important for us to remember the words from John 15:12: ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.’ I’m asking the people of Louisiana to follow this teaching and join their prayers to mine as we love and support these congregations.” - Governor John Bel Edwards

Officials said they had found suspicious evidence at all three of the scenes.

According to a news release issued by the state fire marshal's office, authorities are still working on a motive, but so far, they are citing black metal music.

"At this time, the investigative team is still vetting several potential motives. However, information investigators have uncovered, and that Matthews has offered, suggests a possible connection with a genre of music called “black metal” and its associated history with church burnings in other parts of the world, which have been documented in movies and books. Any questions as to the potential motives of hate are continuing to be vetted by federal authorities."

Officials reiterated during a news conference Thursday morning that any possible hate crime motives will be investigated by federal officers.

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