HomeTop StoriesArson suspect faces hate crime charges over Louisiana church fires
April 16, 2019
Arson suspect faces hate crime charges over Louisiana church fires
A man named Holden Matthews has been charged with burning down three historically black churches in Louisiana over a span of 10 days. Yesterday, hate crime charges were added. From CBS News:
Testifying in court, [Louisiana Fire Marshal Butch] Browning outlined a litany of evidence, including some new details of the investigation that he said tied Matthews to the torching of the three churches over 10 days.
“The evidence we have was unequivocal,” Browning said. Later he added: “He has clearly demonstrated the characteristics of a pathological fire setter.”
The fire marshal described cellphone records placing Matthews at the fire locations, and he said images on the phone showed all three churches burning before law enforcement arrived and showed Matthews “claiming responsibility” for the fires.
Matthews, who had no previous criminal record, was arrested Wednesday on three charges of arson of a religious building. Prosecutors filed documents Monday adding three more charges, accusing Matthews of violating Louisiana’s hate crime law, confirming that they believe the fires were racially motivated, a link authorities had previously stopped short of making…
Matthews’ arrest came a little more than two weeks after the first blaze at the St. Mary Baptist Church on March 26 in Port Barre, a town just outside of Opelousas. Days later, the Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas were burned. Each was more than 100 years old.
The evidence in the case includes photos on Matthews phone which show the churches burning before authorities arrived at the scenes and statements in which he took credit for the fires. He was denied bail. Matthews isn’t your garden variety racist. He appears to have been motivated by his hatred for Christianity and his support for pre-Christian, pagan religions. There’s some suggestion from authorities that he may have taken on some of his beliefs from the black metal scene. From CNN:
Four days before his arrest in connection with the three Louisiana Baptist church fires, Holden Matthews expressed disgust with Baptist beliefs on Facebook, CNN has learned.
Responding to a post about “afrikan spirituality,” Matthews, posting under the name Noctis Matthews, said he cannot “stand all these baptists around here, bunch of brainwashed people trying to find happiness in a religion that was forced on their ancestors just as it was on mine.”
In the posting, Matthews said he wished that, “more blacks [sic] people would look into ancient beliefs of pre Christian Africa.”
An acquaintance, Nygyl Bryyn, confirmed to CNN the profile and alias is that of Holden Matthews. He says his friend is not racist and believes the churches were, “victims of circumstances.”…
While the motive is still under investigation, authorities said that Matthews’ interest in black metal music may have influenced his behavior.
During the 1990s, black metal musicians were responsible for a string of church arsons in Norway. There have been several documentaries and one recent feature film about black metal and the arson and murder connected to it.
On a brighter note, a GoFundMe account was created to help the three churches rebuild. In the wake of the fire at Notre Dame in Paris yesterday, reporter Yashar Ali has been trying to help raise money for the fund:
2. I am donating $ 1,000 to help these historical churches rebuild.
Who will join me at any level?
Sometimes the best way to fundraise is share what you're giving (no matter how small or large). It generates the energy needed to encourage others. https://t.co/dAp9sWGkjb
A short time ago, Hillary Clinton joined in as well. This might actually be that rare instance where there is something positive that unites Americans across party lines.
As we hold Paris in our thoughts today, let’s also send some love to our neighbors in Louisiana. Three historically black churches have burned in recent weeks, charring buildings and scattering communities. If you can, contribute to rebuilding funds here: https://t.co/OSteYWzU9v
In about two hours, nearly $ 200,000 has been raised (in addition to the money that had already been raised) and this is now the top campaign in the world because of all the attention it has received. Here’s a video posted recently by one of the pastors who lost his church thanking everyone for the help: